This September marks my three-year anniversary of being a children’s librarian. I walked into this job not being sure what to expect. Now I could not dream of doing anything else.
My biggest realization?
Knowledge of books and information can always be learned but the most important skills are dealing with people: be it coworkers, administration, customers, children or local (and higher level officials).
Here are five main items I’ve learned over the past three years:
1) Be kind, always.
A customer is not going to remember what information you gave them, what you were wearing, or your name. But a customer is going to remember how he or she felt when after their interaction with you. Do your best to make sure it always ends on a positive note, even when it’s tough.
2) Don’t hesitate to go for it
Put yourself out there. Check the box for a committee you want to be on, try a program you’re not the most comfortable with, apply to speak at a presentation. Don’t waste time worrying about others being more experienced or more deserving than you just put your best self out there and learn from your experience every time.
3) You’re going to have awkward situations
This was the one instance I still am never prepared for, but don’t think I could ever possibly be prepared for. Working with the public is going to lead to situations you could never imagine happening. Do your best to maintain professionalism throughout even the weirdest endeavors. And as much as you would love to blog about them for the world to know, remember patrons are people too and it is important to keep confidentiality. Which can be very hard to do, I understand.
4) Create a work life balance.
Yes this is one of the hardest things to do, but the most important. It’s OK to be friends with your coworkers, but you need to talk about something other than work. It can still be children’s related items (how Olaf is the best Frozen character and singing karaoke is the best), but talking about work all the time is toxic for everyone. And it’s good to have other friends and interests too because there are so many other amazing things about you than just being a children’s librarian (thought that’s pretty amazing too).
5) Libraries are not neutral.
You have a role as a children’s librarian, a pretty amazing role. To help people have access and freedom and a safe place. You are helping young children through their formative years. This is not a position to take lightly and something everyone can always improve on. Read and share diverse books, be inclusive to all, continuously learn from your mistakes and build yourself into everything you have potential for. And that is so, so much.
Thank you for this post, Emily! I love your realizations list and explanations 🙂 Since I am a Library Assistant, I’d like to include them in your advice column. Your first realization: “Be kind, always.” is such an important one! We can’t answer every single question (although we try our best!) but the feeling the patron leaves with needs to be one of having been respected and cared for.
As a library Assistant, I do almost everything our librarians do while on the floor or at the desk, as well as have my own programs, outreach, etc.. Because I’m of an older generation and do not have a recent degree, my biggest struggle is keeping up with technology. I’m still learning how to use my smart phone which I’ve only had for about a year! Ask me for RAs – I’m all over that. New baby on the way? Here are the best and kindest and warmest books! Early literacy tips for caregivers? Come join me at Toddler and Preschool Storytime where early literacy is the name of the game! Your two year old bonked her head? Here’s a cold pad and some damp paper towels! But ask me how to set up an e-reader? Um…let me look that up….or ask someone…ugh! Sometimes I feel bad about this. Despite training sessions, which seem to always start at a step beyond my comprehension, (MY comprehension level being The Idiots Guide to E-readers,) ( which doesn’t seem to exist…) it just doesn’t come naturally to me, though I try my best. But I’ve never had a complaint from a patron about this issue, which makes me feel that having “Be kind, always.” at the top of the list is very sage advise! It has always been at the top of my list, too 🙂
What wonderful and true advice! Thank you for sharing. I think we are all so lucky to be in a profession that is both important and fun.