Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Finding Joy and Avoiding Burnout During Summer Reading

Summer Reading has been in full swing for a month, and every Youth Services librarian I know is feeling the effects of burnout. The benefits of a thriving summer reading program are numerous – participation drives awareness of the library among adult patrons, encourages kids who don’t utilize the library during the school year to visit, encourages students to read over the summer, and is a fun, free way to bring children of all ages into the library. But a tenfold increase in the number of reference questions and foot traffic can exhaust even the most outgoing of people. In the Northeast, if you add in 2019’s exceptionally rainy June, you have all the conditions for a perfect, burnout storm.

It’s the busiest time of the year, and you may feel you’re too busy to take care of yourself, too. But as a recent ALA discussion proved, burnout is a real concern for librarians in all types of libraries. The older millennial generation I’m a part of is sometimes called the Burnout Generation – but library burnout affects all generations – especially if they work in Youth Services, especially in the summer!

So what can you do to avoid burnout during summer reading? Here are some tips:

  1. To borrow a suggestion from a fellow ALSC Blogger, stay hydrated! If you’re talking to 50 patrons over the course of an hour, you’re going to end up parched.
  2. Don’t be afraid to put other things on the back burner. The heart of summer reading is not the time to embark on a strategic plan, shift your collection, or entirely revamp your monthly report style. If a task can wait, let it.
  3. Ask for help! Your fellow librarians, particularly if they don’t work with youth and don’t see the crowds in your part of the library, may not know if you’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed.
  4. Encourage others to jump in without being asked. In my library, the rule during the summer is: if you walk past the desk, you help answer queries there until it dies down.
  5. If you can, treat yourself – to lunch, to a lemonade, to a pint at the brewery with friends. Remember that you’re doing your best work for your patrons when you feel like a human being.
  6. If you can, plan ahead! Our summer reading map involves 11 book challenges. Six are “your choice” and five are chosen ahead of time. This year they are: read a book with a red cover (for Mars, our theme is Mars to Darien), read a science fiction book, read a historical fiction book, read a STEM book, and read a graphic novel. In March, we made booklists with ten suggestions each for grades K/1, 2/, and 4/5 for all five reading challenges. It was a lot of extra work, but it’s saved us so much time and energy this summer- it was absolutely worth it!
  7. Lastly, you’ll feel less burned out when you feel most engaged. Remember to look for the things you love about summer reading, and search out the aspects that bring you joy. Once you know an activity brings that essential emotion out in you, try to do it again!

How do you avoid burnout during the busiest part of the year?

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: VIII, Professionalism and Professional Development.

3 comments

  1. Abby

    I love all of your tips! Hydration is huge for me; and on Thursday I actually treated myself to a sandwich from the local farm stand – that made a big difference in my outlook for the day! And I especially love your tip about putting those big projects on the back burner…

    My personal struggle this summer is that I’m also now enrolled in grad school to get my second master’s degree…and I am heartily regretting taking a summer class. Though this is my 14th summer reading program, and thus I thought I’d have it covered, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong so far this summer; add a challenging class on top of that, and burnout is imminent! 🙂 I’d love any words of wisdom from others on how to make it through August!

    1. Laura

      Abby, I’ve been there! Two pieces of advice, one highly practical and one philosophical. First: find some “it would be nice but not necessary” area of your daily life that you can slack a bit on until the storm passes. For me, that was buying more underwear and reducing wardrobe choices so I didn’t have to do laundry as frequently/think about what to wear every day. (I mean, I know it seems trivial, but it worked for me!)

      And next, find ways to remind yourself of your larger goals that both your job and your graduate work are allowing you to accomplish. I don’t mean Pollyanna papering over your real stresses, but taking a moment every day to put those stresses into a larger context. Whether you are getting your second master’s to improve professional career or because it is allowing you to increase your knowledge that will help you (or help you help others) in some way, just a simple check-in reminder to yourself can make a world of difference. “This is hard, and I’m doing it for these good reasons…”

      I mean, it won’t write any papers for you, but it might help you find that extra bit of motivation to write the paper when the only thing you want to do after a long summer reading day is Netflix and ice cream.

      Works for library stuff, too – reflect on how your many (many, many, many…) daily interactions with kids in the library is teaching them that libraries are great places to be, filled with caring adults, and that reading is a valuable and life-enriching activity because Miss Abby demonstrates it to be!

      The fact that 1) you’ve done this for so many years, and 2) are dedicated enough to get that second degree is a pretty good indication that you have the grit to get through this.

      1. Abby

        Laura, you have such awesome suggestions!!! I love doing laundry less frequently and figuring out where else to cut back – that is genius.
        And taking time to think of the larger goal each day is also genius – channeling motivation will definitely help me get through those long nights writing papers!
        Thank you so much for reminding me of the big picture and for the awesome encouragement – I really appreciate it! 🙂

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