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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.