Blogger Lisa Nowlain

Goodbye, youth librarianship!

My last day here at Nevada County is Friday. I couldn’t get them to give me a part-time position (even temporarily), and the inflexibility has been really tough on me as a new parent- and there was some other issues with a promotion I was supposed to get. Either way, my partner works full-time and we can afford to work a little less, so I’m looking for another job. Because I live in a rural county, I’m assuming that I don’t have other options for youth librarianship.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the validation I’m getting for this decision, all of which is coming from a place of patrons supporting me, but I think speaks to a cultural issue we have in the US around women at work.

"Is Not working What's Best for my family?" I've been telling people I quit, and people are happy for me. I'm getting validation left and right. [in speech bubbles] "Congratulations!" "Nice work!" "Way to prioritize what's important!" "this will be great for you and your family" I love Henry, and know he loves spending time with me. I'm excited to connect with him at this baby stage.But: I value my work and identity as a librarian in my community. I value henry witnessing that work. I'm so sad that our culture doesn't support flexible schedules to make it all work. Finding balance (or close to it) would have been what's best for my family. But it wasn't an option on the table.

In a position so dominated by people who identify as women, I think there is value in us thinking about what we want out of our professions, and making it fit our needs. I know we’re all underpaid and overworked. I’m going to miss it a lot though!

My ALSC membership is expiring, so I won’t be blogging anymore after this. Thanks for listening! You can find more of my work at Instagram, and my never-updated-but-maybe-soon website. Keep in touch!


  1. Jennifer McKinney

    I congratulate you on your new shift, and I hope you are able to find peace in it.

    I am commenting because I too made this choice and spent a decade at home with my young children. I requested and was granted a kind of “substitute programmer” position when I left. I wanted to keep my foot in the door if at all possible, and because programming was both my favorite aspect of my work and also what’s sometimes hardest to cover with unexpected absences, I was more than willing to grab a puppy dog puppet and ‘get my storytime on’ anytime I was called and I could secure care for my smalls.

    It is an odd conundrum, I agree, to have a female dominated field that can’t flex the way women must in order to wear all the necessary hats. There are clearly drawbacks. It’s worth mentioning that due to an utterly necessary income-based repayment plan, our student loans (my husband also has an MLS) did no more than snowball during that 10-year period. Life was, and honestly continues to be… very tight. I ended up covering two FMLA leaves as well as a great number of library programs over that span of time.

    But even if the library hadn’t kept me on the books in a small way, I found that after being home with my family and having the ability to serve my community in different ways during my absence was a definite plus. I came back to the profession- now threeish years ago- with not only a renewed passion for public service but also an entirely new skill set borne out of many years as a board member with a nonprofit, a handful of volunteer positions, connections with many new people via mom groups and homeschooling groups, and more. Having more time to fully immerse myself in my community helped me to see another angle of it and deepened my community connections in different ways. I thought of myself as a freewheeling library ambassador. 🙂 I couldn’t have known it til I returned to full-time librarianship, but I feel like an entirely different librarian than the one who cleaned out her desk drawers in 2006.

    I wish you all the best in this new chapter of your life!

  2. Alyson Feldman-Piltch

    Lisa, good luck and congratulations on your new journey! I admire you for vocalizing what so many feel and thank you for it. You will be missed!

  3. Katie

    I find it so odd that libraries do not support working mom more. I feel being a mom had made me a better librarian ( especially a better youth services librarian). Yet, we are expected to juggle more balls, wear more hats and compartmentalize our lives.
    Good for you for doing what is best for you and your family!

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