As I write this, it has been almost two and a half months since my library closed its doors due to the pandemic. My job now, like so many of you reading this, is nothing like it once was. I had been a children’s librarian in a public library, assisting parents and children alike in the library on a daily basis; now I am a virtual services children’s librarian, and all my interactions with patrons are virtual, filtered through social media and camera lenses. I used to thrive on making personal connections with each patron who visited the library, and now I subsist on Facebook comments and video views.
Along with the changes to our positions, comes the overall uncertainty of the situation, the never-quite-knowing what to expect from week to week. It isn’t just not knowing when the library will reopen, or how it will reopen; it is also the constantly evolving means and methods we are using to try and reach our community while our doors are shut. Not even within a matter of weeks, but more a matter of days, my library– and many of yours, too, I am sure — became an online digital hub. We threw ourselves into online reference and virtual story times, we became video producers and social media managers. We took long-established in-person programs and adapted them to a virtual environment; we all learned new technologies and software, and we continually evaluate, revise, and plan anew, all with the hope of best serving our community.
My library is not unique in all this; online, my social media feed is filled with fellow librarians sharing their pandemic triumphs and successes, programs and ideas, advice, and resources. I see so many library colleagues doing wonderful and amazing things, showing the world again and again that libraries, even while closed, are relevant to our patrons’ lives. Facebook groups like Storytime Underground and Programming Librarian Interest Group have been a personal and professional lifesaver for ideas on what else I can do.
And yet, amidst all this amazing-ness that I see, I can’t help but sense a subtle underlying thread of worry, anxiety, and fear. I know I feel it, personally. And I am not referring to the very real fear and anxiety that many of us feel have concerning what this pandemic means for our lives going forward. No, what I am also sensing, and feeling, is a deep unease, a feeling of inadequacy that I, as a librarian, am not doing enough. I see all the amazing things that my library colleagues are doing, and I constantly bring myself up short. Is what I am doing enough? Shouldn’t I be doing more? Shouldn’t my library be doing more? If that library can do this, why can’t I? Is it enough? Am I enough?
I don’t think I am alone in these thoughts; perhaps you’ve had them, too, or know others who feel like I do. So, I’d like to share what I keep telling myself:
Yes, it is enough.
Everyone– every librarian and every library– has their own unique story and situation. We each have different resources and limitations, different circumstances and opportunities; what we see working for one community may not always work in another community. We also have different personal lives. Our homes are set up differently, and we have different personal resources. Our families are configured differently.
We need to remember that we are not working from home during an unprecedented worldwide crisis- we are living through an unprecedented worldwide crisis and trying to continue to provide service to our communities. And the fact is, we are all trying our absolute hardest, with all the resources we have available, to provide the best service we possibly can, to the very best of our abilities. We know our own communities best, and we are using that knowledge to aid, assist, and connect with them during this unprecedented time.
And, here’s a little something that I’ve come to learn, and that I keep reminding myself of: the very fact that you and I worry over whether it is all enough, is proof that it is. That worry means that you care, you are trying your best, and yes, it is enough.
So, to all of you out there reading this, to all my library friends (and you are all my friends, whether we’ve met or not), I just want you to know that I’m proud of you and that I’m proud of us as librarians. I’m proud of everything that we are doing. Next time you start to doubt yourself or start to feel envious of everything that you see others doing, I hope you remember that you, too, are doing an amazing job. You are enough.
Sending a big, virtual, safe social distance hug to all of you out there, until we can see each other in person again. Stay safe, everyone.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: III. Programming Skills.
Heather Love Beverley is the Assistant Manager of Youth Services at Cook Memorial Public Library District. She has a passion for STEM programming, exploring new technologies, and sharing the joys of a good book. She is a member of the School Age Programs and Service Committee.