I got the news midway through a meeting by a pop-up email notification in the corner of my screen, I was being furloughed. In a way I knew it was coming, like many libraries across the country mine is facing a budget crisis with an urgent need to cut costs substantially that simply reducing the ordering budgets won’t fix. That said, it still hurt to get the official word, and it’s scary to have to make real plans about what life may look like until the furlough ends.
Furloughs can look very different between organizations. Some elect to simply reduce staff hours while others completely eliminate them. Benefits and pay can be affected to varying degrees and you may be eligible to collect unemployment or even work another job during the furlough. The underlying similarity between furloughs is the avoidance of laying off employees completely and planning on eventually calling them back to work. For my position, and the majority of the rest of the full-time staff at my library, furlough looks like an unpaid leave of absence with retainment of some benefits. It’s not ideal but in many ways it could be worse. In order to cope I found these reminders to be most helpful:
You are allowed to grieve.
You lost something that may be very important to you, that you may feel is a large part of your identity, so it’s natural to grieve. However, it’s important to remember that grief is not a linear process, nor have you “completed” grieving when you’ve gone through the stages of grief. Some days you may feel like you have accepted the situation, but within the hour you may feel a wave of anger which could swing into a depression or denial episode. Grief will look different for everyone, and the length and way you experience it are valid. See if your library covers some form of therapy or counseling – some furlough agreements may extend some sort of benefit expressly for mental health.
Get a good handle on the administrative side of things.
Thoroughly understand what your library means by furlough, and if you aren’t clear, ask. If you’re eligible for unemployment and planning to apply, start getting the needed documents together and preparing – earlier is usually better since many states have narrow windows of time for you to submit documentation. Learn what benefits you are retaining throughout the furlough and how those are being paid for. Find out if you’re allowed to work elsewhere and get an idea of when you may be called back to work. Develop a family financial plan that realistically considers what this period of time may look like for your spending and implement it immediately.
Prepare and give yourself hope.
While you may be stressed, take a deep breath and consider what you have to be grateful for. If you are able, think about how you may use this time to prepare yourself for your long term goals. Maybe you’ve long hoped to move into management or work as a book reviewer. Now is a good time to work on new skills that can help you achieve these goals through online training, classes, resources, or even a vision board. Give yourself hope that this is not a forever situation and reassure yourself that you will get through this.
You can do it, I know you can.
Today’s guest blogger is Jacqueline (Jacquie) Kociubuk. Jacquie is a Youth Services librarian in northeast Ohio where she works with underserved children and families. She also serves as the Project Manager for Project VOICE, an IMLS-funded grant focused on public library outreach efforts for young children and families in underserved communities. Her research is centered around inclusive experiences in children’s literature and library programming, non-traditional learning environments for children and youth, and public library outreach.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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