If you are like me, you are in the midst of Summer Reading planning and execution. You may also be working on plans for curbside service or well into the process of performing curbside for your patrons. Maybe your library is open to the public or will be in the near future. Or, maybe you are still working from home. No matter where you are in this stage of COVID-19, we all have a little something in common: we all have questions and feel some sense of uncertainty. What’s the next step? How do I serve my community in the midst of all these changes? What happens when virtual programming just isn’t working or kids and tweens just aren’t able to access your programs? How in the world do I put together a Summer Reading Program when I can’t have programs in the building or do outreach? What do I do about my personal work fatigue and how do I even find the inspiration to start planning anything again?
Exhausted from reading that list of questions? So many of the librarians I have personally talked to have expressed how burned out they feel. They feel exhausted, confused, and even defeated. Personally, I have had to plan my Summer Reading program 3 different times since January and have felt so many different things from frustration to fatigue. Lately, I have found myself leaving work feeling as if each day is an entire week and walking away with the weight of the world on my shoulders. While I can’t sit here and answer everyone’s questions and concerns, I can sympathize. Here are some things to try when you are feeling a little blue that I hope helps in some small way.
First of all, talk to someone about what you are feeling and about your questions or seek out forums to discuss your concerns! Toward the end of May, the committee of School Age Programming and Services chatted with librarians across the nation about what it feels like to be a school age librarian in the wake of COVID-19 during a We Are ALSC Chat. Our goal for this chat was to let participants get their questions and feelings out to the wider library community. If you are like us, it’s so nice to know we aren’t alone. It’s also wonderful to just bounce ideas and questions off of other librarians and receive ideas in return. It is equally important to talk about what you are feeling and what your concerns are. Throughout this entire quarantine period, I have encouraged my teens to write down what they are feeling or talk to someone about their concerns. This advice is just as applicable to us!!! During our chat, librarians expressed their concerns for Summer Reading, future programming and how to handle this strange situation straight out of a science fiction novel. We are so fortunate to work in a profession that has such a generous, insightful, and creative hive mind all over the country. This chat proved that throughout it all, librarians are in this together no matter what.
It is also so important to take time for yourself. I often feel that librarians, especially those who work with kids and teens, become so consumed with their work serving these age groups that we forget to take care of ourselves. Take the time to discover reading for pleasure again, take walks (I have been doing TONS of this), or see if your administration will allow mental health days where you can either work at home at your own pace or to just be away from work entirely. Take time for you!
Finally, take a deep breath and realize that you are doing your best. In a recent webinar with our state’s public library administration regarding Summer Reading, the speaker said something that has really resonated with me: be ok with what you can do and don’t focus so much on what you can’t. Be okay with reaching five families or kids instead of 20. Find peace with a smaller Summer Reading program. Don’t sweat what you can’t help. Ask those questions but don’t let it consume you.
Everything right now is so overwhelming, I know. You will still have questions and more will pop into your head after reading this blog. You will wrestle with so many different concerns and challenges. But know this: there is a wider community of individuals who are here to help. While we can’t be there for each other physically at the moment, we can definitely be there for each other in a variety of other ways.
This post addresses the ALSC Core Competency: III Programming Skills.
Kristen Briggs recently accepted the position of Young Adult Librarian at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library in Florence, Alabama. Kristen has worked in public libraries in Alabama, Illinois, and Tennessee and has served as a reference librarian, youth services assistant, and Children’s and Teen Librarian. She has an 18-month-old daughter and absolutely adores children’s and young adult literature. When not chasing her daughter, she enjoys baking and visiting local antique shops with her husband.