I am a stark raving extrovert. My energy levels skyrocket with personal interaction. I love small talk, and if the conversation turns a little deeper, and people actually share something significant, I swoon. I am also a bit physically restless. If I have to do the same thing all day long, I feel like I am going to jump out of my skin! I get downright grouchy.
That’s why being a children’s librarian is the perfect profession for me. There is an opportunity for meaningful exchange in every single reference interview. The creativity, community building and performance necessary to make a good storytime is my idea of heaven. All day long, my job changes. I go from a morning storytimes, to an afternoon reference shift, to an after-school program with elementary school kids and their families. And outreach! Taking the show on the road is so much fun! There is nothing stationary or quiet about my job, except during my nearly sacred “Project and Planning Time,” which I have to block out in my schedule and guard with my life if I want to make all the future fun happen.
I should say, that’s what my job was like before Covid. Now? Most days I enter my cubby after playing my part in the morning routine of book drop, expired holds, checking in quarantined books and pulling the pick list. I am in my cubby roughly seventy-five percent of my time. I still have tons of work to do, but much of it is screen based now. For a few weeks this summer, I was positively glum from missing my old life and old job. But after some soul searching, and good conversations with my boss, I have tried to intentionally shift my thinking.
The pandemic has handed us some lemons. Let’s squeeze those suckers and add some sugar. Pull out our finest pitchers. How can I make my job, as it is RIGHT NOW, the best that it can be?
Virtual programming was exciting for me at first. Now it’s starting to get a bit boring and people have lost interest, which is a downer. Are you feeling the same way? Let’s shift! Why not shake up the platform? If you’ve been using Facebook Live, how about trying Zoom? If you’ve been filming inside, why not try an outdoor venue? That will certainly challenge your skills with cameras and sound recording! How about looking around at what other libraries are doing for new inspiration? I’ve got a whole “Storytime Starters” plan for the fall season (which I will write about next month) that was inspired by Syosett Library’s amazing social media posts. Librarians are killing it with good content out there! Glean! Interpret! It is so invigorating to begin a new project!
I am spending a lot more time at my desk than I ever have. I become really uncomfortable after sitting for a while and it makes me sad and restless. If it’s the same for you, why not find ways to move in the space that you do have? Most libraries have access to streaming workout videos on Overdrive or Kanopy. Check some out, and take a five-minute stretch break. Honestly, just touching my toes and hanging my head upside down for a few minutes is a great rejuvenator. Or take a walk around your building or block or neighborhood. Taking five minutes to move your body is one of the best ways to reframe!
Another thing that has become very important for me is breaking my day into work blocks, instead of trying to focus on one project exclusively until it is finished. Working on one project all day long is tedious and makes me super grouchy, even if the project is an amazing one. Also, take eye breaks. Look up from your screen every 20 minutes or so, just to give your eyes a chance to focus on something farther away. It really helps keep headaches at bay.
Music plays an incredibly important part in my workday now. I make sure that I am stocked with a great playlist. When I’m ready to concentrate, I enter the “wall of sound.” It is easy to get stuck in a listening rut though. Now is a great time to explore new genres and artists and movements. With all the streaming services available to us, there is always something new to discover. On the other hand, it’s also refreshing to just work in silence. At the moment, our library is quieter than it has ever been, and likely ever will be again. Take advantage and embrace the silence.
I think that the most important way that we can shift our thinking is to take our minds off of ourselves, and whatever personal dramas or boredom we might be experiencing. I am not advocating that we stuff our feelings nor ignore the issues and conflicts that inevitably visit us all. We each have to deal with our challenges. But endlessly ruminating on negatives will only make them worse. If you’re feeling bored or down because of the pandemic, shift! One of the best ways to feel good is to do something good for someone else. We have so many opportunities in our profession to creatively impact our community. They need us more than ever now. Study your community. Talk with your schools. Find out how you can partner with them. Reach out to your city if you’re not already connected. Talk to local social service agencies. Think outwardly and expansively. You will feel better.
What are some shifts that you’ve had to make since the pandemic began? Is there anything that has positively impacted your work life? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear!