Blogger Amy Steinbauer

Consider Stillness as a Librarian

When you are a super passionate, energetic, big idea thinker, and dreamer, you can be a complete asset to your place of employment. You dream big and come up with exciting services, beloved programs, and best of all- you have the zest to see them through!

However, you can also be a scary nuisance to your institution and given advice like “your passion is unsustainable” or “work would be easier for you if you just came in, worked your hours, and left” because sometimes people who want to do more are scary… it means change!

For the record, I know that work would be easier for me if I didn’t care so much. However, I wanted a job where I cared. I always admire chill, cool children’s librarians who are awesome at their jobs, but very much pack up and leave it behind at the end of the day. I would go home and think bigger– who could we reach beyond our walls? If money wasn’t an object, what could I really do? I totally have a library bucket list of programs or services that I would love to implement one day, and I have been able to achieve many of them, and I am trying to make peace with perhaps never getting to all of them.

So what to do now? How to maintain joy without burnout at work? As a manager, there is more on my plate, and I get to see staff that share my passion and gusto for the job. It’s an interesting paradox in some ways, as I want to help them grow and flourish, but I also want to help them remember that it’s just a job. What do you do with overflowing passion and yet just 24 hours a day, and hopefully just 8 hours of that at the actual job? I’m not solid on the answer, as I still wake up thinking about work and dream about work, so I’m figuring it all out. However, I learn my best lessons while helping others, and as I recently counseled a librarian who was changing locations–  it came to me. 

Practical mindfulness. Try this. Sit in this moment. Look away from this post, daze at the wall, and just let your mind drift. This is a skill. To just sit in a moment, sit in my job, in a way that doesn’t feel like I am compromising myself and my passions. Because it is a lot. I read a quote on Twitter recently that said something along the lines of, “if you give everything to your job, you have nothing left for yourself.” and that has permeated my thoughts lately.

When you love what you do, it still work, but it can be enjoyable and fun. At the same time, we all live big lives outside of the job and it’s important to have something there as well. While I love what I do, I want me left for my partner, my family, my friends, my interests, and yes, my TV shows.

I’ve never been one for meditation, and prefer my zoning out to be done while watching Bob’s Burgers, Happy Endings, or 30 Rock for the millionth time. But, what if I could try that at work? What if I could not try to get everything done in every second of the day? What if I slowed down, and maybe even sat and daydreamed for a minute or two? Would the library halt with me and time stop as I did, like a protagonist in a 90s teen sitcom? No. Would all the books fall off the shelves and the walls crumble over and fall, unless I was there to hold them all up? No. Would my emails start to come at rapid-fire over a new development or change? Maybe. That seems to happen whether I pause or not. My meditation isn’t sitting on the floor, legs crossed, and eyes closed. My mediation, that I PRACTICE is holding myself still and waiting. Pausing for a moment before I jump in to serve on a work committee or volunteer to assist with an extra project. Just taking a few of the 1,440 minutes that we get a day, and just sitting there. Letting my eyes glaze over for a minute thinking about something happy that is outside of this job and this branch and this task. 

Not only does slowing down help calm me, but it also makes me a better librarian, manager, and employee. Because invariably after giving my all, I get cranky, tired, burnt out, grouchy– all feelings that are perfectly normal, but I personally hate feeling at work. My old director used to say that the library had to continue even if I got hit by a bus, this analogy is more twisted after I got hit by a truck, but the message is the same. Work will continue. In some beautiful and twisty ways, it will never end. Instead of trying to conquer it all and finish all the impossible tasks, consider pausing. Consider stillness. Consider giving yourself a break. And then dream slowly, and give yourself the time to grow something big and amazing, and then tell me all about it!


  1. Marge Loch-Wouters

    Wise words, especially for those of us who pore themselves into our work.

  2. Elyse B April

    A great time to let your mind wander to allow for creative thinking is to take a long walk. You could call this walking meditation!

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