Blogger Abby Johnson

Growth Mindset as an Adult

One of the ways that we can help our young patrons succeed is by helping them develop a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you perceive yourself as someone who can learn and develop skills, rather than someone who either is good at something or is not good at something (a fixed mindset). But do we adults have a growth mindset ourselves? Let me tell you a story about how developing my own growth mindset has helped me as a librarian.

Image is a meme showing an orange cat laying on a sidewalk and stretching. The text reads "Growth mindset: a passion for stretching yourself."
Image from Flickr user laurakgibbs, used under a Creative Commons license.

Once Upon a Time…

Two years ago, we debuted student digital library cards. We started working with some of our school systems on getting parent permission and importing student data to make library accounts for students to access our digital materials without having to make thousands of physical library cards. This was a process that stressed me out to no end.

You see…

At the time, I had fairly recently stepped into my role as Collection Development Leader. I was moving over from a job as head of youth services, a position I felt very confident in. This was a brand new role for our library and I felt a lot of pressure to prove my worth. I had never dreamed that I’d be able to have a full-time collection development job at our fairly small library. And at the time, that sometimes felt like I needed to do things perfectly and without asking for help. Was I good at my job? Or bad at my job? Those felt like the only options. I did not have a growth mindset.

I tried to do it myself…

And stressed myself to the point of upset working with a procedure and with software that I wasn’t very familiar with. I felt very put-upon, being called on to complete this task that was outside my skill set. Finally, I hit a breaking point and, in tears I hoped no one was noticing, I emailed my colleagues in the leadership team and asked for someone’s help with Excel. And, of course, one of my very nice colleagues immediately offered help and we figured out how to fix the data together.

Because, you see…

No one is perfect and no one knows everything. We can all work together and it’s good to ask for help. There are options beyond “good at your job” and “bad at your job”. Having a growth mindset and improving at your job is one of those options. And if you’re not open to growth beyond your current skill set, you may never know what you can actually accomplish.

It took a long time…

I would love to say that asking for help one time was enough to put me into a growth mindset. But the truth is, it took longer than that. And it took me some personal growth outside of work to even identify that that’s what I was doing. I never liked to cook, but when all the restaurants closed down in 2020, I decided it was time to try it. I was super terrible for a long time. But eventually I found myself trying new foods and improving in my techniques. I realized that I was developing a growth mindset. I could get better at something and I could learn new skills.

And when the time came to do the student digital cards again…

No, it did not go perfectly. In fact, it was a huge pain in the butt. Again. It took many tries to get the data the way we needed it. But I realized that it wasn’t upsetting me. I knew that even if it wasn’t perfect the first time, we’d eventually get it right. I knew I could reach out for help if I needed it. And it was amazing how much less stressful that task had become.

The moral of this story is…

We talk a lot about helping kids develop growth mindsets. But maybe not all adults really have a growth mindset either. And that’s okay. Because we’re all learning and changing every day. And it’s possible to strive for and develop a growth mindset if you don’t have one now. You don’t have to be perfect. You are allowed to fail. We learn so much when we fail at something. And even people who look like they have their act together (like bloggers on the ALSC Blog 😉 ) are failing and learning and growing all the time.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.


  1. Nell Ramsay

    Yes! Love this!

  2. Uma Nori

    Nicely written, a big part of it also being vulnerable. Abby in sharing your discoveries on the growth mindset path you were open and honest with yourself. Thanks for this blog post.

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