Blogger Abby Johnson

You Don’t Need to Set a Reading Goal

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year again, when folks wrap up their previous reading year, recommend the best books they read, and set reading goals for the new year. Do YOU set a reading goal or reading resolutions? It’s great if you do! But, though there might be a lot of pressure to set one, you don’t have to.

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If you track your reading or if you’re involved with the bookish internet at all, you’re probably inundated with invitations to set a goal for reading. Whether it’s tracking books, pages, or minutes read, every app wants you to set a reading goal. People are setting and sharing about their reading resolutions. For some folks, it can be really beneficial to set a goal. But it can also feel overwhelming, especially for librarians.

Librarians are the go-to resource for folks wanting reading recommendations (well, us and celebrities). People expect you to have ready-made favorites at the drop of a hat, so there can be a lot of pressure to be well-read. How many times have you been asked for a recommendation at the dentist’s office or grocery store? But all that pressure can sometimes make it really hard to enjoy reading. And that can make it really hard to balance your work life and your off time.

A Reading Goal Can Be Helpful…

If you’re looking to expand your horizons or you need motivation to close TikTok and pick up that great book you’re reading (ahem). I have loved setting specific reading goals in the past. Examples are reading more books by authors of color or choosing a genre for a deep dive (I discovered I love romance novels!). There are lots of reading challenges around the internet if you feel like you’re in a rut. You may even want to set a goal of reading a certain number of adult books since it can be so easy for children’s librarians to relegate themselves to the youth shelves exclusively.

But a Reading Goal Might Not Be For You…

If it’s something that feels like a chore instead of something you’re excited about. There are lots of reasons setting a reading goal might feel overwhelming. Maybe you’re coming off an award committee year. Or maybe you’re trying to set a better work-life boundary. You might be experiencing changes in your health or medication and concentrating is not as easy as it used to be. Or maybe you aren’t interested in setting a goal for no particular reason at all.

If this isn’t the year to set a reading goal, it doesn’t make you less of a librarian. Even if you’ve always set one in the past. I hereby give you permission to skip it this year (and every year if you want).

If You’re Feeling Reading Burnout…

You’re not alone! I know so many librarians (myself included) who have been burnt out on reading these past couple of years (or longer). Even if you’re a huge bookworm, doing something that you love as a job changes your relationship with that activity. So if you’re feeling burnout, here are some ideas. You can try…

  • Taking a break. You really can. It’s okay. And I know this because my literal job is collection development and I’ve been managing reading burnout ever since 2020. Cue up your favorite music albums instead of an audiobook, go back and watch an entire TV series instead of reading each night for awhile.
  • Setting a really small goal that you know is achievable. Maybe it’s just even 1 book. That way you can participate without putting pressure on yourself.
  • Switching up your genre or format. Maybe this is the year you get really into picture books or manga. Maybe try a year of rereading favorite books. Try out listening to audiobooks. Maaaybe actually read some of the adult books your friends have been talking about.
  • Setting the goal of joyful reading rather than reading a certain number or type of book. Ask for recommendations from friends or check out some of ALA’s notable books for tried and true titles.
  • Changing up how you’re tracking. If you’re feeling pressure to review books for followers on social media, you can let go of that. Grab a notebook and keep a list for yourself analog-style. Or give up tracking altogether.
  • Joining a book club. I know this seems counterintuitive, but book clubs are what has gotten me through the last year or so of reading burnout. You don’t have to think too hard about what to read next, it gives you a deadline, and you sometimes get cookies (and you always get nice people to talk with).

What’s My Reading Goal This Year?

I’m not setting one! I realized last year that I was only tracking my reading because I felt like I had to for other people. Whether that was social media followers or for my own job, my reading life didn’t feel like my own. I took a break from tracking for awhile. I realized that no one died when I did that. (It did make my job a little tougher when it was time to compile 2022 favorites, but I figured it out.) And I’m starting the new year with a new tracking app that’s not so centered on the social aspects.

My first goal of the year is only to read a little bit every day and track it. We’ll see where it goes from there. (Well, I’m serving on the Caldecott Committee this year and of course I’m not publicly tracking that reading, so I have a pretty good idea.)

What Do You Think About Reading Goals?

Are you setting a reading goal this year?

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

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