Blogger Amy Koester

Celebrating Library Wins–Even When Times are Tough

Library work can feel really tough right now. There’s no single reason, but rather a whole slew of factors: many libraries are busier than ever, or at least busier than they have been in recent years; being fully funded and fully staffed often feels like the stuff of myths and legends; intellectual freedom is being threatened at unprecedented levels; and so many libraries are dealing with increases in mental health crises in their communities, which takes a toll on those in crisis as well as those around them (including library workers). There’s no doubt about it–times are tough.

colorful confetti and metallic stars in the air
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

If you find yourself feeling down or dispirited because of what’s hard, I see you–and I encourage you to take a few minutes to try to focus on a recent win. Maybe you tried a new song in storytime, and the kids absolutely loved it and demanded to sing it multiple times. Maybe you’ve been chatting at the desk with a kid who has had behavior control issues in the past, but now that you’ve started to build a rapport, they are enjoying their library visits and acting less disruptively. Maybe you had 200 people come to a culture-sharing event that you’d never offered before, and weren’t sure how the community would respond–but it turns out they loved it. There are any number of “wins” in library work, be they big or small, the sort of thing that is obvious to everyone or just a moment or feeling that you quietly notice.

It’s so, so important to celebrate library wins–especially when our day-to-day challenges make it feel like this work is an uphill battle. From a cognitive science standpoint, it makes a positive difference in our days if we take a few minutes to intentionally reflect on something that has been going well. Celebrating wins doesn’t mean we’re ignoring or diminishing very real hardships. But celebrating wins does mean that we are acknowledging the real accomplishments of community-focused library work, and fueling ourselves to take on our challenges with a mind toward how meaningful our work is.

One thing I love about ALSC is that there are always colleagues ready to share a win of their own, as well as to celebrate the wins of their peers. If you’re finding yourself feeling a bit low about your library work, try taking a few minutes to think about a recent win you’ve experienced. Better yet, share a snippet of your win in the comments below–I’d love to celebrate your wins with you, as we each keep taking steps to support healthy, successful futures for all children!


  1. Emily

    I’ve had a wildly unsuccessful drop-in art club for tweens this quarter. Two of the four sessions I had no one show up, then on the third session I had one patron and his mind was blown – he wanted to work on the project for much longer than the hour timeslot and he even suggested that I make the program registered to encourage patrons to take it more seriously. The following month he returned, also loved the next project, and was joined by three more patrons. It was a fun and humbling exercise in programming and I learned a lot from it. This is a demographic that I’d really like to support, so it’s back to the drawing board!

    1. Amy Koester

      Emily, what a win! I love that the way you had set up this program space encouraged so much creativity for your first participant, and that it seems like more kids are finding out about it to join. Someone once told me that it takes 6 months of offering a new program to get enough of a sense of whether it’s working/meeting community needs. 6 months can feel like a LONG time in library program cycles, but in my experiences, that timeline is mostly true! It can take time for families to become aware of something new on the calendar. From there, if folks are engaging, perhaps it’s a matter of small tweaks. One could be using some of the artwork or sample projects out in the space to decorate AND advertise. I love that your first attendee suggested adding registration for accountability–do you have a way to make the program registered, drop-ins welcome? We’ve been doing that a lot more at my library, because we see two distinct audience groups: folks who want the registration specifically to get a reminder, and folks who want the freedom to see what’s happening each time they visit and join if they want.

      It sounds like you’ve got a definite win, with opportunities for moving forward–one of my favorite scenarios!

  2. Betsy Diamant-Cohen

    Hi Amy,

    What a lovely blog post. I was feeling down with all of the library challenges going on. Although I no longer work inside of a public library, the role of libraries as pillars of democracy has always been part of my passion for them. So,seeing the book bans, the horrible way library staff are being treated, and the disruption of the mission of the library – to provide information for free to anyone who wants it- has caused me to feel the kind of despair you wrote about.

    I suppose a win is that the Mother Goose on the Loose Hatchlings program for expectant parents and parents of newborns is growing in Maryland. The libraries have now partnered with Judy Centers (Maryland’s version of Early Head Start) to offer Hatchlings jointly. We are expanding year by year, have been getting wonderful feedback collected by Elaine Czarnecki, and this partnership was initiated by the Maryland State Department of Education, who asked US if they could participate!

    I was looking for a webinar specifically for librarians who are getting dispirited at what is going on, and found your blog post instead. Having my dismay expressed eloquently by someone else and then being asked to celebrate a win while keeping an eye on our mission – successful futures for all children – was a big help. Thank you!!!!!

    1. Amy Koester

      Oh, Betsy, I’m so glad that this post–a small invitation to counter the very real despair–was useful for you! I am SO delighted to hear about how widely Mother Goose on the Loose Hatchlings is being adopted across Maryland and specifically within multi-site systems like Judy Centers. I find myself thinking a lot about what I, a single person, can do in the face of challenges and issues that are systemic in nature–and this win about Hatchlings reminds me that the good work we do in libraries has the ability to fit into, and then change for the better, many of the systems at play in our society! Congratulations on this win!

  3. Liza Purdy

    This is incredibly encouraging. Thank you, Amy! And thank you to Betsy and Emily for sharing. (FYI- Mother Goose on the Loose is AMAZING- thank you for all the work that you’ve done to create the program- what a resource!!!).

    Here’s a win for us: I’ve been trying to get our three local elementary school districts to partner directly with us for summer reading. We’re going to have kids register for SRP on Beanstack by their particular elementary school rather than just their school district. We are trying to encourage some friendly competition within the districts to see if we can get kids to complete the program rather than just sign up for it. So far, one district has agreed to a partnership. They are going to reward the elementary school that reads the most this summer by giving them a PJ Reading Day with (hopefully) an author visit in the fall! Isn’t that awesome? I’m hoping the other districts will follow their example. But no matter what, one is a win!

    1. Amy Koester

      Liza, this sounds like a great idea with the first of hopefully more wins as other schools get on board! Congratulations on getting one district to participate, and I definitely hope others follow. The idea of a potential author visit is a really cool incentive for the schools to encourage their students as well. High five for great ideas!

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