Sunday Reflections: Finding your mirror
You know what I mean.
The days you find out you’re overbudget and then realize that someone used your last package of microwave popcorn that you’d been saving for a teen program snack, so you go out and buy some more instead of taking a lunch break and then no one shows up for your program after all. The days you have to bust one of your favorite kids for doing something stupid enough that you can’t overlook it. The days you’re bogged down at the reference desk dealing with grouchy folks who don’t really want to be there using the computers for whatever they need to use the computers for and you can’t get away to gush with the teens you see hanging out in the corner mooning over the new fiction.
The ones you when a teen comes back to the library to tell you how much she loved the book you suggested to her. The days a mom asks for your help again because you were so right the last time you pulled books for her overbooked son. The days when you need to pull more chairs out of the storage closet because your teens actually did what you asked and each brought a friend to book club this week.
Do these days stick with you the way they stick with me? As you make your way home in the evening, do you mull over the grouchy interaction, or the beaming teen? I’d like to be able to say that I shrug off the folks who clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed and focus on the positive, but wow it is hard!
I was recently in a meeting with several other teen librarians. One was relating the difficulty of a string of those days. She talked about how disheartening it all was and how it made her doubt whether or not she was doing the right things in her program. As we listened, it became apparent to us that her program sounded great – she was doing everything right – but that those small comments and negative interactions, piled one on another, had really done a number on the librarian’s feelings about her program, as well as her perception of her own success.
It’s important, when this happens, to find your mirror. You’ve got to find a way to see what you’re doing reflected back at you. Just like we are so much more kind and forgiving to a friend’s appearance than we might be to our own, we need to be easier on ourselves when it comes to believing the good and accepting the not so good as part of the deal – a part that we can feed and let fester or a part that we treat with a critical or creative eye and shift it into a hidden asset. Your mirror can be a friend that you can vent to, a Twitter rant that elicits a few interactions, a journal you revisit periodically, a blog, or more.
See yourself and your programs as others see you, and you will develop a better sense of how to accurately see your success. It’s there, I’m sure of it. Why else would you be reading a librarianship blog on a Sunday but because you care deeply about your career? Like those NPR pledge drives when Ira Glass points out that if you’re listening to the pledge drive, you really are a die-hard listener who owes it to yourself to call in, we know that those of you who are reading TLT on Sunday morning in your robe while nursing a coffee on the couch care enough and are dedicated enough to their job that there’s no way you could fail. Craft fails, bad RA interactions, reference questions from hell, breaking up the make out session in the dark corner – yeah, they’re going to happen. But they don’t define your service any more than a little lipstick on your teeth defines your appearance.
Find a good mirror, listen to it, learn from it, and then move away from it and off in the direction you know you need to head.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network