Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and have a lovely, relaxing weekend planned. I can’t believe we are closing in on halfway through the year already. It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but I think we can all agree whether we are languishing or dormant, it’s been a rough year so far. I know it has been for me. Between trying to figure out our fall reopening while finishing out the semester while determining all the details still to be decided on the new library building with colleagues and how we are going to transfer resources and people over without chaos ensuing and just surviving, I haven’t really had the energy or even a spare minute to write.
But we’re here now so I want to share a few thoughts and maybe some of this will resonate with you, too. I want to talk a bit about exhaustion, and community, and where to go from here.
First, OMG it is finally the end of the semester! I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to dance and give big high fives (with a “Boom!” when we high five because that’s what my daughter says whenever she gets a high five). It feels like a monumental achievement that we made it through. Questions were answered, classes were taught, books, laptops, and hotspots were picked up and delivered, and everyone managed with so much grace and kindness to our students that it was amazing.
But with giving it our all at work, as you know, means often a lot of stress behind the scenes that the public doesn’t see or know about or honestly sometimes doesn’t care about as long as they get the service or resource they want when they want it. And this can be very draining on everyone. So it is up to those who have the power to let their staff know they are appreciated and give everyone some time to rest and recharge, too.
We’re coming up on the break weeks between the end of the spring semester and beginning of summer session. I wish that our administration had decided to let everyone have actual time off (not using up their own vacation) for a few days to truly decompress. Just let everything go to voicemail and out-of-office messages. The website with all our resources would still be available, but everyone behind the scenes could get a well-deserved break.
But while that is wishful thinking at this point, I think it is worth remembering that we need to find ways to concretely help each other out so that we are not in this continuous cycle of stress, anxiety and walking the edge of burnout (if we haven’t already dived right into the deep end of exhaustion).
So what does this have to do with design or communication?
Could we all not try, but actually do better at being open about planning, deadlines, what is absolutely necessary and what is just fluff that we don’t need right now?
Could we all commit to not adding more “what ifs” and playing devil’s advocate when it isn’t going to help and is only going to hurt whatever conversation we’re having?
Could we all decide that if a meeting doesn’t have an agenda and doesn’t have any objectives or is only reporting out information that could be done in an email that we just delete that meeting off of everyone’s calendar?
Could we all take small steps to try to lighten our loads collectively so that we can also all have space to take a breath and have a lighter summer?
I wish for everyone that the answer to all those questions is yes! And that your library administration would support that and that we would make changes that are so obvious that would make our work lives easier and better and more joyful and help us continue to care for our students and public and all our communities.
But if it isn’t a yes or if it is only a meh or “that’s too much work” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” when you suggest these small ways to make it easier for everyone, then my hope for you is that you are not alone in trying to make things better at your library. That you have found community to help support each other, even if you aren’t in administration where the changes can be okayed. That you have people to process with when you are so sick and tired of the whole “leading from the bottom” idea that has exhausted you. Because we can’t fix exhaustion as individuals when it is a collective problem. We need community for that.
I feel fortunate that I’ve found community online to help me when I’m exhausted, to let me know that I’m not alone, that I’m not completely misreading the Zoom room or the lack of support or whatever comes up. It is only in community that we can manage to ensure that we aren’t still exhausted when fall comes with all the in-person/hybrid/online mixes of services and resources that we will have to manage with a smile on our faces for all the new and returning students while we are making it all up as we go along. Because that’s what library workers do.
So my hope is that you can breathe. You can rest. You can find joy in community. You can find bits of beauty in the chaos. And that perhaps, if any library administrator ever reads this, they will be moved to check in with how everyone is really doing, not just what the statistics say or the reports report. And maybe, just maybe be moved to help their people move from languishing and dormancy to thriving. It’s possible and we can do it together.
I do hope, dear readers, to be able to begin posting more regularly again about some library design work and communications work I’ve been doing. Hopefully summer will be a good time to rejuvenate this blog. That’s my hope for this space.
As always, thank you for giving me some of your precious time. I wish for you all the best with virtual hugs and lovely cups of tea. Until next time, allons-y!