Monday, January 05, 2015

I Resolve to Rock in 2015: Mottos to Librarian By

This post is in conjunction with Storytime Underground's Resolve to Rock campaign.

I've written and rewritten this post like 500 times now. I'm torn, because: 1) In 2014, The Profession (what I've come to call the angle of librarianship which is akin to the phrase "The Business" in professional wrestling-- the aspects that help turn entertainment into sport) challenged a lot of people, apparently, including me. Resolutions sound exhausting. 2) I'm not one to normally make resolutions. 3)Actually, I think "resolutions sound exhausting" pretty much sums it up.

And then Brytani wrote a post that gave me feels. And so I thought: okay I'll write a resolution post. And then Arielle wrote a post about not being able to ever actually plan for your life. And seriously, everyone, if anyone knows what she's talking about when it comes to Your Life as a Ride, it's Arielle. So I decided to kind of let both these posts shape mine. Rather than resolutions, I'm going to take lessons I learned in 2014 and turn them into Mottos to Librarian By in 2015. Feel free to use them yourself, and add yours in the comments!

1. Professional discretion is subjective: If two people are given the same problem to solve, they will solve it in two different ways. The same goes for any number of people. How often do we spend time second-guessing our decisions? How about second-guessing ourselves when our perfectly fine ideas end up not working or get shut down? Maybe it wasn't the most awesome idea, or maybe it was too half-baked to happen, but that doesn't mean we should question ourselves and our judgment as professionals. On a similar vein is the less savory yet equally sanity-saving, "I don't agree but I'll make it happen." Once you take your personal stake out of decisions that are truly beyond your contribution or control, it's a lot easier to not get buried by your frustration.

2. Leaders eat last: I'm not currently in an administrative position, but that doesn't mean I can't be a leader. This motto is based on the book of the same name by Simon Sinek. The contents of the book are summed up nicely in this TED talk. One of the critical needs for life is safety, but it's hard to feel safe with new budget cuts every year and a new article every week about the death of libraries as an institution. What can we do to feel safe? We have to inspire trust in each other. 

When I worked as a reading coach in rural FL, I was a member of a two-person, non-hierarchical, administration-level team. We worked so well together not only because we did get along, but because we were an impenetrable force. In a school that thrived on gossip, no one could get either of us to slip up and talk about our working relationship or to talk badly about the other. Everything was talked through on a level playing field inside our shared trailer. Even though we had different amounts and types of life experience, we were equals.

I realized as I read this book that we were living the motto "leaders eat last". And so I've begun to deliberately make that a motto; even though I had been living some of it unconsciously before, now I've started to take an active stance in sacrificing for others-- not in the hope they'll do the same for me, but intuitively knowing that they will, because that's the strength of the team.

3. Fear and empowerment are two sides of the same coin. On Arielle's journey as the Cat Widow, she's started journaling with a book called "Do Something Every Day That Scares You."  Okay, first of all, everyone, you have to add Arielle's blog to your feeds right now because she's amazing. Second of all, I found myself completely fascinated by every single thing she says about doing something that scares her. From the light-hearted to (possible trigger warning) the absolutely gut-wrenching I cheer her on from my couch every day. And through the fear, you can read her empowered change through her words, even when she's not directly addressing it.

I felt like I needed that kind of energy, too. It's contagious. So I started doing things that might have scared me before. Like proposing a course based on things I've written. And writing a grant application to fund a community coding project-- ME! CODING! And volunteering for an ALA committee. And applying to be a community editor at the STARnet Library Community. And I have a good feeling about 2015, because a few of these things have come to fruition (still waiting on the grant). And they're based in empowerment.

4. "Librarian" is what you do, not who you are. People don't have to pay us for who we are. Conversely, you should be compensated for what you do. There was a time in my life that I wasn't a librarian, and there may be a time when I'm no longer employed as a librarian. But that won't mean that any part of me will cease to exist or had not previously existed.

This past August I agreed to work with Pearl Street Brewery (the one my husband works at) coordinating their social media accounts and reporting on user experience at brewfests (partly inspired by this post. Just blog whatever you're thinking. You might not know where it will take you). This has really helped me leave my librarianing at the library. I've formed close relationships with non-librarians, which admittedly had been lacking. Sometimes it's a relief to talk to someone about not-work, because they wouldn't even understand if you tried to tell them.

...but they might let you run wild with your stupid creativity so it's okay if they don't know what SLP is. I wrote the script for the above video in 15 minutes and we shot it on a Friday evening (why the sound's kinda wonky, the tasting room was open and lively) in 20 minutes.

I'm sure a lot of you know this, and if you do, this post isn't for you. It's for me, or the me-equivalent at the beginning of 2014: you can put the librarian community away for a few hours or days. You might miss an opportunity or lose a few followers. It's okay. Even though The Profession might make you feel differently, you won't be left out. That's what hashtags are for.

So I know it's not really a resolution post, but that's what I've got. What are your Mottos to Librarian By in 2015? ESPECIALLY if you're normally a lurker/don't blog yourself, let me know in the comments!


  1. This is closely related to a post I am thinking about writing about The Profession. We are sharing minds!

  2. Since reading your post, I now have another book to add to my professional reading and now I'm thinking about an overall motto for my year... POP (Power of Positivity)! Which is actually one of my resolutions, but seems like a great way to incorporate my professional and personal goals and be better off for it!

  3. Hi Literacious, thanks for you comment! I really ended up liking daily reminders rather than setting goals (that I could fail at!). I look forward to reading more about your new outlook at your blog in the coming year!

  4. When you said ""Librarian" is what you do, not who you are," it really resonated with me. I have become so absorbed in The Profession that now I don't feel like a very diverse person. I have recently lost my job. How do I go about separating myself from my work?

  5. Laura, I feel this comment so hard, and thanks for it. I know that I kind of fell into Profession-free places and so what I've written isn't entirely helpful.

    I've never been one for "hobbies" (see: my three side-jobs), so I'm not gonna be so flippant as to be like "find something you like to do!" because I know the feeling of "I don't even know who I am when I'm not librarianing and I literally hate the prospect of knitting." Or, when the grant ran out at one of my last employers and my contract wasn't renewed: "please just someone take me so I have time for fun again wait what is fun and do I have to put on real pants for it"

    I love reading your blog and you seem to like writing. TBH one of my favorite posts of yours recently was the only about word meanings: I wonder, where did that come from? That slightly-librarianing-but-not-tangled-in-job-search place you spoke from to write that fun and thoughtful piece? Surely there must be something inside you unencumbered by your struggles and raring to get out.

    Not saying that writing should be your separation, but maybe you can use your writing to help unlock what makes you tick and what you might enjoy doing without us Full Time Internet yapping about what you should be wearing or what color your hair should be or whether or not it's okay to say "dude" in a professional setting (my take: it is). I'd love it though if you could make a promise to yourself that whatever you find has to be okay, because your feelings are valid no matter what they are.

    This is getting super long for a comment so if you want to email me at brycedontplay at gmail dot com we can talk more :)

  6. And not to leave her out: Hi Cory Hi!! No wonder we never get to talk much, we share a mind anyway :)

  7. I'm not a librarian but I love this post nevertheless! It's crazy the amount of librarians (across different states and situations) and they all struggle with many of the things you have talked about. I really think this post speaks to the heart of any working professional in their given industry and the relationships they have both working and non working.... Time to think of my motto for the year! ;-)

  8. I also never have resolutions (changed for blogging purposes this year), but I love the idea of mottos or mantras for growth and peace of mind. You are more than just a librarian, girl - although a fabulous librarian you are!
    - Andrea, the yogibrarian