Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ask Away #1: Working with Children and Being an Adult

There came a point last year when I was really considering my intended audience for this blog. I got a picture in my head of readers in small libraries downloading my ready-to-go Story Action Pod prompts; maybe some newly-professional librarians wading their way through librarianship; other afterschool program providers and teachers looking for fun activities. When I get emails about my blog, these are mostly who they're from. But you were all still pictures in my head, who I envisioned with every post, moving me to continue to blog as I had been.

And then, at the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest, I met one of you in person. Cate from Chicago. I was so ecstatically relieved that you all really existed that I asked her for a hug. And a selfie.

In that spirit, I've decided to start posting some of the emails I get (with permission) and the answers to those questions. My words are not advice but they're honest. If you have a question you'd like answered, please email me at brycedontplay@gmail.com. If you give me permission to post the exchange, you can choose to be anonymous.

Ask Away #1:
Erikka from Vermont (check out her blog here) asks:  I saw your post on attending Brewfests [...]and wonder if that concerns you at all? worries you for people judging you professionally for it (more the public than your staff/colleagues)? For me, in a rural, small knit community, I do not feel I can publicize my personal life too much. Also, my clientele are high schoolers...to whom personal information seems to be its own currency. They are two different worlds, public libraries vs schools, but sometimes I wish I could let me hair down! and whip it around like

True fact: She ended her question with a GIF as a punctuation mark and that alone made me want to share it.

I started my first professional position as a second grade teacher at 21. I tried so hard to be an adult. SO HARD. And I tried to make my definition of "adult" mirror that of my near-retirement ex-nun mentor, and it took a toll on me.The thing is, people want employees who are creative and innovative, but if they're constantly worried about being judged for their personal choices, that part of the brain is inhibited by stress.
*screaming internally*

At all my future interviews, I really tried to take in the culture as much as they were interviewing me-- is the interviewer even cracking a smile? Was the interview clearly over when they saw how young I am? Then no matter what they decide I shouldn't be working there.

When I moved here to Wisconsin, my husband got a job at a local brewery, and is now Packaging & Distribution Manager and a brewhouse tour guide. I'm really proud of how far he's come professionally and I'm glad he likes his job. I know I live in Wisconsin, in a city that boasts the 4th largest Oktoberfest in the world, so your mileage may vary, but I tend to feel like my connection with the brewery and my presence at stuff normal people do around here has helped rather than hurt me. The brewery is a family-friendly place and you often see parents with their children there. I use this as an opportunity to invite families to the library and to library programming. There are actually quite a few regular patrons at the library who started out as regulars at my husband's job, or met me at a brewery-related event. I've also formed friendships with some local teachers which is helpful.

True, there are sometimes when I feel weirdness from the occasional member of the public. There's the mom who lets me know every year that she's surprised I walk with the brewery in the Oktoberfest parade, for instance; but those are truly few and far between. For every one of her on the the route there is literally every other family who recognizes me and is excited to see me somewhere and I wave and give them candy and I'm on my way. I think that since I don't make it weird, that I don't hide away and assume other adults won't understand me as a multi-dimensional person, it's not weird. 

I completely understand my privilege with this answer. I feel as though I can rest assured knowing that my writing this post will not make most people assume that all librarians with disabilities are alcoholics, or something; and I know for a fact that if I'm a bar in town and someone sees me, they're there for the same reason I am and not to create town gossip or something. There seems to be a general consensus that if you work with kids you are (or should be) somehow morally superior to other people; but in my mind, if you're engaging in any perfectly legal adult activity, there shouldn't be any shame about that. And this is coming from someone who could have been thrown out of her college of education program if she "engage[d]in acts of moral turpitude."

Have thoughts on this? Share them in the comments!
Have a question you want answered? I'll try my best. Email me at brycedontplay at gmail dot com!


  1. I work in a small town but it's never been an issue - primarily because I am EXTREMELY BORING. I go to the zoo on my days off. Seriously.

    However, I did feel that living within walking distance of the library was hurting my personal life, what there is of it. I shared my apartment complex with some of our more...colorful patrons, middle schoolers followed me home to see where I lived, etc.

    So I chose to move to a nearby small town. I'm still close by and connected to the town, but I have a little distance and that's a relief.

  2. Very true! When I worked in a rural town, I lived in the closest city about 40 minutes away. Definitely gave me some distance and I always had an excuse for why no one saw me at church-- not that I needed one, but I was younger and less confident in myself.

  3. I live 1/4 mile from my library in a small town. When I have guests, library patrons ask for me at the desk to tell me they saw a strange car in my driveway and make sure it's ok. I can't run out to the grocery store at 6am in my pajama pants because the ONE TIME I did that, the president of the library board saw me at the meat case and struck up a conversation. Even so, I don't feel like I should hide any legal grown-up activity I want to partake in (except public pajama-pants wearing, because nobody needs to see that).

  4. bahaha - when I was an elementary school teacher, our principal got a call once from a parent complaining that some of the teachers were at a local bar over the weekend. The principal replied, "And you know they were there because..." Click.

    Small towns have their pluses and minuses. I make the choice to have my Facebook page open to the public, because my teens often 'friend' me, and I don't want a parent to ever feel like they can't check in on their kids' adult friends. Since I HAVE teenagers, some of these same kids have spent the night at my house, so it seems a bit silly to say they can do that, but can't be my friend on Facebook. My preschool mommies are my friends, too, and knowing that so-and-so just got a new puppy (or, that it just got eaten by a coyote) is a huge help in story times...

    BUT, it means if I get a really cute picture of my 5yo, and she happens not to be wearing a shirt, then it doesn't get posted - because, creepy people. It also means that, whenever I post an opinion, I have to assume everyone in the entire world is reading it. And, inevitably, there will be things that put people off - my family has guns. I am vocal about refusing the PARCC test. My house is frequently, quite visibly, a mess. My dog pooped on the floor last night, and my 3yo walked in it. My oldest daughter is bisexual.

    In the end, I like to think that all of that makes me a real person, and more accessible to my patrons. If they want a Puritan, bun-wearing librarian: well, they're not going to get that here anyway!

  5. I don't think my small-town/rural patrons would judge me too harshly for appearing to be a person who drinks, but I've had people completely change their behavior when they find out I go to a Unitarian church. I've had several people invite me to their churches and I'm always really honest with them, but it occurs to me sometimes that maybe I should lie to keep from putting people off.

  6. Thank you so much everyone for the great commentary! Look, potential future ask-away-ers (you can probably think of a better name for yourselves) at all the awesome responses you've gotten!

  7. don't worry about meMarch 10, 2015 at 10:25 PM

    Bryce girl. You have good words up here and the philosophy of not giving a rats arse what others think is a sound plan so long as you never forsee running for a public office. Then again maybe they 'll love you for your honesty ;). The world is changing so fast, who knows, honesty may just fall into vogue.