Monday, January 04, 2016

I Resolve to Rock in 2016: Choice. Empowerment. Strengths. Skills.

Well everyone, I've had quite a year! As I was thinking about a reflections post, my thoughts ended up at a resolutions post; and while I'm really not one to make resolutions, I figured some considerations and commitments for the New Year might be in order. So here's one for Storytime Undergroud's Resolve to Rock campaign.

Possibly the most challenging, most nerve-wracking, but overall most rewarding thing I added to the library conversation in 2015 was "It's Always Been that Way: An Unsolicited Rant" (Sept). Since then, I've been thinking a lot more about trauma-informed workplaces, and even asked my team members to join for a day-long training with Trauma Informed Oregon. I was so delighted with the feedback on our attendance, and it's spurred so many conversations.

This week I was again reminded of my dedication to a trauma-informed workplace when reading "Private Lives" at Hi Miss Julie,  which is not only a triumphant return to blogging for Julie, whose articles have continued to inspire far passed their posting dates; it also has clearly struck a chord in the library world for different reasons.

One thing that makes this post so powerful, I think, is her approach: She talks about a problem; she talks about what works for her, AND she talks about a time when she was personally involved in the type of ethical issue she ponders.

What I have seen happen so often with conversations like this is that they can spiral into a conversation made up of "don't" posts. And I truly hope that doesn't happen. Because I have a real sense that many individual librarians whose frustration translates to acting in questionably ethical ways come from backgrounds in trauma. Because when your lid is flipped, you're unable to think logically. What people in this position may respond to is not more shame, To be honest, not many people do, in general. I know I don't. And it's not that I think we need to treat people with kid gloves, but I DO think that we need to act in trauma-informed ways (and I really do think Julie's post is framed very well through this lens Seriously, go back and read it!). Because here's the thing:

1. Backgrounds in trauma make our profession stronger: Diversity is a huge deal to be addressed in librarianship, and many people who could add diversity to the profession-- persons of color; persons with disability; people from low socio-economic backgrounds, homelessness, or food insecurity-- live with the affects of trauma. And people with these backgrounds can help us serve our communities in ways that people who do not come from trauma, literally, cannot. I've been lucky enough to know several people who speak of the library in their childhoods as the only safe space in a life full of toxic stress. Some of these people have become librarians. And we need them, absolutely.

2. Backgrounds in trauma may indicate a high likelihood of burnout. It's totally true that people who have lived through trauma and have built resilience are strong people. And yet, these same people may have the toughest time in high-stress situations like budget cuts, restructuring, and hiring changes. And they may not ask for help, because they may not realize their lids are flipped until way later. So they work in a constant state of panic mode, and they burn out.And you don't have to go very far to see resolution posts that are dedicated to avoiding burnout. So this is kindofa big deal.

Bachelor truth #5million

So what does this mean for my 2016 plans?
In 2015 I was so fortunate to have participated in one ILEAD conference, and the feelings that Josh (a team member) set forth in a recent blogpost really hit home.  So above all I want to honor the following things in all of my work: vulnerability, compassion, and trust. An awesome side effect of going by a different name at work than at home has been that I've been able to use these virtues as pillars of my job so far in Oregon. I've been able to take on a lot of emotional labor when navigating through a variety of stressful situations with my team and our member library staff, knowing that taking it on does not necessarily mean I'm taking it home with me.

Additionally, I want to be deliberate in restoring power  for myself, my team members, the amazing library assistant I manage, and our member library youth services staff. While the word "restore" implies that something has been lost, I believe that working on these through regular check-ins and continued conversation can help keep feelings of safety and self-worth high:

Choice: We don't always have a choice in whether or not to things that we find frustrating, boring, or otherwise unsavory, but we may have more choice than we think in how we accomplish our tasks. Playing with ways that work best and approaching others to learn new best-practices can keep the dreary or seemingly insurmountable interesting.

Empowerment:When was the last time you felt autonomous and self-determined? I figured out that for me the answer to not feeling empowered is to have a problem to solve. If you're feeling less than empowered, see if you can find 3 or 4 ideas that other libraries are doing online that you might want to try. OR, think about community members who may feel isolated by the library-- even if that's you, as a child-- and brainstorm ways to serve them. A piece of advice that I'm giving in retrospect to past-me: It's okay if you can't follow through with these plans right now. Make them anyway. Their time will come.
Your annual reminder

Strengths Focus: Out loud, use gratitude to talk about your strengths and those of your team. A flipped lid can sometimes mean a focus on the negative, but you, your team, your employees have a lot to offer. Saying "thank you" and "good job" and actually meaning it can go a long way to combat negativity and promote a sense of togetherness.

Skill Building: Are there skills that you're not the best at but another person on staff is, OR vice versa? Sharing resources and signing up for courses to build skills can empower everyone. Additionally, having skills does not necessarily mean you can pass them onto others without more scaffolding or support. This is my first week taking the course "It's Mutual: School and Public Lbrary Collaboration". I'm taking this course because I recognize that while I have some success and tips in this area, different libraries have different communities and needs. This course may give me the tools to systematically help each library create or strengthen ties to their schools, rather than relying solely on personal experience.

So that's my tall order on committing myself to a trauma-informed workplace for 2016. Want to know more about being trauma-informed at the library? The PLA Conference has a session with Ann Schwab and Elissa Hardy of Denver Public Library. I won't be there, but I hope you'll consider attending and telling me all about it!

Have similar dreams for 2016 but not sure where to start? "I'm the best compared to nobody" is a mantra for just that.

And if you're just not feeling it, at all, just yet, here's a few words for you uttered by some of my favorites, the Drive-By Truckers:

Remember, it ain't too late to take a deep breath and throw yourself into it with everything you've got
It's great to be alive

What are your professional plans for 2016?

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