Can you become…un-disillusioned?!

2 Nov

Noisy Librarians“You have to do your librarianing within your overall resource, which is yourself!”

So, I was a school librarian for the last 4 years or so, and now I am a PhD student. I’m still working to improve libraries for teenagers – in a roundabout way, that’s what my research is about. I’m still a librarian – that’s my profession, and my background. I’ve realised very lately that after a period of disengagement and cynicism, I need to get re-engaged and updated.

About 18 months ago something really horrible happened that I can’t really blog about, just trust me, it was awful. The words “We’ve got to keep it together for the kids” were uttered and I tried, I really tried. Unsurprisingly, after a while I couldn’t keep doing that and had to take some time off to put “me” back together.

Prior to this, I guess I had been burning the candle at both ends, without realising it. I had various book groups going, library inductions, information literacy classes, visits, visitors, some clubs, a handful of ‘working groups’ or committees, in and out of school, trained/mentored people…..and probably another dozen things I’ve forgotten, as well as all the ‘usual’ stuff like, y’know, budget management, collection management, class visits, enquiries….it was all good stuff. I was described as “enthusiastic”. But it was too much and when something really bad happened I was way overstretched and couldn’t really cope emotionally.

After some much needed rest, I had to rethink my priorities and working practices, and changed things so I could work again and try to avoid another meltdown in future. A lot of this is stuff about me personally and I won’t go into that here (Reader: phew!). Some of it was maybe useful to pass on, things I would suggest to other solo librarians in whatever sector, such as have regular meetings with your manager, whether they’re a librarian or not, set aside proper time and space (i.e. somewhere you can shut a door!) minute them, talk about what you have been doing, what you are planning on doing, short and long-term, and you can periodically review how your various projects are going. If they don’t have a clue at the start, they’ll learn a lot about what you do just by having time to talk. The meetings don’t have to be formal – how can two people sitting in a cupboard office chatting over a packet of biscuits be that formal anyway? But you can formalise its existence; managers are busy, get that diary time, send an agenda, write minutes. Also, take your breaks, get a proper lunch and if you’re ill, don’t go to work!

Gradually, things were getting back to normal, it was slow and I felt wary of taking on new things. It wasn’t an ideal time, although of course there is no such thing. It wasn’t great to have work ‘restructuring’ all around while I was getting to grips with this stuff. I’m pretty sure there are still things to figure out. But I had at least learned about the Librarian / Person model:

Shows librarian getting increasingly frazzled as job takes over more and more of life until it is larger than life

I always wanted to invent a model for something...

As you can see…the principal is that you can have enough IDEAS to keep 10 people busy, but YOU CANNOT DO THE WORK OF 10 PEOPLE! In addition, The Librarian can only exist if YOU do too! If you are not well, library service closes – that’s the deal with solo librarians. If your employer really wanted a service that never closed for lunch, holidays, sickness, training, heck even toilet breaks, they would employ more librarians and they have chosen not to. This is hard to say to individual patrons who might be lovely and/or needy (please see This Blog for an excellent discussion of this in more detail!). But (shock!) you are a person too, and this does not make you a Bad Librarian. You have to do your librarianing within your overall resource, which is yourself!

“you can have enough IDEAS to keep 10 people busy, but YOU CANNOT DO THE WORK OF 10 PEOPLE!”

If you’re a solo librarian, and you’re not 100% because you’re stressed or depressed or grieving or whatever, you kinda need to reduce how much librarianing you do. Well, I was far from 100%, probably more like…11%, and that doesn’t come back right away, its really gradual. And I know I’m not alone – its been scientifically shown that librarians are stressed!

This post is partly to say there is life after stress! I’ve been given a great opportunity to do research which builds on the experience I already have, and I think that appealed to me because I didn’t stop having those ideas (the ones that’d be enough to keep 10 people busy) I just had to limit what I did. So this way, perhaps I can contribute to the profession best by sharing those ideas, doing research.

But partly it is to ask for input on how to re-engage professionally. I’ve found Twitter great recently for linking up with professionals in far-flung places such as Doncaster and even Hull! 😉 Seriously though, if for some reason you’re into blogs but not into twitter, give it a go! Interacting with other professionals has highlighted to me how much stuff is going on and I feel out of date! Even worse, I was telling some students only a few days ago that it is up to them to keep up to date with their professional association after they graduate and if they aren’t happy with their professional association, to get involved in it to make your voice heard – time I took my own medicine! These are some of the things I have done, or have looked into doing in future, to try to get back properly engaged with our profession, and I am looking for any other ideas too please 🙂

  • Reading newsletters again…properly…there was a point where I really felt like CILIP was positively useless for school libraries, maybe even damaging to us (I’m still a school librarian at heart, I think, so, ‘us’) and it just made me so angry I couldn’t face reading Update…sorry CILIP…however, I am back…
  • I’m not really sure how but I want to see if I can get involved with one of the regional or special interest groups.
  • Someone showed me Lanyrd which is a neat tool for finding about all these extremely cool sounding unconferences….sign me up!
  • CILIP website Communities section – initially got quite excited about this but it is still very quiet. It was too long since I’d had a proper look at the CILIP website though, and there is certainly potential there.
  • I don’t know if I still count as a ‘new professional’ but the ‘new professional network’ thing is something I mean to look in to.
  • I know I’m late to the party, but I think I will do the CPD23 thing
  • I even checked out what Revalidation is about, I’m not really sure but I’m interested and will bear it in mind.
  • There’s probably millions more ideas than this, do you have any suggestions??? Please comment!

8 Responses to “Can you become…un-disillusioned?!”

  1. Katie Birkwood November 2, 2011 at 16:32 #

    If you want to get more involved with your CILIP branch and special interest groups, you have to make sure that you’ve ticked the ‘receive news from CILIP’ box in the ebulletins section of the ‘your account’ bit of the CILIP website (do say if that doesn’t make sense and I’ll explain again better). They can (sadly not all do) send you a monthly email to let you know what’s going on, etc. Reading that’s a good way to stay informed. If you want to get more involved I’d suggest getting in touch with the committee (their details should be on the CILIP website) and volunteering help or ideas.

    I went through a slump over the summer and think that the thing that really kicked me out of it was going to Library Camp last month. It must have been all the friendly and enthusiastic people there that spurred me into sorting myself out. So my advice would be to find a local (or not so local) event – networking/conference/whatever – and go along.


  2. callmecathy November 2, 2011 at 16:39 #

    Thanks Katie, I had stupidly let the email address on my account get out of date!! All up to date now.

  3. Katie Birkwood November 2, 2011 at 16:48 #

    Hang on a sec, was it you I told exactly the same thing on Twitter only yesterday? Sorry for bombarding you the same message!

  4. Maria G. De Simone (@mginotherwords) November 2, 2011 at 17:08 #

    Thanks for such an inspiring post. I’m a workaholic and therefore I loved your model. I’m not a solo librarian but the situation of my department and the skills within my team mean that sometimes I feel like one, and yes, I do have ideas to keep 10 people busy but I almost have to realise them all by myself (or drop them, which is even more frustrating)! At the end of last year I had a sudden moment of enlightenment when I realised that if I didn’t do something I would become a bitter brainless thirty-something frustrated bag, and in January I made a plan which sounded similar to yours: involvement with CILIP, twitter, training, cpd, doing something for myself and not just for my workplace, getting to know other people, etc. etc. I can tell you that although I got involved in too many things at once, and had to slow down a bit over the Summer, it’s still working out pretty well and I feel as if I’ve come out of a cave for the first time in years. The best part has been (and still is) interacting with other librarians, whether online or in person – I now know that if my workplace drives me nuts, I can arrange a chat with my new library friends (or take a quick look at twitter) and feel much more motivated afterwards. So go for it, and best of luck with your un-disillusionment!

  5. callmecathy November 2, 2011 at 17:44 #

    I think so, and you were asking about how come I hadn’t heard of CPD23 and this post is the long explanation why!

  6. callmecathy November 2, 2011 at 17:49 #

    Wow, I’m well pleased you found my post inspiring! I’m very glad to hear you have had success in getting back into the swing of things, I will try to not take on too much at once. I know what you mean about being in a cave!!!!

  7. Lisa Hutchins (@myweeklybook on Twitter) November 2, 2011 at 22:28 #

    Hi Cathy – excellent, thought-provoking post. As someone who regularly has enough ideas for 10 people, it’s great to be given permission not to actually have to do the work of all of them 😀

    I’m tearing through CPD23 at the moment in hopes of getting to the end in time to claim my certificate! I’d read your post earlier in the evening and then moved onto thinking about mentoring for Thing 11. One of the unexpected things that has happened to me as a result of pursuing the ACLIP qualification is having the notion that I could maybe train as a mentor for future certification candidates if I am successful. I don’t know whether this will happen – it is, in fact, yet another of those pesky ideas…

    This leads me to wonder… perhaps becoming a mentor might be just the professional tonic you need? I am mindful that this might not suit your circumstances at present but it seemed a thought worth sharing.

    Good luck in your quest

    Lisa H

  8. callmecathy November 3, 2011 at 12:08 #

    Gosh, I don’t know if I’d be experienced enough to be a mentor, but thanks for the suggestion, I will have a look. Absolutely, I am all for granting permission not to work insanely hard! It doesn’t really help in the long run! Got to dash now, work to do…!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: