Care for yourself by taking care of your career


By Beth Nieman, Youth Services Librarian, Carlsbad Public Library, Carlsbad, New Mexico

A coffee break or brisk walk can temporarily reduce workplace stress, but what about long-term solutions for a satisfying work environment? Self-care can include nurturing our careers by raising public awareness about the importance of librarians, networking with colleagues, and making time for what we love about our jobs.New%20books

Pam, a public librarian, shared with me a negative experience she had at a city council meeting. Pam voiced her concerns about parents dropping off young children at the library for hours, with no provision for a meal or parent supervision. Pam concluded by saying, “They seem to think I’m a glorified babysitter!”

A council member stunned Pam with her reply: “But isn’t that what you are?” Pam felt hurt and baffled by this ignorant statement from a public official. It’s not uncommon for librarians to run into this kind of attitude.

Position yourself as an information expert.

Attending meetings of our funding organizations, as Pam did, is an opportunity to inform and instruct about the work librarians do. Pam might have said to the council member, “No, I am not a glorified babysitter. I have a master’s degree in library administration, and it’s my pleasure to serve the community with my advanced degree and specialized training. I came here to make the council aware of a matter of public safety—unattended children in a public place.” Be ready to respond positively when you encounter negative attitudes and stereotypes.

Another way to emphasize your professionalism is to display your credentials prominently, such as framing your diplomas, certificates, and awards. You worked hard for those; let others know what you’ve achieved!

Connect with library colleagues.

Librarians sometimes get discouraged no matter how much they love their jobs. Professional networking boosts confidence and can reignite your enthusiasm. Join your state library association, the ALA, or other professional organization and volunteer on a committee, attend a library conference, or host a professional gathering at your library. Listening to and supporting each other is a great way to reduce stress, share solutions, and become inspired.

Create the job you want.

I enjoy reading and writing about books, so, as a Youth Services Librarian, I take a bit of time most days to read books and write weekly book reviews for my local newspaper. When young library patrons see me reading picture books or graphic novels from the big stack on my desk, it makes them feel good about reading, too and helps me do a better job recommending books for them.

What about you? If you enjoy outreach or public speaking, and it isn’t part of your job description (yet!), find opportunities to speak about the library to local organizations. If you love talking about books or creative writing, maybe you could be the staff person who hosts a new book club or writing workshop at your library.

A job you look forward to is less stressful than one you dread. Take ownership of your career and make it great!