Rants, School Libraries

“I should just retire”

I’ve been hearing that, or versions thereof, for the past few years and recently it seems that every group of librarians I’m with includes one that is just giving up.  What’s causing this epidemic?  They’re feeling unappreciated and unwanted not by their schools or students, but by their own profession.

Yes, by their own profession.

The constant bombardment of “if you’re not keeping up with the leaders in the field you’re not pulling your weight so get out” messages (we all remember the things that kept Joyce and Doug up at night) doesn’t help.  Some are simply overwhelmed by the pace of change in tools and resources – they’re just getting into Twitter and all of a sudden there’s Google+ to master.  They update their websites and integrate blogs only to be told that they need to master Glogs and Prezi.  Blogging’s over, it’s now about vlogging.  And so on.  Administrators are asking them to cull carefully selected collections and to go digital, sometimes without understanding that what’s in print is not always in e-format.  After all, it’s all out there on the web, right?  And after fighting for flexible scheduling and integration/collaboration with the curriculum, they’re tired of fighting, particularly after this many years of service.

I also think about one of my high school friends.  When we had our 30th reunion last year, she talked about how she cared for her in-laws, going to their house a couple of times a week to clean and cook, managing the other caregivers and organizing their finances, etc..  She’s also taking care of her middle school daughter and her high school son, who is starting the college selection process.  Oh, and her husband “commutes” between Nashville TN and New Jersey.  This being part of a sandwich generation has been draining on her, and it’s no wonder she was slightly depressed. Luckily for her, she didn’t have to work a full-time job.

Now, imagine you’re a school librarian *and* you’re doing what my friend is doing.  Or that you have a special needs child.  Or maybe you have health issues.  Perhaps it’s not that complicated – maybe you volunteer somewhere, or are simply taking care of your family.  There are a million reasons why some of us leave the librarian part of our lives behind at times, and yet to keep up with all the changes and to stay relatively close to the movers, shakers and doers means that you can’t afford to do that.

What message are we sending our peers if we make them feel that they can’t possibly have a vibrant program without racing from one technology to another, reading every YA book out there so that the shelves have the hottest/latest reads, ensuring that you move from being the librarian to being an embedded member of the faculty and on and on?  Why can’t we applaud those that are doing the best they can with the resources and funding they have, changing at a pace they find comfortable?   Why do we all need to be like – well, you know the names as well as I do?

We need to make it a point to celebrate all our peers doing their best to make their programs rich, vibrant and student-centered. We must to encourage them not to retire but to try just one new thing, because one thing is doable, and to forget about the rest for now.  And all this “if you’re not doing all these things, we don’t want you here” must stop.  Now.  Before it’s too late.

4 thoughts on ““I should just retire””

  1. thank you, thank you, thank you! It is really time that someone says OUT LOUD that not everyone can be a superstar or up-to-the-minute geek. There is — and should alway be — an equally respectable place for those who try to keep up but are not (and may have no desire or need to be) on the cutting edge.

  2. Right on! I keep up with technology and give 100% while I am at work, but I like to go home and be me…not a librarian. While I don’t do all the things that “those folks” do, I do my job and I do it well. Thanks for this post.

  3. This really hit home for me because my school added a second librarian unit mid-year — we had state funding for that position for seven years, but the administration had opted to use it in another way. Actually having a second librarian improved my work-life balance appreciably, and when my co-librarian was out sick for three days this spring, I literally could not believe I had managed the workload by myself for so long…we are lucky to have some incredible and energetic people in the profession, but I do think they can give the bulk of us an inferiority complex if we attempt comparison.

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