Musings, Professional organizations, School Libraries, What's next

As I think about What’s Next

Many years ago, as a Baby Librarian, I realized I was the youngest in the room at many AASL committee meetings. Now, “baby” was in her 30s, so that didn’t feel quite right. And I’ve blogged about many of my issues with AASL (and ALA) before.

I’m no longer the youngest, but sadly, many of those who were in power then are still in power now.

That’s not to say that they don’t have valuable time and talent to give to the organization. They do. I do feel they have not done enough to bring along new voices, new people with energy and the ability to more things forward. And I feel that’s a problem because at some point, these older, venerable voices won’t be there.

Part of the problem is (imvho) equating what you do with who you are. A number of years ago, a conference friend was retiring in a few months and I asked her which of two mutual friends she was going to emulate: the one who, even though she was retired, kept going back to work (currently teaching pre-service librarians) and running for office and serving on committees and presenting, or the one who retired and lightly mentored a few people but pulled back into a fulfilling second act in her new community. The latter, my friend replied. I haven’t seen her since.

Meredith recently blogged about vocational awe, and how that can be harmful (most obviously in terms of continual pressure to do more with less, to work harder/longer, but also financially because we’re “called” to be librarians, or nurses, or teachers, or whatever profession is being venerated). While she’s an academic librarian, the things she talks about are equally applicable to school librarians: the sense that it’s “for the students” and that if we don’t do something, it’s going to hurt them or our colleagues. No clerical assistant? Sure, we’ll work overtime to process books and shelve and do all the other tasks and we’ll keep our level of collaboration and teaching where it’s always been. Downsizing our staff? No problem! We’ll just parcel our their job and maintain our level of service. That thinking needs to stop.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. If we’re down staff (long term, not someone is out for a few days/week), then some things need to stop happening. What are the “must do” things, and what can be dropped, no matter how nice? When/if anyone else notices, the explanation is simple: my emotional/physical/mental health is important and I am no longer going to make myself sick in service of the school/library. Here’s what we’re able to do, here’s what we’ve stopped doing: if you want us to do something we dropped, you need to find something else we can stop doing in exchange.

Maybe my point of view would be different if I were starting my career rather than closer to the end. I have less to lose, and I have years of trying to do it all and I know how harmful that can be. I also know that AASL’s aspirational librarianship standards are equally damaging, because they ignore the reality we face of lowered staffing and budgets.

I also know which of the two retiree examples I’m going to emulate when that time comes.

1 thought on “As I think about What’s Next”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.