Lindsey and I work as on-call librarians in a large urban library system. The nature of being an on-call librarian here is impermanence and change. Constant change. We started by filling scheduling holes across 22 branches either on the fly or landing a set of shifts. We have both been fortunate to take on larger stints at various branches, allowing us to catch our breath and even get to know some of our storytimers. While we cherish and appreciate these opportunities, we have both done a fair amount of goodbying lately, enough to get me thinking about all this moving on and how to do it with grace.
While I’ve sung Goodbye Friends a bazillion times, it’s never felt quite the same way as it did last week when I said goodbye to my preschool storytime crowd. Come April, I will be swapping Friday programs with another librarian in my neighbourhood and will be doing back to back Babytimes instead. But gosh darn it, I’m going to miss all those little Preschool sized faces, and the way they make me feel funny, brilliant and important all at the same time. As I prepared to say goodbye to this group I wrestled with some pretty prickly feelings which are difficult to own up to, but for the sake of this post here goes: I wanted the children to create small signs and protest until I returned; I wanted parents to whisper about how they hadn’t known what a storytime could be until I’d come along. In short, my ego made a horrible self-celebratory flannel story while my rational self slept. How embarrassing to wake up to this mess and not have the elves to blame.
I think we can all relate to the fact that while we might not be making the big bucks, we deal in the currency of giggles and singing-as-they-leave-tots, aka Golden Moments. Golden Moments would not exist if we did not open ourselves up to real relationships with our patrons young and old; these are often what keep us going. But, as an on-call librarian I have clearly struggled to balance my hunger for Golden Moments with what would realistically best serve my community. So I have arrived at this post full of angst and questions, lots of questions! How do you juggle wanting to deliver shiny short lived programs while ensuring families are connecting to your library’s services and programs in a long term way, a way that means they will be coming through the doors long after you’re gone?
While I come bearing no answers, here are some things I found along the way which soothed my fiery heart. The first thing which struck me after reading Amy’s post on Storytime Underground was that it serves nobody to hold back, to not be your awesome self. In the words of Sir John Green (he’s been knighted right?) we cannot forget to be awesome, there’s simply too much at stake. Amy writes “[e]very day at your job, you are working to make meaningful connections between kids and literacy” and focusing on this is way more important than worrying about the what-ifs of moving branches or losing a storytime group.
Next up I found some extremely classy and useful advice from both Ingrid, The Magpie Librarian and Storytime Katie writing on the ALSC blog. From On Leaving Your Library: What to do When It’s Time to Move On and Leaving Your Job with Class and Care I gleaned the following wisdom, but please read them for yourselves for more nutritious tips!
- Give lots of notice in order to catch all the families and talk about your move with branch staff so they are also prepared to field questions
- Work with your replacement to maintain consistency and also get the kids excited to meet them (all kinds of bigger person points awarded if you can successfully do this)
- Get more comfortable with the idea that you represent a system/library and are not personally responsible for the happiness of each and every patron (no matter how cute they are.)
That about does it for this angsty librarian. I’d love to hear your perspectives on the relationships you form with your community and how you manage these in times of change, and also the felts your ego would make.