When you move onto the next chapter of your life, you can’t help but look back to see what you’ve learned and how you can continue to grow. The past two weeks have been full of that and a flood of other emotions for me. It’s cool. I embrace this. However, keeping this all locked up in my head and in my heart doesn’t do any good so here goes: a soul baring blog post about the things I learned. Warts and all.
When I came into town three years ago I was a bit naive. I thought that no matter what the situation was that I could use my positive approach and all of the love in my heart to change things. While I still believe in the power of positivity and a good heart, I now understand that there’s more to consider. Some people can’t be changed. Some mountains can’t be moved. And that’s ok.
Out of this came Three Punk Rock Lessons for Surviving 21st-Century Library Hell. If the system doesn’t respond to the way you approach things, you circumnavigate the system. You find something that works that is a blend of your style while pleasing the mountains that cannot be moved. You get things done, you’re happy because you’ve served your community, and no one bugs you.
I would love to say that what I got most out of working in Portland, Maine came from my community and the teens I worked with but this was not the case. That’s what I got from my previous job at the Cape May County Library. But that’s not to say that I didn’t get anything from these two powerful groups: what they did was REINFORCE everything I learned at the Cape May County Library. If it wasn’t in my head and my heart enough in 2010, it is now embedded there forever and has no chance of slipping away. Folks: if you don’t have your community in the front of your thoughts, your library is not winning.
I learned a lot from managing a small staff of people in the teen library. What I did learn the most during my time is that freedom, respect, and support for your staff is the most critical thing to have when you are working with others. If you have a staff that doesn’t trust or respect you, forget about it. INSPIRE them. Say YES. Let them run wild in the library. Your library is stronger with everyone’s ideas working together. It will form an institution that is not only dynamic but full of personality.
One of my favorite moments in Portland was when I noticed that one of my staff members was an amazing artist. What did I have him do? I had him draw amazing things while he watched over the teen service desk. Call it a bit of performance art and a little bit of library decoration: the teens and other patrons got to see the creation of art in progress and the end result still proudly hangs in the library so that patrons can go OMG WOW when they see it. It’s a beautiful thing. The best part? Having my employee not be bored while watching over the teen desk and seeing them look forward to working in my part of the library.
And finally: Your happiness in your job has a lot to do with your happiness in the world. Remember, your job is not your life but it does have some impact on it. Are you unhappy? Frustrated? Tired? Grumpy? Have you tried to change things and you keep hitting a brick wall? Have you REALLY tried to change things and STILL keep hitting that brick wall?
It is time for you to find another job.
This is difficult to say and even more difficult to comprehend, but PLEASE do yourself a favor and go down that path. Your heart will smile in the long run. Don’t get caught up on the what/who/when/where/why/how of it all. Just do it.
Very true on all counts, Justin! I, too, was in a place where I couldn’t change a very stifling culture. Early on in the job, another employee left (one that I had a great deal of respect for) because of that culture. I said to him: “If everyone leaves, things will never change!” His response was telling: “It’s like a cancer…you can’t cure it.” Turned out, he was right. And so are you. Some mountains can’t be moved, no matter how positive your attitude.
Laura: QUOTE OF THE CENTURY
I said to him: “If everyone leaves, things will never change!”
His response was telling: “It’s like a cancer…you can’t cure it.”
Very timely post, thanks
Thanks for this, Justin. I needed this about a year ago. ❤
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