Relevant at Any Size: You Just Have To Do It

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You just have to do it. 

I think that in every situation it is good if you have a mantra, and for me the mantrathat comes with working in a small rural public library has been that you just have to do it. There’s no way around the work that needs to be done in small rural libraries. You see it when it comes through the door in the people that you serve. In a small town, people have planted their roots and change comes hard to the community. When the world shifts, the big cities are often at the forefront of the excitement and energy that comes with this kind of change. The small towns, tucked away in blanket of trees shielded from highways and the hustle and bustle, see these shifts as a hassle, a threat to the easy going life they’ve crafted in their small town. The residents in these towns just got to where they needed to be and now there’s a change? It’s not an easy thing for these people to process.

So you open your doors as a small rural public library and in comes the community. They’re wandering, a bit lost in this modern world. They very much belong in this world, but they’ve yet to find their footing and steady themselves on this new ground. That’s where these small rural libraries come in. You just have to do it. It may not have been your ultimate goal in life to grow up to work in a public library, only to day in and day out help folks figure out how to successfully navigate setting up a two factor authentication on Gmail when they don’t have their own computer and their cell phone is one of those prepaid limited minutes & data kind of a deal. No one wants to waste their data getting 6 digit authentication codes from Gmail, especially when that data costs money and they’ve got very little money to start. You just have to do it. As a librarian, you take a deep breath in, pull up a chair, and navigate through the entire process with the library guest. The ability to have and trust in your patience is a must. Eventually you get through the entire process. It either works out and the library guest is happy or you just blame it on Google. They can take it.  🙂

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You get some texts at 6am saying that you’re Youth Services Librarian is gonna be out sick on the 2nd day of Summer Reading. But you know what?You just have to do it. You know it’s gonna be a very busy day but sick people always need to stay away from healthy people in a work setting, so you figure out the plan and you make it work. You just have to do it. You take some time yourself to sit back at the Summer Reading Sign up desk and help people out. Eventually a few other employees will trickle in and staffing will be OK for the rest of the day. You get through it. With a smile and a friendly voice, you welcome every child into the library, chat with their parents or grandparents, and you sign them up for summer reading. You help them get to wherever they need to be at that point in time. You just have to do it. There’s no other option. You do it, you make it work, and you put positivity out into the world through your work.

This is the mantra for the small rural library. As I read the mantra once again, it feels like it’s this mashup of mantras and American “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” ideology. I hate that ideology, but for some reason it works here. In the small rural public library, you know that your job is to make good things happen for the residents of your community. You know they’re struggling with the massive shifts happening in our world right now. You know they feel left behind and that they can’t keep up. They feel like everyone has forgotten about them. So you know the work you have ahead of you and what needs to be done. You go to your library every day and you say this to yourself: You just have to do it.

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6 comments

    • At 2pm today, so far we’ve been visited by 213 community members and have circulated 317 items. On any non summer reading time of year day, we’ll have that amount of visitors and circulation in a whole 11 hour day.

      You just have to do it.

  1. I love this post so, so much! Rural libraries are where it’s at. We have a real impact on many lives, Justin, and although sometimes the lack of funding or support can be frustrating, ultimately it’s one of the best friggin’ jobs in the world.

  2. I love this post so much AND I love this DESK so much. Sending along to my department now, I’d love to see something like that here, so fun!

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