The Scene: A meeting of library workers from all over, a mix of institutions and types and job titles.The group was large enough and diverse enough that most of us didn’t know each other.
A few people at my table, all from one particular library, spent their networking time sharing their frustrations about, and disagreements with, their new-ish library director’s initiatives. Their comments were generally directed at each other, but loud enough that everyone at the table could hear them, and they occasionally looked around at us, as if to see if we would join their discussion. Mostly we looked at our phone screens or off into the distance, but I was torn like an old sweater–do I let them vent, or do I insert my library director-self into their venting and try to guide them to some form of minor acceptance/resolution?
These were not my staff; this was not my library they were talking about. Ultimately, it came down to what I would want someone to do if these were my employees, and my hope is that someone would encourage them to talk to me rather than to a table full of strangers (who were surreptitiously staring at their chests, making note of their library). Someone at the table did say this to them, and they seemed to snap out of it and realize that this may not have been the best choice for venting. I was both grateful that someone said something and guilty that my overthinking led me to paralysis.
Now, all this time later, I still wonder if my job as a “library leader” goes beyond leading my own library. Is it forever my responsibility to lead all library workers everywhere, to stamp out negativity and stand up for my library director sisterhood?