I started a new job recently. It’s a great job (so far), and I’m glad to be here. This means that I’m “the new girl”. Perhaps I’m the new “woman”, but I’m still a millennial, so it’s hard to imagine that.

By traditional definitions my first week or so was a disaster:

  1. I was late on my 2nd day.
  2. I got a nasty cold on my 4th day.
  3. Then I almost burned down the library on my 6th day.

Luckily for me, I rarely abide by traditional standards, so I choose to see my successes: I still came to work on the 2nd day. I brought the staff oranges to build their immune systems. I did not actually burn down the library, I just caused some heavy sparking. I’m just telling everyone that I just had a “non-traditional” first week.

 

Each and every one of those “non-traditional” events remind me that I’m the new girl. When I walk into a meeting and realize that I don’t know the names of anyone in the room, I remember that I’m the new girl. When I have to stop someone and say, “which way to my office?” I remember that I’m the new girl. It feels like a lot of pressure. How do I help these staff members? I’m sorry, I need to come up with a budget by when? Was I just overly aggressive in that collection development meeting? At every moment I seem to second guess myself.

Here’s the thing, though, about being the new girl: I’m not hemmed in by the organization’s traditional hang-ups. I can see things that others cannot see. I can build relationships from scratch. I can set tone. I can bribe people into my office with chocolate. Plus, I’m cashing in on my First 90 Days.

For me, my new girl status largely means that I can dream big dreams. What could this building look like? How could we improve staff morale? Can I just remove that sign holder? it’s making me queasy just knowing it’s there. I look at the building, the staff, and the procedures with new eyes and from my own new perspective (for better or worse). I can spend my time daydreaming about how things might be. (My new boss might point out that maybe I should be focusing on my immediate training. Somehow, though, I am rarely swayed by that kind of traditional logic. I am much more likely to be swayed by shiny objects.)

Much like Jess on New Girl, right now is my chance to dream big dreams and come at things from a new angle. I can pull out the glitter and craft my way to making my big dreams a reality! I can wear polka-dots every day! (If those polka dots are black-on-black because all I own is black dresses.) I can use puppies as stress relief! I can use all of the exclamation marks!

Soon I will be bogged down by the reality of the job and its minutiae. But, for right now, I’ll take my status as the new girl and let myself dream.

giphy-9

Four years ago today, Library Lost & Found launched to help lost leaders find the tools and resources they need to succeed. Since then we have published close to 400 posts written by library leaders all over the world. Over 72,000 visitors have viewed the site over 126,000 times, with the most popular day being Wednesday! Many thanks to our devoted followers, talented writers, and supportive friends.

Don’t Get Crushed

Kevin King —  March 13, 2017 — Leave a comment

If you want to carry the world, do not tie it with a rope, otherwise the rope will break and the world will crush you.” – African proverb

Tell me if this feels familiar to you: you get into work full of hopes and dreams of what you’ll accomplish. You sip your coffee, write your to-do list, check email, still full of self-assurance that today will be the most productive day ever. Cut to the end of the day: you’re harried, disheveled, a shell of a person, and you have checked not one thing off your to-do list. What happened?

Just the other day I had the last hour of my day set aside for some good, hard, task driven work. You know what happened? We had a thunderstorm in February in Michigan which knocked our power out for about 10 seconds which subsequently knocked my work plans out for the next hour. There were patrons to help and automatic lights to fix and other sundry issues. I immediately felt that annoyance rise up: “This isn’t supposed to be happening right now! I had a plan!”

Often in library work, our days get away from us and we don’t get a single thing done that we planned on. And spoiler alert, I’m not here to tell you how to get through your to-do list in the face of such adversity. In all of my years (16) of working in libraries and in all of my various positions (eleventy billion/I’m too lazy to count)  in special, public, and academic libraries I have come to believe that the unexpected is just a fact of library life.

img_0039

If it’s not a power outage, the students you supervise need help or didn’t show up for their shifts. If it’s not student employees, it’s software that crashed or meetings that run long or your boss gives you an urgent task. And at the end of the day, after the inevitable pileup of interruptions, it can feel like you didn’t get anything done.

The key word in that last sentence is “feel like.” Lately, I’ve started to come to peace with the fact that my job is more than my to-do list, although that’s a part of it. My job is also my thoughtful contributions in meetings, my support of patrons in a crisis, my assisting coworkers in a pinch, and sometimes it’s turning on all the lights and making sure no one hurt themselves when the power went out. I’ve learned to shift my narrative a little bit and not tell myself I didn’t get anything done today when, in fact, I got a lot done today, just not what I had planned on. What are the stories you tell yourself at the end of the day? Are you giving yourself enough credit for the things you did, even if it doesn’t match your vision of what you had hoped to do? I’m willing to bet you got a lot done today and the library is better for having you in it.

A good friend recently shared a post on Facebook about Donald Vass, one of the last bookbinders in the business working at the King County Library System. She described the story as a “religious experience” and could not agree more. After watching the news segment, I immediately looked for more info on this guy and found this short video. The wisdom I experienced from Vass in about 13 minutes should keep me going for the rest of the year. As it was sung in Hamilton, “Let’s get this guy in front of a crowd” or at least a show on PBS. He needs to be a keynote at any and all library conferences.