Friday, January 6, 2017

5 Ways to Stay Passionate Working in Libraries

Our post about librarian burnout was really popular, so we thought we'd start off 2017 with five tips to help any librarian renew their passion to their profession:

1. Each month, make sure you take time to learn something new

We wrote a blog post a few months ago with a great list of  webinars and courses. But even taking the time out to read a library journal or listen to a library podcast would help keep new ideas and information coming in. Don't be afraid to broaden beyond the library world, too -- social media tips that are geared for nonprofits and small businesses will also work for libraries. Design programs will help you make a great birthday card will also make a wonderful flyer. 

2. Connect with colleagues 

Go to conferences and roundtable discussions. Sign up for library email lists like ALA's electronic email lists (If it is too overwhelming to keep up with daily, carve out a weekly time in your schedule to go through the emails). Join librarian Facebook groups. Do whatever you can to connect with colleagues outside of your library, even better if they are working with the same age group as you. In my previous position, I started a YA Collaborative Group, where we met just three times a year. It was invaluable to see people face-to-face, and learning from each other's successes, sharing our future plans, and commiserating with the rough parts of the job.  

3. Keep a folder of comments, praises, positive feedback

This suggestion was shared by one of our readers, MsFrisby, on the Burnout article and we think it is fabulous! Start a folder where you can collect comments, praises, and positive feedback. Don't forget to include drawings from kids, great photos of your patrons having a good time, and those thank you notes. I even take screenshots of positive comments on social media and save them on a folder in my computer.  If you are having a rough day, go to that folder and browse through. You are making a difference in people's lives, keep up the good fight! 

4. Use Your Stats for Competitive Fun

I know most libraries keep track of how many people are coming to their programs and how many programs they've held. But go a step further -- every year, make a list of your top programs. Compare them to years prior. Keep track of your highest attended program and try to beat it the next year. Find books in your collection that haven't circulated and book talk them everywhere. Every month, check up on their stats. Which one is circulating the most? It is even more fun if everyone in your department picks a book to "sell" to patrons. Or find a different small goal and make that your focus for a few months. Think up new ways to beat your previous number, and even carve out some time to research fresh ideas.

5. Bring your hobbies into the library

What do you love talking about? What do you enjoy doing? Find ways to incorporate that into your library programming. Even something as simple as enjoying coupons could lead to a great coupon sharing program. Cooks have brought cookbook programs to the library. Writers run writing workshops. Animal lovers have done collaborative programs with animal shelters and teen/kid volunteers. One of my favorite parts about public librarianship is that it is really easy to justify any idea for a library program. Even if you don't normally run programs or it is for an age group you don't work with, talk with the head of programming to see if it is a possibility. When I was a YA librarian, I was given permission to run a monthly adult writing group. Five years later (and even though I no longer work at this library), we're still going strong. So you never know!

Happy new year, everyone! We hope these tips help. If you have any other tips, please share in the comments below.


  1. This post and the earlier burnout article are both helpful. I did many of the suggestions while working at a library, but ultimately found the greatest relief by quitting. Obviously, it’s not the first step at signs of burnout, but at some point I had to get realistic: many libraries are toxic work environments. Many library jobs are part-time (good luck getting EAP or finding low-cost mental health care resources), or don't pay wages that are commensurate with the amount of responsibilities performed. I will always love libraries, but after a decade working in them I could not see myself continuing any further. Fortunately, we librarians have the research advantage to seek other opportunities.

    1. That is true -- these tips can take you only so far, especially in toxic environments. Sometimes, the answer is quitting. I hope you found a new position that you enjoy. I do think librarianship is adaptable to many professions.