Sharks, every one of us- Reflection Blog 5- Professional Learning Experiences

Of all the chapters/articles mentioning how to stay on the cutting edge of library development through deep listening and discussion with peers, feedback from trusted mentors, and immersing in professional conferences, the ideas that struck me the most were staying motivated (Wholehearted Librarianship, p. 55) and the emotional labor service workers like librarians endure to perform well for their shareholders (Simon, 2020).

Boredom, the inability to remain motivated, comes up no matter how close the subject of our work comes to our hearts. I’d spent most of my life yearning to and, at 24 for ten years, managed to be a full-time writer. But one day –not because I haven’t been able to sign a mainstream publishing contract– I found myself in tears over feeling utterly unable to move on despite only a dozen or so pages away from finishing an edit to my fourth story. It wasn’t because I didn’t like what the story had become, just it’d been short-outline-to-seventh-draft for four projects over nine years, all while becoming a mother. Even with small cooking and visual arts craftings interspersed along the way, one foot couldn’t be put in front of the other anymore. I can only imagine how a veteran librarian must feel without constant opportunity for professional development, if only to change her perspective on why it’s ideal for her to continue helping with information needs.

I cried reading Simon’s (2020) article “Emotional Labor, Stressors, and Librarians Who Work with the Public”, especially the parts discussing how service workers, in a way, perform for their customers/users. As a member of front-of-house for a busy bakery in San Francisco, I’m exhausted, mostly emotionally, by my Friday. And I can feel it creeping in sooner than week’s end these past months. Every day, from 7 am to 2:30 pm, I watch and listen for my customers’ minute reactions to maximize their comfort in coming through the store. Encountering Simon’s recognition of a librarian’s struggles doing pretty much the same thing, but through dispensing information, my heart broke a little, but also warmed in knowing how mentally well-equipped I already am for my intended career. One thing that never fails to raise my spirits, though, are the chefs coming up with new products. I always sell those out in less than two hours, the excitement of explaining them giving my customers that spark to try something different.

In these regards, regular professional development is a must, not only to stay current with library/information science trends, but more importantly to remake our own professional goals to keep from losing our minds. Burnout is so intensely real, and it’s for that reason I get tongue-tied when trying to explain my job to friends and family (*so* many of them asking how ‘hard’ could it be selling delicious things) and also my anxiety to doing the same for information in the future.

4 comments

  1. Hi Vida,
    I enjoyed reading about your take on emotional labor that librarians face in the workplace. This is truly a topic that needs to be discussed openly in all libraries as many of my coworkers along with myself feel the pressure within the field of librarianship. Professional development opportunities for all library staff can enhance the library as a workplace as well as safe space for all. Great work!

    1. Thank you. I really didn’t want to mention anything else for this reflection blog. One day I’ll look through the King Library databases for more research on librarian emotional burnout.

  2. I am glad you highlighted this area. I think I mentioned the term “compassion fatigue” in one of the articles (?) and it is truly a thing. Add in the pandemic, I am also exhausted most of the time. Thanks for your candor.

    1. Outside of Simon’s article and your Librarianship books, I haven’t seen very much else speaking about librarians having it up to ‘here’ with emotional stress on the job. I thank you for recognizing it so I can write about it.

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