Quote from Keeottlady on Jun 23, 2012, 10:53pm
Hi. I've just joined the list, but have read most of the "work" forum material. I've got a problem because, even though I'm a librarian, and people often still think of librarianship as being a "quiet" job, it really isn't. Right now I've got to plan our fall (September through December) activities for kids and teens, and am constantly finding it hard to get them to come to events – especially the teens. As a youth services librarian in a public library in a blue-collar suburb in the midwest, I love recommending books and helping people find answers to reference questions, but it seems there's less and less call to do this (I say this after having worked in various libraries for ten years). The library profession is re-examining itself right now, as all professions must in our changing society.
Let's see if I understand your situation correctly, and please correct me if I am mistaken.
You aspired to be a librarian, and you have been a competent one for ten years.
Recently your job description and vocation has been hijacked. Your administrators want you to take on the role of being a social worker, entertainer and other unrelated skills.
You are now expected to be a social director as your primary role, rather than facilitate education, making information and learning available for those who seek it.
How can I get more comfortable reaching out to teens – or, in fact, even find out HOW to reach out to them? I need to develop some programs within the week, and my boss has mentioned to me that one of our library board-members expressed concern about the lack of teen turn-out at our programs.
The "reaching out" cliche is nothing more than an administrative buzzword phrase to brainwash employees. Your administrators are your bosses. It was not originally in your job description to design programs to keep children and their taxpaying parents (AKA the library patrons) entertained, interested and bribed with snack food. That's the job of your bosses to design such programs, and they are paid handsomely to do that. Go to them for suggestions. Actually, politely insist that they tell you exactly what they want you to do. Follow their suggestions to the letter. Be a good soldier and follow their orders with out complaint. If their suggestions (actually their commands) don't work, then it's ultimately their problem, not yours! And if what they tell you to do doesn't work, put it squarely back in their laps: namely, hold them responsible for doing that which is essentially their job.
(My boss suggested to me that I emphasize informal book-discussions with the teens – the kind where we sit around and chat and have some snacks, which sounds good to me, and that I continue to be persistent with the school-district administration to allow me to publicize to the schools.
So you started off as a librarian, and now you are expected to be a school district liaison and a PR person? All for a librarian's salary? If you were to succeed in effecting all those additional demands, why aren't you being compensated for those additional skills? Those roles are your bosses responsibilities, not yours. Don't let them intimidate you into thinking those things are your responsibility.
I'm comfortable doing that, and also will be talking to my boss this week about starting a blog on our webpage, since I think teens are more apt to follow that than newspapers and cable T.V. for announcements of library happenings.) But as for going where the teens hang out, and seeking them out in large groups, I feel awkward doing that.
So do you want to add social worker to your list of duties? Can you set any limits? Can you ever (politely but firmly) say "NO", that's not what I was hired to do here?
Never even felt comfortable doing that when I was a teen myself, and would probably feel even less so now that I'm middle-aged. I want to reach them and turn them on to creative thinking and reading for the adventure of reading, but can't relate to just pure entertainment very well, or to hanging out in large groups. Anyone got any advice?
There's an old saying: "you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" (And there's also the more vulgar version that you can bring a whore to culture, but you can't make her think.) Sadly the trend is for libraries now to be community centers, pre-school playgrounds and social outreach programs. The point is that your bosses want to you flatter, socialize, wheedle, cajole, entertain the masses, "all for the children", etc., etc. – but none of that has anything to do with library science (librarianship). Your job has been hijacked by a politically oriented, authoritarian system – meaning there is an administration with bosses who want to pass the buck and muscle their underlings. You are now expected to do everything but mop the floor. Pretty soon they may expect that of you as well, if you let them. And if you acquiesce to that, that too will become the expectation, with the implication that you might lose your job if you don't do it. It's no wonder that you don't like your work…
I feel I need to show results here, especially since I struggle with crowds when at the circulation desk (we all share in circulation duties). I could shine in reference and collection-development, but I feel like these are becoming less important and taking a backseat in public libraries everywhere, to marketing ourselves as a "fun" place, which is a cause I believe in – it's just that reading and analyzing is MY idea of fun, so I don't know if the teens and I will relate to one-another if they prefer more action-oriented fun, like partying and football. Anyone got any ideas or advice?
You need to ask yourself how badly you need this job as opposed to whether you want to continue with it or not. Is it worth it? Do you want to continue to be unhappy with this job interminably?
You mentioned that you are working in Metro Detroit. That's a really crappy place to be, in more ways than one. You are expected to do all sorts of things that are not part of your vocation or training. I suggest that you find another position elsewhere that doesn't place such demands upon you. Short of that, if you choose to stay there for whatever reason, tell your bosses to give you specific orders as to what their demands are, and soldier up to it, placing all responsibility back upon them for success or failure after you have carried their ideas (suggestions, actually commands) out to the letter. They can't fire you for doing exactly what you have been told to do.
Here's a very astute line from an old movie dialog, involving a mother and a daughter:
daughter: "I want you to tell me where to go."
mother: "Use your own judgment."
daughter: No, I want you to tell me where to go."
(The daughter was not taken in by the ploy. She was assertive.)
If your bosses want to be boss over you, hold them responsible for any results stemming from them directing you. That's what they are getting paid for, and they are being paid considerably more than you are. Hold their feet to the fire and make them earn their positions of authority.