This goes out to all the new librarians coming back to the house after another wonderful ALA Conference, Chicago style. Welcome home, weary traveler! No doubt you wish to sit down, put up your feet and think about all the things you have learned, tweet to your new librariends (that’s librarian friends), and just stew in the epic journey that you have just been on.
Tough shit because you are back in the real world, catladies and gentlemans. All those wonderful theories and pep talks are gonna be met with enthusiasm and smiles that by the end of the week are gonna just be snarls of resentment from the corner as you put up another banner about "things happening" and how "things are made to happen."
Oh, how I wish it were not so! How I wish that everyone could have gone with you to the zenith of booze mountain and looked over the charred remains of our profession where a once lush forest has been cut down and recycled into papers that rain down, gently wafting papers filled with buzzwords and academic good intentions.
But everyone did not see that grand sight, no. Some stayed behind in the real world and got thrown up on at story time. Some were yelled at because they smiled when the computer patron told them about a fear of mice. Some were kept chained in the cave while you venutured upward into the light, and they will fear change, they will mock your enthusiasm and you will be humbled.
Or not. That’s why some of us drink or just stay oblivious to the world around us.
Anywhoozle, your compatriots at the ‘brary will resist any “happiness” and “excitement” you attempt to instill in them from your weekend retreat to the A' La Cocktail Convention. Here’s the stages you will be looking at. These can pass quickly, or can last for months, depending on how much you delude yourself and/or your liver.
1. Denial and Isolation
You return happy and excited. Everyone is happy and excited for you. The library is your oyster and you have been given the sand of growth to make a pearl, gosh darnit. All that needs to happen is a little work!
That’s where you lose everyone. And you may not even lose them all at once, or for every change you wish to make. If you show a new database or helpful way to catalog that decreases their work, that’s gonna happen for a while. But if you tell them better ways to interact with patrons and introduce a measuring tool so they can see how much they help...
Let’s face it, you are gonna be the only one still fist bumping the “make it happen” kitten or dropping a pebble in the “we helped another” jar after a week or so. And that’s not cynical, that’s just people. Create too much new and people cling to the old.
And you will withdraw and continue with your new plan that you over-charted. And you did over-chart. Because you are a new administrator and that’s what new administrator’s do, they test boundaries. They see how much they can change to make their mark, either to stamp something on their resume or to show they can do boss things.
And it will leave you alone and lonely, staring at a better way to work.
“Why can’t they just do what I ask them to do?” you tweet out over twitter because that’s where you tweet.
Passive aggressive levels get high as s*&t starts going downhill. You tried to continue on and lead by example. You gave the staff two weeks to adopt new procedures and smiles and stuff that you have demonstrated. You are the damn boss and the staff will bend to your will because boss and librarian. Professional degrees matter and everyone at the conference said it was gonna work.
Then you punch Debbie because she just had to put that magazine back without tweeting that someone used it for a zucchini recipe. Goddamnit, Debbie, when will you get your shit together and learn social f#$king media? Patrons like to be connected.
"There’s candy in the break room. First staff member to help five people gets the whole damn basket. Don’t even have to bring the basket back. Yeah, I weaved it from grass I brought back from ALA where I also learned during a session that... Where are you going? You can have a Kit-Kat if you stay..."
This may be a low point. The bribes are pretty heavy as you attempt to get the staff and even your director to care about your “Teen Readers and Ninjas” Facebook group. No advice can stem this issue but to remind yourself you have student loans before offering to buy a car for the kid who read the most during Summer Reading.
It’s not working. Nobody online is talking about the idea that three weeks ago you were all cheering about. That weight in your stomach makes it hard to roll over and take another patron yelling about the price of copies. Why can’t they just see paradise? What do you have to do to make everything better?
You will start to think about something better you could have done. You assign blame, to yourself and to the ideas. Nothing is working right because nothing was done right. The world is a s*&t sandwich filled with s*&tmeat and s&^t cheese on a jalopeno cheddar s*&t bun with a dill s^%t pickle on the side. With a fruit salad that has no cherries, or all cherries depending on your view of cherries.
Curl up and take account of what you like and ride this one out. It’s gonna be tough.
Accepting your situation does not mean that everything suddenly works out like a Hollywood movie. Your white (or black or Latino or whatever Cumberbatch is) knight is not coming to implement that new collection development policy that everyone will agree on. The world will return to pre-conference status and you will mourn all your great ideas and posters that will be ignored as life continues on.
And that’s okay.
Know why? Because we do not live in a utopia. That’s what conferences are for, to learn all the great and wonderful things, to posit all the ideas about what libraries could be and to discuss and talk and implement. The utopia of the “perfect library” is created in those conference rooms and that is where it will stay.
Accepting that your library will never be perfect is the final step. Your library will always have problems. Deal with that fact for a moment. I will wait.
Now that you have accepted that, realize this: You are a librarian. You chose this profession to exert control over and to share knowledge itself. You are a bad ass that can do anything, a motherf*&king instrument of the power of the human spirit to enact a democratic and socialized order over ideas and culture. Revel in that s*&t. Know that you can shape anything to your will given time and persistence.
Utopia will never come, but day by day librarians can form the future by doing little things, average things. Buzzwords and big ideas are great, but remember the core of the profession: order and sharing. Package it however you want, but focus on those words and you can not lose.
So saddle up and get to work, kids. That conference was super fun time happy pants (in more ways than one) and you made some friends, but now get to serving the greater good. Your profession depends on it.
At least you have July 4th to look forward to.