contrary library

Somehow this semester I have managed to alienate most of my student assistants. This wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t really care about them, but I do, and so I’m left to wonder the following important question: How does one become a good manager of people in the 18-22 age bracket without either becoming (a) a mom or (b) a dictator?

It’s true that I can be a tough manager. That’s only because I expect people to take some level of responsibility for their tasks. I believe in explaining, reiterating, and then letting someone do it. I watch over new students’ shoulders for their first few weeks on the desk, and then I let them be, reminding them to ask me or one of my employees if they have a problem or get confused or just need help.

The way I see it, nine bucks an hour is a pretty nice wage in exchange for shelving books and answering the telephone for a few hours at a time. But I can’t seem to motivate these kids to do much other than the bare minimum, thus reinforcing my stereotype that college kids just don’t care anymore, not just about schoolwork, but about anything aside from instant messaging and beer bongs. (That felt so crotchety to type.)

The truth is that I’m burning out, and fast. My first job — at the level of the students I’m managing — was almost nine years ago. I no longer have any interest in earning a library science degree, and I’m at the top of the paraprofessional food chain here. Customer service in an academic setting is really wearing me down. Maybe it’s time for me to leave libraries altogether.

I do love this old place. It’s my second home. I want to do right by it. I want it to flourish. I feel like it’s an old friend with whom I no longer have anything in common; to leave would be disloyal, and to stay would be a lie.

4 thoughts on “contrary library

  1. what other adventure do you think you’d like to go on now… i mean, if you were to leave academic libraria? what new challenge or undertaking would you like to pursue?
    i know how much you adore new challenges as well as shiny things. is there anything else you want to try on and twirl around in the mirror, saying “man, am i so fucking hot in this, or what?!?”
    and, would you like to investigate something for a little while, or a dive in for a lifetime? i’m just curious, and i think it makes for good journal fodder as well.
    hi.

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  2. I am beginning to discover that young adults respond best to middle aged adults just being genuinely themselves. We become so accustomed to playing our cards close to our chest that we forget that it was something we had to learn. No doubt you have a finely crafted and polished managerial style, having held the position for nine years. That is a long time to have the same job these days, and the world has changed since you were their age. Having to deal with people a lot younger than yourself is a continually new and challenging problem as we get older. Have you spoken to any of these young’ns about how you feel about your job? Did it ever occur to you that their lack of enthusiasm might be due to them not knowing what they want to do with themselves? Do you think it might surprise them to learn that you have the same feelings? How interested might they be in learning how you cope with those feelings yourself?

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  3. As I sat here…a few minutes ago…deciding what to say to you, I started thinking about a librarian that helped me a few weeks ago. I’m new here to Phoenix, having moved here just three short weeks ago from Valparaiso, Indiana. They have an automated checkout system(entirely so)that my small Indiana library didn’t have. As I stood there, with my mouth wide open, looking at this beast menacing before me, this very helpful librarian came over to help stupid me. She was nice and kind…and she actually taught me how to use this beast. I now refer to the former beast as the automated checkout machine, my friend. 🙂 What I’m saying is, I love libraries…everything about them…the books, the smells, the computer stations filled with people and especially the people working there. *shrugs* I don’t know if I’m saying anything that could make you feel better…

    As for the kids, I don’t know what to say except that maybe you’ll finally have one that cares, one of these days, that’ll make you love your career choice once again. *shrugs*

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  4. Ah, my friend, you need to encourage your staff by your own actions!

    The best thing one can do to make the workplace better is to make it better by your own efforts. Hard work and resolve tends to inspire those around you. When you are on top of your game, people around you notice. Encourage your staff by showing confidence in them. Give them assignments, knowing full well that they have the talent to pull it off. Guide them when they ask questions. Confer with them your feelings about the library and the work that you all do. Take the time to build your team up into a unit that takes pride in what they do!

    Remember – you set the tone with what you do!

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