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Happily Sheltered

There are a couple of blogs to which I subscribe (they’re marked “private” so don’t even try to cruise through my blogroll and guess which blogs I’m talking about) that are real downers. I’m subscribed for various reasons – they’re by people I know in “real” life, or they’re written well, or I’m too lazy to unsubscribe. But I’m thinking I might go through the strenuous effort of clicking “unsubscribe” soon.

You see, before I graduated from library school I worked in a public library that almost made me into a drop-out statistic. I’d get to work and listen to my co-workers complain from the beginning to the end of my shift. “So glad I got my MLS so I can count parts to check-out-able games,” or “Why do we even try outreach when The Board just complains and cuts funding” were hourly fare there.

And when they weren’t complaining about their jobs, they were complaining about stupid patrons with their stupid senses of entitlement or their stupid questions. There was much proclamation of “When I was a kid I had to respect…” and “Don’t they realize…” and “Can you believe….” What’s worse, not all of this happened behind closed doors.

My supervisor kept me up to date on her never-ending job search. Our board fired director after director for spending money on things like books and salaries. And a well-established game of pass-the-buck ran rampant between the different departments. As if this weren’t enough, there was a palpable sense of militant apathy about the place. After all, what was the point of trying anything when The Board would just deny funding?

Even worse than this, I found myself sucked down into the quagmire. Such evangelical dissatisfaction is more contagious than the flu. I was part disgruntled employee, part disillusioned student on the verge of dropping out of library school (no kidding), and part shamefaced public servant who blushed (not always inwardly) to think what some patrons might have heard.

Well, these blogs that I was talking about say precisely the same sorts of things that my former co-workers said. They write eloquently, and they’re often quite funny, so I am lulled into a false sense of joviality. I find myself laughing… and then I realize that I’m beginning to think with annoyance about entitled patrons, students that have to ask for the same instructions over and over again, and students who can’t understand why I won’t be around to meet with them Sunday night at 9:45.

Maybe I’m living a sheltered life. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I haven’t worked long enough to have the rose tint fade from my contact lenses. But as it turns out, I like it like that. I’d prefer not to get bitter. I’d prefer not to reach a state when everybody’s never-ending, half-hearted job search becomes perfectly acceptable workplace conversation.

Sure, there are days when nothing goes right, when you bend over backwards for someone and receive nothing but complaints, or when you’ve exceeded the legal limit of meeting hours per 15-hour work day. But this profession is WAY too exciting, challenging, rewarding, and generally cool for those days to warrant a place in our primary focus. What’s more, the disgruntled attitude is far too contagious to be handled safely, even in small doses. So I’m going to stop reading those blogs. I’m having way too much fun living in my happy-librarian bubble, and I want that bubble to last for at least the next half century or so.

6 thoughts on “Happily Sheltered

  1. This is a great post, Iris, and I’m with you 100% on retaining enthusiasm for our profession. But I didn’t know you were on the verge of dropping out of grad school. How tragic. Good thing you stuck with it, though.

  2. Thanks, Josh. :)

    Yeah, for a while there it was just pure stubbornness that got me through school. I’d started something so I was going to finish it, so there. And besides, I’d spent so much money on it already.

    I don’t remember what, precisely, changed my mind about the whole thing. It had something to do with you and my other classmates being pretty amazingly cool, Hope O. and Iris X. being incredible teachers and people, and working at a different library.

    For the last full year of library school I worked at a small academic library, where people actually cared about the job and each other, even in the face of a near-zero budget. It helped me see that there was room in librarianship for enjoying one’s work.

    I’ve come to discover that I’m in my dream job now. There’s so much latitude for enjoying one’s work here, and my co-workers are fun and inspiring and helpful. I’ll fight tooth and nail never to go back to the state I was in at that toxic job.

  3. For what it’s worth, Iris, there are cranks and people with poop in their pants everywhere. Is it worse in libraries? I don’t know, but I have lived with the same stuff since I started in the profession 14 years ago and I empathize with your feelings. But never let it get you down; if you succomb to their negativity, then they’ve won. We’re better than that and chances are we will outlast them and outlive them.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I’m sure there are plenty of complainers out there in every profession. Ironically, today I’ve become one of them. How meta… I’m complaining about complaining. :)

    In general, though, I think this whole topic is part of what made me love the blogging world. There are so many positive people out there, so few blogs that concentrate mostly on complaining, and I learn so much every day. I’m having a blast!

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