Library Day in the Life 5: Be Yourself No Matter What They Say

The phrase that serves as the latter half of the title to this entry is a lyric and repeated chorus at the end of the song by Sting, “Englishman in New York”. Sitting at my desk in the office listening to these words as I worked between research and email, I thought of what I would write for the Library Day in the Life Round 5. My last entry was a warmly regarded hand written entry; it’s hard to know where to go from there. But when I heard the lyric, I knew just what to I wanted to write.

Librarians by their very nature are agents of change. Even in the most basic of libraries, the collection is being updated with new titles, periodicals, and other materials. The real question that lays ahead for the profession is “What is change, anyway?” There are any numbers of answers to the question based on external forces (e.g. technology, web content, computer access, patron preferences) and internal forces (e.g. community served, library type, collection size, budget). And, naturally, there are people who promote some answers as the right answer, the only answer, and anything less is an problem.

In bringing this back to the refrain, it is a matter of letting libraries “be themselves”. If the best fit for the community served is to be an internet cafe or quiet reading space or community center, then go for it. Patrons just want story times and book discussion groups and a place to meet with a librarian one on one? Do it. The change that happens should be a reflection of the surrounding community. There are very few absolutes when it comes to libraries; beyond our principles and beliefs, everything else from design to materials to furniture to services is up for grabs.

This notion that if the library is not doing something (like being on Facebook or Twitter, having e-books, having a computer center, providing job training space, and so forth) that they are wrong or ancient is ridiculous. It would be like going from Vermont to Florida and saying Miami residents were not current since they don’t have any snowmobile retailers. If your patrons aren’t on Twitter or Facebook or have e-readers, then there is no need to provide content via those channels. Libraries, just like all politics, are local.

(Now, if you wanted to debate on the breadth of the disconnect between libraries and their patrons, that’s a whole different post.)  

Coming back to the refrain again, it is my sincere wish that my professional colleagues would “be [themselves], no matter what they say”. This paragraph is dedicated to my friends in particular, for I’ve heard some stories of their work related struggles. Whether it is a coworker, supervisor, fellow librarian, or the outside world placing the pressure, I believe that at the end of the day what matters is being true to yourself and the approach you take to librarianship. You’ll be happier when you go to bed at night, the library world as a whole benefits, and you leave your distinct mark on this incredible profession. Let the refrain be a comfort from a friend, may it give you the confidence to tackle the issues, and ignore the naysayers.

 Be yourself no matter what they say.

 Be yourself no matter what they say.

 Be yourself no matter what they say.

Be yourself no matter what they say.

23 thoughts on “Library Day in the Life 5: Be Yourself No Matter What They Say

    • Thanks Karen! I’m coming around on the local focus and learning to be less judgmental about ideas that won’t work for my library type. Just because it doesn’t work at my library does not preclude it from being a good idea. I think that’s where some of the issue arise since librarians judge things locally but treat it globally.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Library Day in the Life 5: Be Yourself No Matter What They Say « Agnostic, Maybe -- Topsy.com

        • In any case- being “yourself” is part of why libraries are in such a parlous state currently. Librarian “yourself-ness” is often an enemy to be overcome, not an ally to be embraced. I have a local library that doesn’t let unaccompanied teens enter the building- and that’s based on how their staff and patrons- themselves- like it. no thanks. i call you sting and raise you one public enemy: “to revolutionize make a change”

          • I’m sure I can find an extreme example of such behavior where the ‘be yourself’ aspect run afoul of some of the core principles of librarianship. I will concede that one. That paragraph that you are referring to go out to some librarian pals who are good people getting a bad rap. It’s more for their benefit than the profession as a whole, although I’m happy to extend it to anyone who needs a kind word about the push-back they are receiving for being themselves on the job.

  2. My boss sent me this link to cheer me and it did. I am not a librarian, but am a paraprofessional in an academic library. And I love Sting (that may be an understatement).
    I am so glad when others take his lyrics and apply them to their everyday lives.
    Thank you – it cheered me a bit.

    • It’s the right lyric hitting my ears at the right moment. It’s up there with the line from the Mighty Might Bosstones, “I wasn’t born rich, I’m good looking instead!”. Just a wonderful fun line to cheer up a day.

      I’m great it cheered you. And thank your boss for forwarding it!

  3. This is a very inspiring post.It is exactly what I needed to take my mood from negative to positive this morning. Really,thanks. Now,I feel more motivated.

    Thinking about things form this perspective is what I need to do as a librarian, who must meet the needs of the users she is providing for.

    Thanks Again. :-)

    • Personally, I think that sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are who we are long before we step into the librarian profession. While there is a certain molding process, it is not to the exclusion of the major personality points, perspectives, and ideals of the person within. Too often (where once is too often), people are put under the pressure to suppress their natural tendencies in service to the overall organization. I think of it as being akin to putting a plant in the wrong soil type; it will grow, but it will be stunted. While I’m not advocating anarchy here, I am a fan of hands off management and letting people be creative in the ways they know best.

      I’m glad it boosted your mood. That’s wonderful to hear.

  4. “I’m coming around on the local focus and learning to be less judgmental about ideas that won’t work for my library type.”

    Having worked in just about every type library and a wide variety of communities, I can affirm that there are a million right answers that just need the right homes. Libraries are hyper-local and that’s part of their beauty!

  5. Great post, Andy. I’m a big believe to be who are and not focus on what others are doing but rather what you can personally offer. I’m wondering what your thoughts are when two people, being true to themselves, meet head-to-head. Who relents? How do you adapt a fair “schedule” that allows everyone to be themselves?

  6. “Too often (where once is too often), people are put under the pressure to suppress their natural tendencies in service to the overall organization.”

    Hmmm… you know… this is going to sound all pointy-headed, but a lot of what is required at work is to do just exactly that. To quote Lou Grant, “That’s why they call it work.” You ARE in service to the organization.

    • Point taken. Doing something for a paycheck doesn’t always mean that it’s not going to collide with personality and peculiarities. The situation that sprang forth to my mind while I was writing that was more of the needless flack for one’s approach to librarianship. Less “I’m not going to be on a desk because that’s who I am”, more “the patron and I were having a good time till you scolded me about singing the answers to them”.

      Does that make it more/less clear?

      • Clearer, but I’d say that’s different. You are saying you won’t let yourself be diverted from giving excellent service in your own way.

  7. “I believe that at the end of the day what matters is being true to yourself and the approach you take to librarianship.”

    I needed to read that statement tonight. Thank you for this gentle reminder.

    Looking forward to your next, thought-provoking post.

  8. I think everyone should be themselves no matter what that is what I have always thought and I am only 14 and I am different from other kids but I don’t give a shit and I like myself just the way I am and I do NOT and NEVER have cared about what people think about me and I have my own personality and I am myself no matter what.

  9. Pingback: Library Day in the Life Round 7 « Agnostic, Maybe

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s