they’ll never know what we didn’t get done

As the semester starts with a joyous bang and everyone hits the track at full sprint, I struggle to find my equilibrium. There’s always this wave of a million details that smash into me and demand my attention in little fractured bits, and none of them are ever actually relevant to the big picture stuff that I think I’m supposed to be doing. So, as a coping tactic, I repeat this one bit of advice, over and over. I don’t remember who first gave it to me, but I give it to others around this time of the year pretty regularly.  It’s possibly a terrible piece of advice, but I think it’s a humane and compassionate one:

Stop sweating the details. They’ll never know what you didn’t get done.

The students at the reference computers? Don’t know what I didn’t get done this summer. The faculty swinging through for a cappuccino before they drop off things to put on reserve? Don’t know what I didn’t get done this summer. Our new employees being trained at the circ desk? Don’t know what didn’t get done this summer. My boss knows what I’m behind on, because she doesn’t have it from me yet, but that’s on me and I know it. But the majority of our users, the reasons why we do what we do, they just don’t know what goals we set for ourselves, and which ones weren’t accomplished by the first day of classes. And largely, they don’t care, so long as they get what they need and want from us. Odds are, their energy as they roam our campus in the warm late summer sun isn’t affected in the slightest by That Thing You Didn’t Get Done.

So cut yourself some slack, academic librarians. They’ll never know what you didn’t get done.


  • Beth Reply

    … how did you know that this was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today? (Thanks.)

  • Ned Quist Reply

    Bravo! But my only caveat to this wise motto is that you need to know which details won’t bite you in the butt.

  • Jennifer Reply

    Unless of course what you had to get done was implement the new system…. But as long as they can search it, we can keep refining it.
    Great blog!

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