Lessons from 2010

  1. Everything takes longer than I think it will. I started this post on December 12.  I’m just now getting back to it.  Case in point.
  2. It is not my job to be liked, no matter how much I personally value being the kind of person other people like. It is my job to be smart, to be thoughtful, to be thorough, to be aggressive, to be progressive, to be kind, to be dangerous, to be persistent, to be effective, to be charming, to be circumspect, to be daring… but not to be liked.  If people like me, that should be a happy side effect of succeeding at the others. But it should not be a goal unto itself.
  3. I cannot let my fear of upsetting people guide my actions. This follows closely on #2.  Change is hard for many people, and I found myself dithering about decisions far more often than was healthy for me or the institution, simply because I knew that the change I was considering would be hard for people to swallow.  But sometimes the right thing is just not the easy thing for other people, and that doesn’t make it not the right thing.  So do it because you know it’s right, and trust that people will come along as they’re ready and able.  Because it was right.
  4. Sometimes, I just need help. Fortunately, I’m blessed with a strong support network of library administrators around the country (and world) who offer advice, gut-checks, an understanding ear, and sometimes, well-aimed snark or smackdowns to pierce my self-made bubble.  And I work on a campus full of eager new administrators (hello, retirement wave!), many of whom have reached out or accepted my hand when I reached, and we’re all learning this thing together.  Because sometimes, you just simply cannot do it alone.  And you should. not. try.
  5. Honest answers are awesome. If you know you’re bad at something, tell me.  If you want to try something, tell me.  If you’re never going to get around to doing my project, tell me.  If you want to work together, tell me.  If you hate my guts, tell me.  If more people would give honest answers to questions, we could get a lot more done with less dithering.
  6. The things I cannot control cannot control me. Breathe deep.  Let it go.  Some battles cannot be won, some forces cannot be overcome, some problems cannot be fixed.  When you find that impasse, just walk away.  Now.  Not tomorrow, or on Thursday, or after one more try… NOW.  Spend the energy somewhere else where success has a snowball’s chance in hell.
  7. I don’t love my job. I used to.  Now I just think it’s interesting, and challenging, and infuriating, and sometimes rewarding.  But I don’t love it.  It asks a lot of me, and even when I deliver, it beats me down, drains my energy, makes me want to strangle humanity, Americans, college students, their parents, bureaucracy, the State of New York, LIS graduate programs, local labor unions, vendors, shortsighted decision-makers — you name a demographic related to libraries, this kind of job will make you want to squish it like a bug when you see all the potential of an idea or initiative or person and watch those forces smash that potential into bits.  I still think I can be good at what I do, and that I am in the right job at the right time.  But I don’t love it.  Not like I used to love my work.  I’m going to stick around to see if I learn to love it, or learn enough that I can love it, or learn to ignore the parts that prevent me from loving it, or if I just won’t ever love it.  There’s a lesson in that, somewhere, too.
  8. I do believe in my work. Despite #7, I believe in what I do.  Higher education is about building better people.  Libraries — good libraries, like mine —  support the goals of the institution, teach people how to use information, to think critically, to synthesize and understand and reach further.  We make better people.  I believe in that.  The world is a better place because we succeed at what we do.  We succeed in part because of the work I do.  And so I will keep succeeding, because  knowing that we make the world a better place by doing what we do every day makes all the challenges worth it.

6 thoughts on “Lessons from 2010

  1. bibliotecaria

    See, that’s part of why I DON’T want to be a manager. There are too many parts of the job that would stress me out and drain me so that I wouldn’t enjoy the parts that I do love. I’m glad that you can do it; good management is vital.

  2. Genesis

    Re: #7 – Thanks for saying this – it’s a very honest and balanced evaluation. I’m experiencing something very similar. I’m still trying to determine if it’s related to specific circumstances at my place of work, or is a natural condition of the job – probably a bit of both. Anyway, thanks again for sharing – I’ve had a hard time articulating what I feel, but you pretty much nailed it.

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  4. Jenica Post author

    I’m so glad you all think this was useful. It felt really grim when I wrote it all down, but that’s mainly because I try to be an upbeat, optimistic person most of the time. Admitting that things are hard and grungy and frustrating isn’t my nature. But it’s TRUE.

    And, bibliotecaria, it really is worth it in the end, but only if you have the personality and work style that can get you through the hard parts. Most days I feel up to the challenge, and growl with determination to bend things to my will when it gets hard. But it’s still hard, and if you’re not sure you’d flourish in that kind of work environment… then management probably isn’t the right choice. I applaud anyone who can recognize that. We already have enough managers who probably shouldn’t be managers. 🙂

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