On a crisp, unusually warm February afternoon, I went out to lunch with a few of my co-workers/friends and other librarians. It was President’s Day and we had off, a rarity in our profession. This was like any other social gathering: talk about our personal lives, laugh about our personal lives…random stuff. But then we got to talking about our jobs, the feeling was universal: we felt drained and worn out. The same argument can be made about any profession.but the melancholy feel has been continuing for over a year and does not seem that it is dissipating anytime soon. As we through all of our problems and issues on the table, we were left with uncertainty on who was really to blame. But one of my friends asked an interesting question that I am asking for this week’s discussion: is the librarian profession overworking the librarians?
After a hard day’s work, as expected, you relax and take a breather from the hustle and bustle of you daily job. For me, I don’t relax, I pass out. Usually when I get home, I am so exhausted. There are times I literally pass out on the couch. Last Saturday, when I came home from work around 7pm, I just laid down for a bit and before I knew it, it was 11:30pm. Half of my night was gone. I am so burned out most days that I can’t even the hobbies that would make me more relaxed, like reading and writing. Late nights arrive where I am overcome with anxiety and have difficult sleeping through the night. I finally discover what being burned out what really like.
But why could this be?
Let’s talk about my job. My schedule is similar to a retail worker: never consistent and always dependent on the library’s operating hours. The constant pressure you feel from your supervisor and higher management to, in my case, conduct more outreach and create more programs is overbearing. Your value is measured up to the amount of numbers (the attendance from library programs) you bring to the table. You constantly feel that your work is compared to others and you will never measure up. We’re expected to do so much with so little, of both funding and training, and I feel it a causes a severe case of low morale.
I go to various meet-ups with other librarians at work and although it is comforting to hear from others that I am not alone. Some suggested that going to library conferences help ease the burn out. Discussing my problems with other librarians, I agree, can be helpful. Conferences and meet-ups provide useful info on new technologies and new trends that are happening in the profession and can be beneficial. However, the problems will still persist. The morale will still be down and nothing will ever be resolved. How are we suppose to encourage future librarians the benefits of the profession if we don’t have, or even talk about, the solutions of suffering burnout?
Many consider what we do to be a dying profession. We as librarians try so hard to make sure that we stay relevant in the 21st century that the profession itself throws everything, what we can do and what we should do, at us librarians that we feel overloaded and at times, unfulfilled. I am not here trashing library work. I appreciate it everyday and I wish more people would respect it more. We just need to acknowledge the welfare of the workers more. New librarians are entering their positions with bright ideas and high optimism. But hope stars to dwindle and feel they are destined for mediocrity at their job. We are so focused with not being out of touch with our patrons that librarians as whole face being out of touch with one another.
So does the profession overwork us? I say, yes. But this needs to change. There are some librarians that I talk to are rethinking being a librarian altogehter. In order for us to survive, we need to make changes in not only how we perceive the librarian profession but how we perceive ourselves.