Hello again, Dear Readers. I’m here.

In fact, I’ve been here all along.  I just haven’t been HERE.  You know what I mean.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a series of triages.  I look at the teetering pile of TBR books on my desk, and the size of the pile intimidates me.  So I think … which should I read first, and which ones can wait?  If it’s something I’m reviewing for a magazine deadline, that shoots to the top of the pile.  If it’s something I think I can read quickly (like a graphic novel or a children’s book), that moves it up a couple of spaces.  But meanwhile, some of the lower books on the pile just sit there for months, until I can’t renew them anymore and I just end up returning them so someone else can read them.

It’s kind of the same with anything I create that I think is worth sharing.  I took these pictures / came up with these concepts / thought of a weird or funny or smart idea.  How should I share it?  I used to share things here on this blog, post photos on Flickr, produce podcast episodes, and create blog posts and other social media for my library.  Lately I’ve been less productive, so while I’m still creating content it’s all been going through my library channels instead of those other places.  Which sucks for you, Dear Readers, and I apologize.

There are a few things that I would only share here, though, and those tend to be the more honest things I share.  Some of those are library-related, which ties into the reason I created this blog in the first place.  So today, let’s talk about some library honesty.

Over the last several months, I’ve spoken to several colleagues who work at other branches in my system about crappy working conditions, and even about transferring to other branches.  My advice usually boils down to this: pick your battles.  Also, there are some problems that you might be able to develop a workaround to solve, and others over which you have no control and you’ll just have to bite the bullet.

Here’s a workaround example from my own experience: I used to work with a supervisor who was anti-weeding.  She would never have admitted it, but the evidence suggests otherwise.  For example, you would look through your collection, and use your MLS degree combined with your sizeable brainpower to make informed decisions about which books could be pulled from your shelves and put out for your library book sale.  You would take each item, delete it from your system, cross out the barcode and the spine label with a magic marker, and stamp it WITHDRAWN.  And then … she would look through the book sale truck, decide which items should not have been withdrawn, reinstate them in the system, and use a bunch of White-Out to cover the WITHDRAWN stamp and any other indicators you’d put on the book.  And then several weeks later you’d notice it back on your shelf, open it up, and discover what had happened.  She would never tell you that she had done this or even bother discussing it with you.  You would just retroactively discover that your professional judgement had been undermined.  Again.

So after this process happened enough times, we developed a workaround.  We would delete items, and then hide them under our desks.  Whenever our supervisor would go on vacation, we’d pull everything out, fill up the book sale truck, and have a MAJOR sale that would last for as long as she was out of the building.  It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it was the only thing we could do that worked.

And then sometimes you have to bite the bullet.  You want to do something (like run a program / transfer to another branch / etc.)  You ask your supervisor, and he says no.  You ask his supervisor, and she says no.  You might just have to wait it out, and try to ask again in six months or a year.  Or … maybe you can think of a workaround instead.  I spoke to a colleague at another branch whose supervisor won’t listen to her ideas or input anymore.  So now she has to suggest her ideas to other staff members and let them push her ideas up the chain instead.  Again, it’s not an ideal solution, but sometimes you have to go with anything that works when the alternative is banging your head against a wall.

One of the benefits of working for a large library system is that if things are lousy in your current situation, you can go to another location in the same system.  Keep your seniority and your pension, but deal with a different supervisor and different working conditions.  Every branch in the system is supposed to be approximately the same, but the reality is often quite different.  I’ve been tempted to transfer many times, but the annoyance of one branch could be overshadowed by the soul-crushing heartache of the place where you transfer.  Each branch is different, each supervisor is different, and each set of coworkers is different.  Even if you stay at one branch for years at a time like I have, your experience can vary widely from year to year.

I don’t want our system to lose good people, so if I see someone struggling, I encourage them to stay and stick it out.  To try to win some battles, if not the war.  And to try to move to another branch, which will hopefully involve moving from the frying pan to a place that’s completely off the stove.