Being the New Girl… Again

One year ago, very nearly to the day, Jake was staying at my apartment while he worked nearby, and woke to find me crying in my living room over frozen yogurt. While I pride myself on my emotional control, it’s only because I’m fully aware that at my breaking point, I’m quite the drama queen. I’d even go so far as to attribute this to a professional norm. Librarians, we’re a… passionate bunch. You’d have to be passionate to essentially major in research and community service and fandoms. No one has ever shown you cat pictures, raved about their favorite fictional characters, or detailed their recently discovered genealogical history, quite as aggressively as a librarian. If we don’t reign it in, we can be exhausting.

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Last year, however, it was my turn to be exhausted, as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that the job I’d started in January of 2016 was not, in fact, 80% librarian and 20% supervisor, but 80% librarian and 100% supervisor. After some internal struggle, I ultimately decided to step down and be just a librarian, at the Jackson Library, in the same county system, but a different city. It was perfect… for literally six weeks.

I cried the day our grassroots restructuring was announced. I was planning a wedding. Jake was unemployed. I was commuting to work about an hour each way, while trying to find a rent house closer to Jackson. I’d escaped one bait and switch position only to find myself in another, at an even less convenient time in my life. Ultimately, there was a single sparkly silver lining to this ever-darkening cloud, however. Asked to choose an age specialization, I was finally able to declare myself a teen librarian. Though it had always been my goal to work with teenagers, I’d made peace with the fact that that ship had sailed, after I’d fallen into adult librarianship at the Northside Library and continued the trend at Jackson. This was great news… which meant relocating to the Cherokee Library… eventually, because we were still so shorthanded at the Lakeville Library, that I’d have to cover there for the summer.

Folks, I have been at seven libraries in six years. I was at the Southside Library, as a half time circulation clerk, for two years. I spent two and a half years at the Westside Library trying to get full time. Since January of 2016, though, I’ve been a supervisory librarian at the Northside Library (11 months), adult librarian at the Jackson Library (5 months), essentially a circulation clerk at the Lakeside Library for the summer (2 months), occasionally filling in at the Harmon Library, and now finally, I’m a teen librarian at the Cherokee Library… and I’m almost too worn out to enjoy it.

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As a stereotypical, forward-thinking millennial, I’m the first to admit that there are some definite advantages to having worked at so many locations in the same library system, y’all. I have experiences in several different communities, under several different managers. I’ve seen best (and worst) practices at multiple branches and can see policies and procedures from a system perspective many branch loyalists lack. I know so many people now, there’s almost always a friendly face at every training and when there isn’t, I’m no longer as prone to the shyness and nerves I felt on my first day at the Northside Library. That being said, I am so tired of being the new girl.

After a year as a manager, feeling as though I couldn’t make friendly connections, six months in Jackson, not knowing where my job would lead me, and a summer working the desk alone in Lakeside, the lack of roots has really gotten to me. So, despite how I’ve longed to work as a teen librarian, despite being at my dream location, just up the street from our rent house, despite having a supportive manager and a job I love, at the end of my first week at the Cherokee Library, in true Over Dramatic Belle Form, I finally broke down.

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As adults we’re supposed to have transcended our cliques and biases, in our enlightened anti-bullying society, and truly, everyone at the Cherokee location has been very welcoming. No matter how inclusive they are, though, I don’t know them, yet. I don’t know what subjects to avoid, their senses of humor, religious and political beliefs (something of a landmine in our field, more so than others), hobbies, living situations, career goals and histories, or who is friends with whom outside of work. It’s been so long since I’ve felt like a member of the club and I’m tired of standing at the edge of the lunch room, wondering where to sit.

In addition to meeting all new people, in a new city, at a new library, I’m starting a new job. I don’t know how to be a teen librarian. My boss has been supportive and encouraging of my ideas, but I feel like I’m floundering, amidst all this change and all these people with more experience. I haven’t had my head in the world of teenagers since I was substitute teaching. I don’t know the literature or the trends or interests. I’m not sure where to start and how to form bonds with the teens in the community. I’m beginning to understand why some of my friends in the system are so change averse. Everyone and everything is new and it’s terrifying… and it has been for over a year and a half.

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On that note, we have had one more major change, as a system. Our executive director, the person responsible for the craziness of the last two years, (craziness that has not only effected me) was recently… well, “fired” is the word used by many. Officially, the library commission has chosen not to renew his contract, but no matter how it’s worded, the end result is the same… and I think we’re all hoping this means no more major career changes for anyone who hasn’t asked for them. At one time, my dream, was to be the teen librarian at the Cherokee Library and now… it’s to remain the teen librarian at the Cherokee Library. It would be awesome, in fact, if I could have the same job one year from now, that I do today. It would be fantastic, if I could work in the same location, with the same community connections and coworkers, for a full year. It would be glorious, if I could spend years without being the new girl.

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The new kid in school…

Of all the complaints people have about adulthood, from paying bills to digging the glass out of the garbage disposal after breaking the cherry jar that got stuck (it happens, y’all), no one ever mentions the thing I’ve found to be the toughest: still being the new kid in school.

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I’ll never forget when my daycare teachers relocated me from the four-year-olds class to the five-year-olds class. I lined up against the wall, excited to be chosen and dubbed a “big kid.” Two hours later, I sat in a circle, as strange kids played a game. When it was my turn to contribute, the only response I had was “Can I go back to my old classroom, now?”

Yesterday was my last day at the West Side Library. Today was my first at the North Side Library. I’ve been unbelievably excited about my new supervisory librarian position for the last month. I bought a new, custom-made, lunch bag, because no one ever accused librarians of being cool. I ordered a “super librarian” t-shirt and an “awesome librarian” mug, because no one ever accused me of being modest. I scoffed at my coworkers, as they fretted over change, telling them that this was old hat. I’d only moved from the South Side Library two and a half years ago. But, now that I think about it, it seems I forgot how hard that was, because by the end of my first ever, full time shift, I am…

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… overwhelmed. My new coworkers are friendly and welcoming. My boss is awesome and has made it clear that my supervisory duties will be a gradual progression and I’m not expected to immediately know how to make a schedule. I am essentially just supposed to librarian for the first month. I got keys and one of them is to my office! The weekends are finally going to mean something to me and I can save for retirement and actually see a doctor.

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But we didn’t interfile the young adult science fiction with the adult science fiction at the West Side Library. We had rickety brown wooden book trucks, not those cute and colorful metal monstrosities. My old manager didn’t use Outlook for anything and now I have to learn to use it for everything, because apparently that’s what upper management does. We didn’t keep the magazines in those magazine covers or shelve all large print with no regards to genre. We didn’t build task forces to deal with problems and we weren’t assigned readings by our manager. I don’t know where anything goes and I can’t remember if their names are Caitlin and Diane or Kayla and Diana. I don’t know where the Newbery Medal winners are, because we didn’t have a special section for them at the West Side Library and don’t knock on my office door, because I’m busy hyperventilating!

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This is my big break and literally my dream job. I’m happy. I am. That’s why I chose to make this change. It’s going to be wonderful… in a few weeks. But in the meantime, can I go back to my old library now?