Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Christie’s 10 Best Words of Wisdom, To My Favorite Christmas Movies

Let’s face it, as teen specialists we are expected to be everything, even if we have that elusive position AS a teen librarian.  More often than not, being the teen specialist is included in a myriad of other duties, including youth programming  reference, tech services, and in my case, managerial duties.  Over decade or so I’ve been a degreed librarian (not to mention the years I’ve worked as a paraprofessional in libraries), I’ve had to come up with ways that keep me sane and happy, because I am of the FIRM belief that life is too short to be miserable.  So here are my Ten Best Words of Wisdom.  And, as my holiday bonus to you, it’s tied to my list of favorite Christmas movies.

10.  Do what you’re good at (Nightmare Before Christmas)
Remember when Jack finds the different holiday lands?  And he decides that he wants to be Santa Claus?  And how everything went wrong and all the kids were crying?  It was because Jack SUCKED at being Santa, but was AWESOME as the king of Halloween.  It’s the same with librarianship.  You need to find what YOU are good at, and be good at it.  If you can rock gaming nights but suck at origami, then do gaming nights and bring someone in that can do origami.  If you need to brush up on your dystopian YA, then go and start reading some.  You can’t just think that your winning personality is going to go over with teens.  They know when someone is trying, and when someone is just showing up for the job, and they respond appropriately.

9.  Don’t make things difficult.  They’ll get that way all on their own.  (Lethal Weapon)
Life can make things too complicated, whether for personal or professional reasons.  Make sure that you take the time to make things as easy as possible.  Get a year long (or school year) calendar, and sit down one day, and plan out your tentative programs, then go over it with whomever you need to check with.  Then map out what exactly you’ll need in terms of money, supplies and man-power in order to get that accomplished.  Take programming breaks between big seasons so that you and your library staff are well rested for the next onslaught; I make sure to take breaks in September (after summer reading and summer ends), January (during Midwinter Meetings when I know I’m swamped with meetings and after our holiday breaks), and mid-May (during the end-of-school/graduation season and when we’re really gearing up for summer reading).  These steps help me de-compress and let me plan the next pieces of the puzzle.

8. I will count to three.  There will not be a four.  (Die Hard)
I have always taken a hard-line approach with my teens no matter where I have worked, and I have never had any of the major problems that I’ve heard other librarians talk about (disrespect, talking back, mocking, threatening, etc.)  Everyone knows in my library that my word is THE word, and that if they misbehave, there are clear consequences for their actions.  Has that hampered their relationship with us?  I don’t think so- considering we’re the second home to most of them, we have kids lined up before we’re opened to get into the library, and I was invited to the 2013 high school graduation in October.  Make sure that your authority is known and backed up- you can be their friend as well as their authority figure.

7.  The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thspirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath  (Christmas Vacation)
Family is important, and sometimes I think as librarians (no matter what flavor) we can let work get in the way of that.  We get bogged down by the politics of the system, or what happened with a co-worker or teen, or what the next book is we have to read, or something else happens. And then family gets set aside sometimes.  STOP IT.  And family doesn’t mean family in the traditional sense- it can mean close friends, your support system, people you need when things get rough.  Internet conversations, while helping make connections and keep friendships going, don’t always keep things they way they should be.  So pick up the phone, and make a movie date, or a dinner date, or a pot-luck.

6.  YUM, YUM.  (Gremlins)
Chocolate.  Do you have chocolate?  Or tea?  Do you drink tea?  Do you listen to music and sing in the car?  If not, what are your go to things for when you’re stressed?  Do you know them?  If not, find them, because everyone needs stress relief, and while shooting NERF guns at the teens works in the short term, you can’t always be assured that they will not return fire.  So it can help if you can squirrel away your favorite tea bag, or your favorite candy, or a playlist on your MP3 player, and give yourself some quiet time to destress when you need it.

5.  I am Catwoman. Hear me roar. (Batman Returns)
Take a moment, and look back over everything you’ve done in the past year.  How AWESOME has that been?  How accomplished are you for doing all of that?  Now, don’t forget that, because chances are, sometime you’ll get down on yourself about something- either no one will come to a program, or a patron will have a bad day and take it out on you, or something else will go wrong, and you will just feel awful.  Always remember that you are doing GOOD things.  Roar.  Let the freak flag fly.  Be your own applause.

4.  Boomerang fish! Guaranteed fresh! Throw the fish A-WAY… and it comes back to me! Get ’em while they’re fresh! (Muppet Christmas Carol)
I love the Muppets.  Know why?  They know how to have fun with EVERYTHING!  And that’s important- you need to have fun in order to enjoy life.  If you are not enjoying your life, or your job, then something’s wrong, because we spend so much time at work and will be spending longer as retirement seems longer and longer away.  Always have fun:  celebrate birthdays, surprise a co-worker, do something special every once in a while.  http://www.workhappynow.com/2009/03/why-fish-philosophy-works/

3. Nothing beats being really honest about who you are and what you need.  All the rest just works itself out. (Four Christmases)
No matter what demands are placed on you throughout your job or library system, you have to remember to be true to yourself.  Librarians, as a profession, tend to have a dedication that goes above and beyond, and we can drain ourselves beyond our limits, both personally and monetarily.  Make sure that you know WHAT your limits are and STICK to them.  Take the breaks that you are entitled to, make sure that if you are working extra that you get the flex time you deserve, and that if you are doing programming, you are doing what you can reasonably accomplish.  Be honest and upfront with your managers, as well.  I want to know what my staff not only CAN do, but WANT to do, because a happy staff makes for a happy library.

2.  Sometimes you have to *slap* them in the face just to get their attention!  (Scrooged)
Always take some time to evaluate and re-evaluate your programming, collection and library on a regular basis, and not with the librarian eyes but with the eyes of a new-comer.  Is it inviting?  Do you offer things that are of interest?  What can you do to fix the situation?  Sometimes it’s as simple as updating the signage using Publisher, or talking to a librarian in a similar position in your system or in the surrounding area to share program ideas.  While library systems can be slow at adapting new ways of thinking at times (social media, etc.), there is no reason why you personally can’t start taking baby steps.

1.  So, do you think we should go untie everybody?  No.  I think we should unwrap them in the morning.  It’ll be more festive.  (The Ref)
I seem to alternate between a steady diet of cheerful, snark and downright dark sense of humor.  It works for me.  I have lined up on the window of my office, 14 Funko Pop figurines, of which only 4 are heroes.  Yet, I love going to Disney World.  I love the music of Danny Elfman.  I try my best to keep my sense of humor, no matter what variety it comes in, at all times, because really, you can’t live without it in this day and age.  The times when you take life absolutely seriously all the time is the time when you need to start thinking about another line of work, because you WILL burn out on teen services, and even public services.  I have been through professional, and personal, heartbreak, and I know that there will be more.  I’ve been through budget cuts.  That Guy went through two lay-offs while I was working towards my MLS.  I’ve had one parent survive cancer, and I have another that will not.  And the only way I’m going to keep going, and keep making it through, day after day, is keeping a balance of the dark and the light, with my sense of humor somewhere in there.  So make sure that you know where yours is, and try and laugh a little every day.

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