Teen Librarian Toolbox
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The Myth of Not Enough

The other day, a librarian I really respect was musing on Twitter that she wasn’t doing enough for the profession.  I was so surprised to hear that because I always think of her as super active and doing really great things for her community.  When do you know that you’re doing enough? Are we ever really doing enough?

A few days later, I had to compose an introduction for myself to be used at an upcoming speaking engagement.  Here’s what I wrote:

Heather Booth has been working in libraries since 2001, and has been the Teen Services librarian at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library since 2008.  She is the author of Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory, and one of the editors of the forthcoming Whole Library Handbook, Teen Services, both published by ALA Editions.  She is a regular blogger at the Teen Librarian Toolbox, a reviewer for Booklist, and a content contributor at Novelist.  This year she plans to spend her spare time learning about robotics as a part of ILEAD-U, in between playground visits and catching up on Phineas and Ferb with her two daughters since she “only” works part time.

It’s all true, and it looks ridiculous.  It sounds like I’m some kind of 24 hour machine, but I’m really not.  The truth is, I often feel like I’m not doing enough.  I’m not serving on any committees, have let my regular meetings with my beloved PLN lag, don’t read enough, don’t play with my kids enough, don’t blog enough, don’t exercise enough, don’t go on dates with my husband enough, don’t host successful programs enough, don’t attend Board meetings enough.  I sleep next to my phone for the alarm, but also so I can see what I missed overnight as soon as I wake up, drink too much coffee, and regularly walk my daughter to the bus stop in my pajamas.
Despite my misgivings, when I take the time to step back and think about it, I have to acknowledge that I’m doing enough, with the caveat that “enough” is such a loaded term.  Could I be doing more? Do lots of other people do more. Undoubtedly. When do you know enough is enough? It’s easier when it comes to roller coasters and guacamole. Your body will let you know when you’ve hit your limit. But what about those things that don’t have that built in physical feedback loop? Something I’ve come to understand about myself is that I seem to thrive when I’m just a tad too busy, but will collapse as soon as that next thing is added on, which inevitably happens.

Are you doing enough?  I think you probably are, even though I don’t know who you are.  I know this because you are engaging on a professional level.  This tells me that

1) You are doing your job
2) You care enough about your job to reach out for more information.  And maybe someone sent you a link here; maybe you’re not reaching out so much as catching the low hanging fruit.  But still, you’re reading it.  You care.
3) You’ve gotten this far, so chances are you relate, on some level, to the idea that you’re not doing enough.  You worry about it.  You make lists of things you could do, but then realize that you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to do them.  Or maybe you do.  Maybe you’ve optimized your time and gotten exactly where you want to be, in which case I say, that is amazing and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.  For real, no sarcasm intended.

When it comes down to it, I think this Myth of Not Enough has to be related to Impostor Phenomenon.  They both seem to be more prevalent in women than in men, and in highly achieving folks.  We have to convince ourselves that we are not impostors; we deserve what we have earned and achieved because we worked hard for it, just like we need to convince ourselves that our best efforts are just that.  Your days are full, it’s just a matter of how you choose to fill them.  Balance is just as valid as prestige.



  1. Thank you so much for writing this. This really hits the mark with me. I feel like if my work isn't publicized enough, if I'm not recognized, if I'm not publishing, then I'm never doing quite enough. But then I realize that, of course, that is all false. It's simply relative. “Enough” is whatever I decide. I am making a difference in the lives of teens, I am doing what I love, I make enough time for my hobbies and my loved ones, and that is enough when I say it is. That balance is so crucial, and we are the only ones who can make the balance work for our own lives.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I really needed to hear it, as I often feel like I'm not doing enough. I work in a library branch that struggles with teen services primarily because of where the branch is located, and I've been feeling in adequate in my job because I haven't seen the type of improvement I want to see. I often forget about the connections I've made with the teens who do come into my branch and how when it comes to them, I am doing enough–maybe even more than enough. As Eden said, if we know that we're making a difference in the lives of teens–not necessarily every single teen who walks into our library, but at least one of them–if we love what we do, and if are able to make room in our lives for other things, we are doing enough.

  3. Heather, I love this post and thank you for writing it. I often feel lately that there is a lot of emphasis on doing “big”, “important”, “Nationally recognized” things in our profession and we forget that our mandate is to serve our local communities, our local teens – real, actual people with needs. What matters is meeting those very real needs so that our local communities and our local patrons can thrive and lead successful lives and go on to make their positive contributions to our local communities. It's a domino effect, if we do our jobs correctly, we are putting elements in place that makes a long line of positive differences. And each individual patron that we serve matters. Some times something as simple as being a friendly face that one moment a teen needed it will make all the difference in the world, much more of a difference than access to a 3D printer or a High Tech Coding Lab ever would have.

    And while we are serving our local communities, we also have to remember to take care of our families, take care of ourselves, and to cherish the silent moments. Balance, as you said, is key. This is such an important reminder.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Eden and Kelly. I'm glad it resonated with you. Finding that balance where you're fulfilled and encouraged to keep moving forward but not overwhelmed is really tricky. It sounds like you're both seeking out your own perfect points too, which is so great.

  5. Thank you! I know that there is so much more that I want to do, but feel so over stretched already. I wish there was more of me and more time in the day so I could do everything I wish I could. I kept getting more and more jobs given to me and while it was flattering that they thought I could do it, it left me feeling overwhelmed. I eventually had to ask if someone else could pick up something. I hated that and felt like a failure for doing that, but something had to give. Thank you–you made me feel a little less guilty about admitting that I can't do everything.

  6. I think this time of year in particular, post-award season, when the Movers & Shakers lists come out, its VERY easy to feel inadequate. But rather than being discouraged by not being one of those people operating on a national level, you can move in a few directions: be inspired by what you see and incorporate it into your daily practices, figure the necessary steps that will get you closer to those places (eg volunteering for process committees with YALSA and hoping to move toward award/list committees), or reflect on how your work is fulfilling to you — or isn't — and then working to change that. There's no one right way to be a librarian.

  7. Melissa, your experience is so familiar to me! I've been in a similar place. The other way to look at the “problem” of offloading some work on someone else is that by involving others, you're building a team approach for your services, and in doing so, you're making your services much stronger.

  8. Thanks for posting this! This is right on time because lately I've been feeling so complacent in my job, like I'm not doing enough, or I've become “bored” with the same routine every day my mom thinks.

    Because I look at all of the awesome things others are doing and feel like “….Well what am I doing?” But I know I should focus on what I can do, and not measure my success by the success of others. I'm so glad to know that it is not just me who feels this way.

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