Two weeks ago I was forwarded an e-mail from a patron who complained about ‘changes in the children’s section that needed to be addressed.’ Staff have also mentioned that patrons have complained about the changes they have noticed in the library. Because I am me (and insane and it’s all always all about me) I initially took offense. My life as a children’s librarian chick had been rooted in nice nasty co-workers, people determined to let me know how great programs and people from other libraries were, how great my predecessor was and my overwhelming sense of inadequacy (shocker!). After I learned to ignore the negatives and came into my own a bit, I felt comfortable branching out, doing things that I thought would attract a wider audience and making the library a place where all people can enjoy it.
So the e-mail led me to believe that either people were offended by the noise (cause these kids are some loud mofos!) or that people were reacting to a decidedly darker hued population. Perhaps its a bit from column A and a bit from column B. Either way I have entertained quite an elitist train of thought: where are these rough riders coming from? Cause race aside, there has been a new type of patron: not my normal motley crew but families and children who are unattended, unwilling to share, follow the rules of the place and are just plain bad!
By no means am I an authoritative person; my typical brand of discipline usually comes in the form of lectures, consequence and, (ashamedly) quite reactive. While others are quite stern, I feel that working with the public is something that should be done with a smile (challenge that it is), everyone should feel welcome (after all, a library saved my life), and this public place should be a welcome area to people who need a place to be, a place to entertain the kids and a place for the community to be.
I’m rethinking my position.
While I want my library to be all of the above, I also find that it;s not fun for everybody and especially not to me. Work is more of a chore, I am taking things way more personally than is warranted and I feel resentful and suffocated at the idea of my day. Even simple things planning for the fall, wrapping up my summer, cleaning my desk is met with my countdown to vacation. Mondays starts the week up again with me wishing for Friday and that just will not do. Perhaps I am just burned out from my roller coaster of summer emotions. I fretted so much about programs, planning and all in between that I didn’t leave myself any room to relax and enjoy the results. Plus, along with the usual things called life, (The Bee, Mom ) add on my et cetera move and my guy (cue cartoon heart eyes) and I have had a summer not at all like others. I don’t think I am blameless. After all I am quite reactive, embracing a passive stance on all matters of discipline. After today I think mild meek Rachee has left the building and may never return.
Prime example: My plan for today was simple: cleaning my battered Children’s area; weeding books and straightening the shelves, shelf reading and putting things where they belong and rescuing an abused area that has been a sitting target for bored, unattended, kids this summer. With no programs scheduled for the week I JUST KNEW I would be in for a quiet week of organizing, planning and report writing with an occasional request for a last minute summer reading book needed for school assignments.
There was a mountain of books to be checked in and there has been a crowd moving in and out of the library all day. So far there have been three meltdowns, two of which were people over the age of four (OK, full disclosure, one was me), loud kids, irritated parents and the omnipresent mess that has taken residence on my desk. As I hide, erm, sit at my desk wondering when I can slide out to lunch and home for the day, I am bothered by my reaction. I still love my job but the passion and devotion that overtook me in days of yore has begun to fizzle and I am jolted by the cynical feeling of blah or move sufficiently: I don’t care.
My friend Vanessa always encourages me to embrace the fact that people feel more able to experience this library due to my presence. Friends and patrons have also remarked that they feel more welcome, that they are that people feel they can have because of me. While I applaud her theory, I find that in practice there is a louder, more hectic work day. As I eye a group that has seemingly made it their mission to master every game on the AWE work stations I wonder if I am unfairly picking on them because they are young kids and what my reaction would be if this were a family here for hours causing a ruckus. As a young mother I sometimes felt as if I were being judged if I took The Bee, Pop and Dill anywhere and I wouldn’t want to do the same. There is a need for a firmer hand and, as evidenced with my own experience as a mom, kids crave and want structure.
My desk is still a mess and I am still counting down towards glorious freedom. I am hoping that this is a passing phase and that my vacation will give me the energy and fire I crave to make the next best thing. I have tried talking to the newer patrons, perhaps my ‘who do these people think they are?’ attitude is what’s keeping them on edge and defensive.
Either way four days til vacation at the wonderful resort of Porchville.