Friday, May 29, 2020

Librarian In Limbo

I feel like that should be the title of my blog now, because that's exactly what I am and probably will be for some time, and it's left me feeling very disconnected and a bit discouraged and frustrated.

I finally completed my MLIS, so I guess I can legitimately call myself a librarian now, but I won't really feel like one until I have a job with the title as well. And thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the job market is at a complete standstill. Many libraries are still closed (as they should be), almost all are under a hiring freeze, and the lasting repercussions of the pandemic will make an already poor and extremely competitive job market even worse for some time to come. But, I really need a full-time job with benefits now! I really worry that I just wasted a lot of time, hard work, and money on a degree for nothing, and I know the more time passes and the older I get, the harder it's going to be to get a full-time librarian job.

On top of that, I'm not working at all right now. The system where I am employed as a part-time paraprofessional has been closed since March 14, and still doesn't have a date for re-opening. A few staff members have been called in starting this week to prepare for curbside service beginning June 8th, but as circ staff was prioritized, I was not among them. I am very fortunate and very grateful that we are all still being paid regardless, but at the same time I don't really feel quite right being paid for doing nothing, and I miss working. I miss the routine, I miss my coworkers, I miss interacting with patrons, I miss programming, I miss feeling productive.

Even though there is no expectation that I do any work while on paid emergency leave, I've tried to at least do some professional development. I've watched several webinars, I've expanded on my MLIS research project, did some editing and re-writes, and submitted it for publication; I've been reading as much middle-grade and YA as I can, I've recycled the slides from prior training presentations and recorded them with voiceover, and I will start working on making some flannel board sets since I haven't had time to do that in well over a year. 

But it just isn't the same. I love programming and sharing my programs though this blog, but haven't done a single program since February. I volunteered to do virtual programming, but was told I wasn't needed as the nine children's librarians in our system have that more than covered. Of course it makes sense, when doing virtual programming as a system you don't need to do nearly the number of programs as when doing in-person programs at multiple locations, so it requires far fewer staff to do it. My system has done a phenomenal job in handling this crisis and looking out for the best interests of both staff and the community; I have no complaints about any decisions they've made. It's just after nearly 3 months I now feel so disconnected from work and the whole professional community, and tired of being inside my own head so much of the time.

To make matters worse, even when I finally do get to go back to work, things won't be the same. I'm anticipating we won't be doing in-person programming for quite some time, and I really miss it. I expect that we won't have toys and things out, and won't be encouraging people to come and hang out for a while; people will be encouraged to just come in, get their materials and leave. We will be wearing masks, using "sneeze guards" and practicing social distancing, making interactions with patrons much more impersonal. While I know these extreme measures are necessary, it still makes me very sad that we will now have to do the opposite of what we've worked so hard to do in making libraries a vibrant, welcoming space. It seems like libraries are being set back 100 years, thanks to this pandemic. I know it's only temporary; I just hope it doesn't take us very long to get back to where we were before once it's over.

So instead of working and job-hunting, I'm stuck here in limbo, waiting. Waiting for this pandemic to pass, waiting to go back to work, waiting for a children's librarian job to open up, waiting for life to get back to some semblance of normal. 

The last four years I have been completely focused on getting my degree and doing everything I can to develop professionally to prepare for eventually applying for a professional position. Now that the degree is over and everything else has come to a standstill, I am left with this huge void. I supposed it's a good time to get back to some of my other interests or develop new ones outside of librarianship.... Or thoroughly clean and organize my house....But, let's not get too radical.

Anyone else out there stuck in limbo, too? Not working, not doing virtual programming, and/or job hunt put on hold? What are you doing to pass the time or feel productive?

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