I have to say, 2023 was a very difficult year for me (and my co-workers). While there were no huge events like a pandemic, it was actually more difficult and stressful than 2020. I continue to struggle to make progress in my position as youth services manager, for a number of reasons.
First, people in general are just different now - they are more entitled, more selfish, less patient; families are even more overscheduled than before, families are no longer in the habit of coming to the library and attending programs regularly, and kids have even shorter attention spans and are more challenging to engage than before. Second, this particular community is a bit of a challenge as they are fairly insular, very conservative, in general not as supportive of the library as other communities I have worked in, and it's much harder to make community connections as an outsider. Third, I don't have appropriate staffing so that I can truly be a manager and do things they way they should be done, which became even worse after I lost my awesome teen librarian at the end of February due to the low pay when another opportunity fell into her lap. Fourth, I did not have adequate funding due to my programming budget being slashed in half.
And finally, the director that was hired at the beginning of the previous year (right after me) proved to be the most unprofessional, dishonest, and unethical person I have ever met and created a very toxic, stressful, work environment. Their management style was basically emotional abuse, chaos, and reckless spending (which resulted in programming and materials budgets being cut in half). Instead of being supported, I was constantly undermined, sabotaged, steam-rolled over, and bad-mouthed behind my back. I felt I had to walk a very fine line, so that I was doing a good enough job that there were things she could take credit for and make her look good, but not so good a job that *I* actually got attention.
Despite all these challenges, I did still manage to accomplish or make progress toward many of the goals I had set for myself and the department.
- I developed and implemented a proper weeding schedule, which had to be abandoned after two months when our teen librarian left. I've come to accept we just will never have enough staff to do weeding and collection development the way it "should" be done, but will have to find a compromise that is logistically feasible for us.
- I have continued to improve the collections, in particular doing a massive weed of J fiction, which freed up shelf space to expand the juvenile graphic novels, and made significant progress in improving the juvenile non-fiction section, which was very shabby and outdated. Also added some new Manga series, and continue to expand picture book collection.
- Gave a presentation on "Fearless Storytime" at our state public library conference
- Had another successful summer program, with solid program attendance and higher participation in the reading challenge after ditching Beanstack and switching to a simple paper "log".
- Made some progress with developing community partners, but it is slow going.
- Storytime attendance has grown, attendance for school-age and family programs during school breaks is generally good, but after-school programming just doesn't work for this age here.
- Teen programming has been re-established with new staff, still trying out things to see what will stick and developing staff.
My only goals for 2024 are:
- To survive!
- Continue to improve youth collections through weeding and development
- Get my office straightened up and organized
- Work on staff training and better communication - improving customer service, programming, and general professionalism, breaking bad habits that developed due to director's interference and toxicity leading to stress and low motivation (myself included)
- Get my programming budget back!
- Hopefully hire an assistant with experience working with children & families to help with both customer service in the children's area and children's programs
- Hope to attend the ALSC national conference in Denver this fall. I've always wanted to go to this conference, but never have been able to.
- Continue to network within the community and with other local/state library staff
- Finish the deep-dive into incentivized reading research I've been promising to do (I have been working on it, but time and energy has been in short supply!)
- Again, keep trying for a healthier work-life balance. I just can't ever seem to manage that; as a manager it is so much harder to leave work at work than it was as support staff or as a non-supervisory librarian