Monday, January 1, 2024

Annual Reflection & Goal Setting - 2024

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.

Now, for 2024....I am not really setting a lot of big or specific goals, just some general ones, because I expect 2024 to be a fairly rocky year, so mainly my goal is just to survive! The good news is, our horrible, toxic director is GONE!!!!

This is such a huge relief, but also unfortunately a little too late to completely head off the mass exodus that was beginning, and we are now also without an adult services librarian, an IT person, custodial service, and a children's assistant. So we have a lot of rebuilding to do, in a time where hiring qualified staff is extremely challenging, if not impossible at times. The future is very uncertain at this point, and we worry about who the next director will be. For the time being, the interim director who hired me (retired former director) is coming back to be interim director for the second time, which is a good thing! He treats all staff with professionalism and respect and this will give us some time to decompress, heal, and begin to sort through and repair the all the damage the outgoing director did to our finances, staffing, staff morale and mental health, and community relations.

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

I've come to realize and accept that things are never going to be like they were before 2020, and I'm probably never going to love my job like I loved the job I had when the pandemic hit and everything went to hell. But I am REALLY hoping things will get a little easier, at least less tumultuous, and at some point the rewards will outweigh the stress. I still enjoy my storytime families and other regulars, and occasionally get that high from a program that just goes perfectly or a really great patron interaction; it's just that the good has been so overwhelmed by stress and toxicity lately. Hopefully that is about to change!

For all of us, I wish a calm, peaceful, and Happy New Year! 


  1. I think learning to accept that "good enough" really is good enough can be really liberating. When the situation is largely outside of our control, or there are all sorts of factors at play that we can't manage, sometimes we just have to accept that we can only do so much, even if it falls below our normal standards. We're dealing with staffing shortages, and sometimes we can't do everything, and I could stress about it, but we're not surgeons, nothing we do is a matter of life and death. Very few things are the end of the world, and it's ok for things to not always be perfect, all the time. We can only do the best we can with what we have, and that's ok. Here's hoping for a healthy, happy, healing 2024. <3

  2. Good enough is more than enough sometimes, or, as a family friend once said "a half-a***d job is better than no job at all". This has become my mantra, post-lockdowns, and four months into my second annual burnout from summer.
    I don't have near as many job or location issues as you, so I just want to offer you a pat on the back for making it through, because gosh I do get it. I very much hope 2024 is better for you than 2023. In fact, I hope somehow it's the best year ever.

  3. I'm hoping to go to ALSC too! I'm doing a webinar soon on accepting and moving on with the "new normal" and letting go of how programs used to be.

    1. Sounds like a great webinar for all of us (and especially admin, who unfortunately probably won't attend). I am still trying to figure out what programming in the new normal, and for this community, should look like. But I also still feel the pressure of expectations by the board and director that are not necessarily realistic. I'm seeing that the community just isn't as interested in school-age programming except during the summer, and sadly not really interested in STEM programming at all. I also have to keep reminding people that while my predecessor may have done more programming, she really didn't do any collection development and had more help (and better qualified help); I am trying to do everything. Hope to see you at ALSC!