If you work in a public library in the United States, you are probably currently in the throes of that glorious time known as Summer Reading. If you are in youth services, you are at the forefront of the work by helping young people find and choose books, leading creative programming, answering hundreds of questions from patrons of all ages, and more. If you are not working in any of those areas, encourage a public librarian in your life because they are in the busiest season of their year. I am one of those youth librarians surviving Summer Reading and this summer is no exception to the busy rule. Every summer I am reminded of both the importance of this season for our patrons and of self-care for everyone working hard to make the summer meaningful for patrons.
Much has been written about self-care, especially here on Hack Library School. As library school students in many disciplines, self-care looks different for everyone When your work is so focused on helping patrons, especially in busy seasons, it is easy for your own needs to take the back burner. Yet, the best way to continue working effectively is to take time for yourself (remember, Daniel Pink said to take a break!).
First, find encouragement. Whether it is with other colleagues, friends outside of work or school, or family, you need someone to tell you that you’re doing great or that you need to chill. I also recommend this guest post by Angie Manfredi on the Letters to a Young Librarian blog where she exhorts the greatest secret of Summer Reading. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say that the secret is awesome and encouraging (ok one spoiler, it involves glitter on some level).
Second, take a break. Seriously, take a break. Even if you just step outside for five minutes a couple of times a day, TAKE! A! BREAK! The pace of summer is unrelenting and it is easy to tell yourself that you need to do just one more thing before taking a break. Nope, take a break, do it, you will never regret it. Breaks will refresh and renew you and make you better at your job.
Third, sing with toddlers. Whatever brings you joy in the summer, do it. This may be singing with toddlers, painting with tweens, leading storytime, or any number of delightful activities. These programs are what summer is all about! If you don’t lead programming, step into a colleague’s program and enjoy what’s happening at your library with your patrons. Finding joy throughout your busy summer weeks makes all the difference for you when the meeting room is double booked or that book is missing or other common summer library problems occur.
What are your tips for surviving Summer Reading or other busy seasons at your library?
Sarah Davis is a Bilingual Youth Librarian at a public library in Oklahoma and an MLIS student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.