3 Librarian Lessons Inspired by Grandma

I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love. –Leo Buscaglia

Grandma pictureThese past few months have been ones of farewell. I’m moving on from grad school after completing my MLIS degree, transitioning out of my current library position, and passing on the blogging torch after several years of writing for the Hack Library School blog. Unfortunately it also meant saying an unexpected goodbye to my beloved grandmother after a long few months of hospitalizations and hospice care.

My grandmother has been a powerhouse of energy and a close presence throughout my life. While visiting her several months back, I received notification of my final portfolio approval for the completion of my library degree. Her joy and enthusiasm for me and her delight at being there for the occasion is a gift that I will always treasure.

Yet amidst the emotions that come with farewells, it is also a time of new beginnings. New challenges present themselves in my personal and professional life. I start my first full-time librarian position in a few weeks. My toddler son seems to surprise me every day with a new word or understanding or sometimes a new kind of tantrum. The future has me at once full of uncertainty and fear, yet also eager and excited for the possibilities.

As I reflected on my grandmother’s 87 years of life before speaking at her memorial, it occurred to me that her example offers many pieces of advice applicable to this new chapter in my life as a librarian and working mom. Here are three lessons for those of you embarking on the path of librarianship, inspired by my grandma:

Decide where your passion lies and do it with all your heart
Grandma was not one for half-measures. When she had an interest, she pursued it with abundance. It wasn’t enough to have a container garden. Rather, Grandma had the equivalent of a small produce farm in her backyard which she faithfully tended for hours in the hot sun, growing way more furits and vegetables than any of her family and friends could possibly consume. In her later years, she became an avid world traveler, not only taking the trip opportunities that came along, but also leading many of the local senior center excursions. A life-long sewer, Grandma left a house full of homemade quilts.

So explore where your interests are and figure out how you can incorporate these into your library career. Love teaching? What course could you develop for patrons or staff? Enjoy gardening? Maybe you could start a community garden or seed-sharing program at your library branch. Consider what causes you care about, and see where you can make an impact on these issues. That could look like partnering with a community organization or perhaps developing specific programming or curating library resources to serve the needs of specific populations.

Be an advocate and a great cheerleader for others

Grandma may not have always understood why you made certain decisions, but she would be your greatest cheerleader in whatever you decided to do. She would rave about your handmade ceramics and celebrate your latest travel plans. Grandma definitely expressed some skepticism at mid-career decision to attend library school, but once I explained to her my plans, she could not have been more supportive. Even when she was nearing her last few weeks, she would inquire, “How was storytime?” or “How’d that job interview go?”

This inspires me to find where I can support others in my work. Even in something as small as following up with a patron about how their assignment went after you helped them find research materials or what they thought about your book recommendation, can go along way in helping someone feel supported. Even the seemingly small act of providing a welcoming space with a warm greeting can be an uplift to someone’s day or sometimes a rare respite. Instead of feeling jealous and/or competitive with colleagues, how can we champion their efforts? Where can we work together or build upon success?

Be daring, but take precautions

At the ripe old age of 83, Grandma decided to go out hiking on the trails behind her house. Despite her enthusiasm, going out alone without her cane proved to be shortsided, and she ended up with nasty fall and injuries. As I visited with her in the hospital, Grandma confided in me: “I know everyone is frustrated with me because I’m 83 and have no business hiking by myself. The thing is, though, I don’t feel 83.”

That was Grandma for you. I hope to emulate her ageless enthusiasm and spirit of “Why, not?”, by continually trying new things and venturing out of my comfort zone. That said, I’ve also learned it’s wise to be cautious. Try that new trail, but remember your cane and take company along with you.

Wherever you are on your journey, I hope these insights gleaned from my Grandma can help you along the way. “Farewell” – it has been a pleasure writing for Hack Library School. And, “Hello!” I hope our library paths cross in the future.

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