Hold On To Your Optimism

As the year draws to a close and we look toward 2020, I’ve been thinking about the promise of new things. Many of us use the New Year as a time to write goals and hope for a better tomorrow. There is a sense of inherent optimism in the new.

As a new professional, even one who typically considers myself a “realist,” I feel like I embody some of that optimism in the library field. I am entering this profession—pouring in my time, energy, and money—because I truly believe that libraries change lives. That they build communities. That they improve the world. I approach new projects and initiatives with this hope, believing that I can contribute to a small part of this improvement.

Even then, it’s hard to ignore the sighs and grumbles of a small group of more experienced professionals, be they other students on the discussion boards, professionals on social media, or colleagues at work. “We’ve already tried this,” I’ll hear. “What changed this time?” Why should we bother creating that new program that no one will come to, or asking our communities to discuss ways that we can collaborate to strengthen one another, or go into librarianship at all? While in the minority, these voices are the ones that echo through my mind during late night work sessions or tough days. I sometimes wonder if I’m being naïve to think that I can make a difference in my job or if I should pretend to be less excited about new things than I really am. Maybe I’m just getting swept away by the promise of something new.

This topic came up over Thanksgiving when I got coffee with a friend. As a new teacher, she has been experiencing the same thing. It made me wonder how common this is and how it is viewed by other professionals. Are new optimists exhausting or energizing? Foolish, or full of potential? How do they work with people like me on a day to day basis? I decided to reach out to my network on social media to hear how they view new professionals in their fields. With their permission, here’s what they had to say:

  • “I think new professionals in the field are energizing to me – being in the field for 10 years, you can reach a level of burnout that can be hard to get yourself out of. I certainly want to foster the energy, but the job outlook can be discouraging. So, I think also honest conversations can help with the new professional as well. The role of a librarian will evolve as our communities evolve, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time. New professionals in the field inspire me to look at the field differently, too.” Brianna C., Librarian
  • “I love new graduates- they haven’t learned the wrong ways to do things and they have so much energy and excitement. I’m an over protective mama bear of my orientees and love when they become more educated and grow into new positions.” Chelsey Martin, RN
  • “I absolutely love new professionals in my field…once I can get a ‘read’ on them and know they absolutely love what they’re doing and want to learn. I LOVE teaching them what I’ve learned…With that being said, I encourage new hires to actually understand what they are getting in to.” Ellen, Early Childhood Professional
  • “I like to think I do my best to be encouraging. Even though my professional experiences haven’t always been fantastic, I don’t want to project any of my jadedness onto someone else unless they specifically ask me about it. They will have different challenges and opportunities than I did. I know that when I was starting out and my colleagues would complain, that would affect how I approached tasks or people in a way I didn’t always like. I don’t want to be that for someone else unsolicited.” Alex A., Librarian
  • “They energize me, especially if they’re supervisors or in leadership positions.” Glenn G., Archivist
    • Side note: How great is this to hear when feeling an unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome?

Based on these responses, it sounds to me like no one is trying to drive out your hope. It isn’t foolish, but it should be informed. Learn and adapt, do your research, and listen to the wisdom and experiences of those who have gone before, but hold on to your optimism. We all need it.

Want to read more about working with pessimists? Read Amy Frazer’s excellent HLS post “On the Negative Nellies.”

Kerri is a staff trainer for a library district in Central Pennsylvania. She is working towards her MSI LIS from Drexel University Online.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Categories: Emerging Careers

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