Calming the paranoid librarian
I seem to have subscribed, accidentally, to the paranoid school of librarianship. This means that, despite my ‘nice feedback’ folder of job-related positive emails and despite coming up to 2 years in post, I end up worrying more and more. The worst manifestation of this occurs if I have a meeting with people from outside the library, particularly one that’s not part of the regular routine of my job. I often enter the room fearing that someone is going to turn round and tell me I’m doing a terrible job and they wish they had a different librarian. Days with multiple meetings are therefore extremely tense.
For the most part, meetings are actually rather positive. I know (and the students and academic staff know) that there are limits to the wonders I can achieve, but most groups seem quite happy with the work that I do. Some courses are a little less reluctant to work with the library than others, but I have only ever had one student outright say that I personally was doing a bad job, and that was (I think) at least partly a reaction to me refusing to break the law for him. I’m annoying like that, you see.
Having spent much of the week in impending doom mode, I had a revelation on Friday afternoon that the groups of people I find it hardest to work with tend not to work well with anyone outside of their group anyway. Which is fair enough – people who we perceive as “other” in some fundamental way, not in terms of race or sexuality so much as in terms of being in some sense “like me”, can be hard to understand, due to having minds that work in very different ways. Different, not better or worse. And it works both ways – I need to see their worldview in order to help them see a bit of mine.
I also thought it was about time to go through my ‘nice feedback’ folder again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to regurgitate it all here, but the first and last items in there are wonderfully different. The most recent is from the end of October, from an international organisation. Some librarians from Nigeria had been visiting them, and as our library was nearby, they came for a tour. As they were interested in web 2.0 and its possibilities in libraries, I was tracked down and asked to speak to them. My manager forwarded the subsequent letter sent by their organisation to me as it included this :
I would particularly like to thank [the Singing Librarian] for the talk he gave at such short notice. This was delivered very well…
Aw, thank you!
The earliest item in there is from around 4 months after I started in the post, just after my first new intake of students and therefore my first intensive round of planned lectures, workshops and the like. Our library holds a user group, and I received an email after this informing me that a member of staff wanted to minute that the
students were singing your praises about the support that they had received from you at their workshops and when they have called into the library to see you.
Which is nice. It is relatively rare for the role of the library and its staff to be acknowledged officially, apart from when things go wrong. I am lucky to work, across the 3 universities my role covers, with some exceptional people who do brilliant work.
So why have I written this blog post after yet another long silence? Well, regular readers will know that my confidence levels are subject to many fluctuations and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I wanted to recommend a ‘nice feedback’ or ‘lovely emails’ folder for everyone – you can’t be perfect all the time (and I am well aware of the aspects of my job which I’m still not great at), but it’s good to be able to remind yourself of the positives if you tend to accentuate the negative. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of other nice messages to read through…