Days in the Librarian’s life

Any librarian or proto-librarian who has followed the Library Day in the Life series can see that *a lot* of our work day is spent in meetings, conversations, dialogues, and more meetings.  This is partly the work of collaboration, of management, of professionalism.  We’re responsible for getting things done, but since we want to make sure we do things, we try to get by with a little help from our friends (excuse the Beatles pun) to ensure everything is up to par.

I’m constantly astonished by the amount of time we spent in dialogue, though, since it eats up so much of our day.  Although I’m happily salaried, I work as if I’m on the clock – partly because for most of my life I’ve been on an hourly wage, and partly because I’m more efficient at work when I have a sense of how much time has passed in my day.  It is sometimes a struggle to make sure I’m moving ahead on my projects and tackling deadlines, though, when I want to include people and involve them in what I do.  This isn’t a new problem or unique issue, of course – it’s something that affects all of us – but since I’m still very Green to the profession, I’m experiencing it first-hand.  I haven’t been Green to anything for six or seven years, so trying to find the balance between discussion and practice, as well as trying to find a balance between working hard and working too much has sometimes required more care for me than it would for the veteran colleagues in the office that I lean on for advice.

How do I get the work done, then?  I follow a couple guidelines:

  1. Start on time and end on time. I get to work at 830 in the morning, and I try my hardest to leave at 4:30.  Unless the next day already has a Major Fire To Put Out, I try to leave by 5.  This doesn’t happen every day, but it helps me keep work in perspective, and it helps me complete my work ahead of deadlines.
  2. Take a lunch, always. I pencil in an hour for lunch, but I’m willing to cut it short to a half-hour if the day’s work demands it.  Regardless, I force myself to leave the office, even if only for a short time.  I work in a library, dammit, so at the very least I should go read a magazine or newspaper or go find a comfortable chair to sit in for a bit.  Give yourself a break so that the afternoon is as fresh as the morning was.
  3. Turn off the e-mail after lunch. I do this if I can since some days require more communication that others.  But I do try to keep the e-mail turned off between 1 and 2-2:30.  I use this time to go into overdrive and see how far ahead I can get in my work.
  4. Chat with you colleagues. Don’t just talk shop with your co-workers. Get to know them.  If you don’t, work will feel like a prison when we’d rather like it to feel like a playdate.
  5. Chat with people who aren’t your colleagues. When I’m on the RefDesk, I talk to students and ask them how their days are.  When I’m in the hallways, I talk to support staff, academic staff, and teaching staff.  This gives us perspective to recall why we’re working in the library and why the library exists on campus – to serve the information and scholarly needs of others.

4 thoughts on “Days in the Librarian’s life”

  1. Wow, perfect timing, Michael! Have you checked out the latest posting at the Re:Generations blog? http://clatoolbox.ca/regen/?p=445
    What is it about early September that makes academic librarians think about work/life balance?? Hmmmmm….
    Great post by the way. I do NONE of these things, and it's stupid not to. I get bogged down, and feel like I HAVE to do things RIGHT NOW. That mentality, of course, doesn't make me an iota more productive than if I followed your rules and had a fresh mind throughout the day. Thanks!

    1. ha! I actually hadn't checked out Re:Gen until you commented on this post.. It's a great post, though. (For what it's worth, I wrote this post monday night but held off on it since I was in a blogging flurry this week)

      Are my rules really rules? I don't think so. Let's call them guidelines, or policies, which can always be adjusted. I think most of us are perfectionists, which means we're always making great efforts for smaller and smaller gains, so sooner or later we will cut lunch short on account of work. But if we can make room for personal time every now and again, I think we'll be a little more productive in the long run – as Megan and Jill Barker suggest..

  2. Wow, perfect timing, Michael! Have you checked out the latest posting at the Re:Generations blog? http://clatoolbox.ca/regen/?p=445
    What is it about early September that makes academic librarians think about work/life balance?? Hmmmmm….
    Great post by the way. I do NONE of these things, and it’s stupid not to. I get bogged down, and feel like I HAVE to do things RIGHT NOW. That mentality, of course, doesn’t make me an iota more productive than if I followed your rules and had a fresh mind throughout the day. Thanks!

    1. ha! I actually hadn’t checked out Re:Gen until you commented on this post.. It’s a great post, though. (For what it’s worth, I wrote this post monday night but held off on it since I was in a blogging flurry this week)

      Are my rules really rules? I don’t think so. Let’s call them guidelines, or policies, which can always be adjusted. I think most of us are perfectionists, which means we’re always making great efforts for smaller and smaller gains, so sooner or later we will cut lunch short on account of work. But if we can make room for personal time every now and again, I think we’ll be a little more productive in the long run – as Megan and Jill Barker suggest..

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