Friday, June 3, 2016

On Being Marian

I have progress to report on the library front. Remember the girl with the "lost" textbook? Well, she returned it the day before yesterday -- which probably means it wasn't lost at all but she couldn't be troubled to bring it in before now. I'm annoyed, but I'm glad to get it back.

And the girl with the two overdue books from January? She brought them in, too. Finally.

I should be happy with this, I suppose, but honestly I forgot how hard this time of year can be. The last month of school basically means constant nagging on my part -- reminding kids to return their books, and when that fails, e-mailing their parents and their teachers and calling home, and going to their classrooms to talk to them, and doing whatever else I can think of to get them to bring back their materials before we break for summer.

OK, so it's not heart surgery. But weirdly, it really depletes me. I find myself getting so frustrated when kids shrug off my requests day after day and week after week -- particularly if the parents shrug them off too. Because in the end, all I can do is ask. I have no control over whether they return things or not. (We don't have late fees or, really, any other leverage except freezing library accounts and ultimately billing the families -- which the school is loath to do.)

Maybe that's what I find so difficult -- the powerlessness. But it doesn't explain my emotional response. Do I feel a sense of betrayal, even a personal rejection?

I know. I'm making more of it than I should.

I understand, though, why librarians get a reputation for being so crabby. We are constantly presented with people who don't hold up their end of the bargain, and even though they're a minority, that can be dispiriting. I've been trying to breathe through it, like my Zen teachers taught me. Let it go. Keep it in perspective. Remember that it's not my stuff.

On a positive note, I've learned a lot at this job. I knew nothing about interacting with kids before I went to work in the library. Now I know more -- though I'm still not an expert. I've learned that I earn much more cooperation being as easy-going as I can (despite repressed LIBRARIAN RAGE) and I'm getting better at making friends with the kids. On Monday one girl, a graduating senior, gave me a thank-you card in which she said the library was her favorite place in the school, thanks to the librarians. That was definitely the high point of my week!

(Photo: A council estate near our flat where I often walk Olga. I did not paint that face, I swear.)


Karen said...

Great you finally got all these books back. It's easier said than done, not to worry about things we FEEL responsible for. Better we care than we ignore, my opinion. It's a shame the parents are such bad examples.

You care about things, that's a good character trait!

utahDOG! said...

Holy crap you are taking this stuff too seriously. Water off a duck.

One of my good friends has a saying, "Can't see it from my house!"

Ms. Moon said...

Well, you ARE a librarian and as such, it is part of your job to keep track of the books. I mean- if you didn't, you would not be doing your job. So there is that.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Physical intimidation may be the solution. If a culprit hasn't responded to your polite requests, get him/her in a headlock and rub your knuckles hard on his/her skull. I think you will find that the overdue library books are returned the very next morning. And if the parents try to complain give them the same treatment.

jenny_o said...

Now, see, THIS is what I'm talking about. A whole post on being crabby/grumpy! I needed to hear this, Steve :) I'd be grumpy, too. I think it's partly the powerlessness, as you say, but it's also that when you're a decent person you expect others to be decent, too. And when they fail to be so, REPEATEDLY fail to be so, it is discouraging and, yes, draining and frustrating. I hear you. On the bright side, your persistence paid off on some pretty tough nuts. Those are the ones to celebrate.

I'm secretly smiling at YP's suggestion, but don't tell him :)

Sharon said...

I very much understand your frustration. I've been going through similar frustrations at my work over the past few weeks. I'm trying to do the same "zen" thing. I need to let it go. Some people are difficult and that is just a fact of life. I'm glad you did finally get the books back. I'm sure that will help close out the year on a positive note.

37paddington said...

If I remember correctly, this is a really stressful time of year for you. It must be really hard when people don't do the right thing when the right thing is really so easy to do in this case. Breathe, my friend. Summer awaits!

Red said...

You're a good nagger! We need somebody who has success with these kids. Sometimes we influence kids much more than we think.

alphabet soup said...

Constantly asking for things to be done, when it is your task to ask, and not getting a response is a thankless task.

Maybe you could start early? Before they even borrow the books?


Ms Soup

Steve Reed said...

Karen: That's a really good way to look at it! I should see my caring as an asset!

UtahDog: Well, that's easily said, but the fact is (as Ms Moon says below you) this IS my job. I have to fulfill my responsibilities. I think I just need to not take it so personally.

Ms Moon: This is true! As I said to UtahDog, it's the emotional component I need to work on, and just not get so angry.

YP: I am SO tempted.

Jenny-O: We all feel this way from time to time, right?!

Sharon: The "zen" thing works! I went in yesterday determined to remain calm and smiling, and it DID make a difference.

37P: It IS hard, though I realize in the grand scheme of things my problems are minor!

Red: I think we do. Kids pay attention and notice much more than we think they do.

Ms Soup: I have, in a very few cases, limited problem kids to just ONE book at a time. Which is a shame. But it saves me a lot of heartache!

Linda said...

Interesting post. I worked a number of years in a seminary. A student wrote in a book borrowed from another seminary library. One of our professors discovered it. Wow, such outrage I've seldom seen. Apparently among professors and library people underlining and writing notes in a book is the unforgivable sin. I had to smile when I read your post. There was a conference between the two seminaries over this gentleman's bad behavior. I suspect he's never written in another book, even his own.