I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile but a few different things have brought it to the forefront.
Soon after starting this blog, I got permission to reprint a list called “10 Things I Wish *They* Had Told Me When I Started Out In Librarianship” by Wendy Newman and this idea is sort of a take-off on that.
I was also recently re-reading some of my personal journal entries from when I first started journaling (~1990) and although I didn’t do one called “Promises to Myself”, there were a few times where I tried to predict what I’d be doing, what would make me happy, what things I’d hope to achieve in the future and it was interesting to see where I was on the mark, where I was off, how my values may have changed and where they’ve stayed the same.
The final inspiration was a recent retirement at RPL. Between the changes brought by a recent re-organization and a move to a new province-wide ILS as well as the reality we all hear about the aging workforce, there have been a fairly high number of people leaving or retiring from RPL in the past year. (I don’t have stats on this – it’s just a gut instinct that numbers have been much higher than usual.)
One of the people who retired most recently was a librarian who had twenty-five years of service at RPL and who, like me, got his start at Southeast Regional. I’d known him ever since he hosted a “What does the community want from the library?” forum which I attended as a representative of the Sask Publishers Group a few years back. I don’t know the exact date but it would’ve been somewhere between 1997-2001 – long before professional librarianship was even on my radar.
We weren’t best friends or anything but because of his similar starting point and that short interaction when I was at SPG , I always felt an affinity with him. This was only heightened during a session I facilitated for our professional library staff last fall when I did a round-the-table “What would your dream job be?” ice breaker exercise and this person replied to me, “I’m probably retiring soon but if I was starting over, I think I’d want a job something like yours.”
I get the sense that this person had a long, fulfilling career with very few regrets. But his comment also made me realise there are always forks in the road, things we could do differently and ways that we change as our careers develop. With that grounding, I wanted to write a list of promises to myself that I’ll do my best to keep, no matter where my career goes.
10 Promises To Myself
1. With regards to customer service, I’ll treat staff as the first customer.
2. Somewhat related, I’ll try to always get along with people at all levels of the organization from the pages and janitors to the Managers and Director.
[Edit: A loyal reader points out that I’ve already broken promise in spirit by not capitalizing “pages” or “janitors” but doing so for “Managers” and “Directors”. She suggests an out in that I’m probably used to typing the capitalized forms of those words in my job. In all honesty, I could probably justify capitalizing “Director” since it’s a single person in a specific job. But yeah, if I don’t capitalize “pages” or “janitors”, I shouldn’t capitalize “managers” either. I’m not the most politically correct guy but at the same time, it’s crazy how ingrained some of these power relationship ideas are in our lives. But that gives me a good excuse to add a bonus promise: “I promise that I’ll admit when I’m wrong and not be afraid to say ‘sorry’ either. So apologies to all of the hard-working Pages and Janitors out there and…suck it lowly managers! ;-)]
3. As much as possible, I’ll find a way to say ‘yes’ to others’ ideas instead of saying ‘no’.
4. With that said, I’ll give myself permission to say ‘no’ to non-mandatory offers, requests or invitations when necessary.
5. I’ll be an advocate for the “little guy” whenever possible – both our patrons and our staff.
6. I will embody values inspired by online culture and the open source movement which I truly believe are the way of the future – collaboration, transparency, equality, creativity, risk-taking, play, empowerment, trust.
7. I’ll never put my job ahead of my family. (What this means is of course open to interpretation – do you miss one of your kid’s soccer games for the monthly board meeting? A playoff game? The championship game? What about a kid’s grad versus the annual city budget presentation? And so on.)
8. In my own small way, I’ll keep trying to be a mentor to new librarians in the online sphere with my blogging and via other outlets. (thanks to Michael Stephens for a recent link that talks about this idea that we’re all potentially mentors, even when we don’t realise it)
9. I’ll have fun no matter what. If I’m not having fun, I’ll move on to something else – either within the same organization or elsewhere.
10. I’ll never forget to stop occasionally – either to gaze at the empty stacks before the library opens in the morning or the patrons moving about while it’s bustling in the afternoon – and realise how fortunate I am to spend my days in a library!
How about you? What are your promises to yourself?