The hardest part of my job might be the fact that the dress code at my library does not include jeans and sneakers. Coming from the extremely lax office I still split my weeks with, this seemed like an unbearable inconvenience – I actually had to go shopping for professional clothing.
Well…ok, not really.
I’ve been a real, honest-to-god librarian for about three and a half weeks now, and that’s not nearly the hardest part of my job. I’m still feeling that part out, but last Saturday (my first weekend shift) taught me a lot about how the atmosphere of a youth section can be both similar and dramatically different from what they tell you in school.
I focused on youth services during my MLIS program, and my professors were pretty upfront about what to expect when working with kids (especially teens). But theory and practice can be different animals, and no class I had could really prepare me for the ten year old kid repeatedly trying to sneak into the teen room, sassing me when I caught him, disrupting his friend’s computer time, and repeating this ad nauseum. At no point was he actively breaking any of our rules – but he was dancing on the line, and making me feel like I had to keep one eye on him constantly (I did most of that shift by myself).
At what point does the kid who’s dancing on your last nerve become deserving of a reprimand? At what point, if he’s skating just under the rules line, do you make an issue out of his behavior?
I found my breaking point (for that day, at least) with the teens about five minutes before closing, when I saw a boy flying tackle another kid. There are rules that we’re more lax about than others, but playfighting is not one of them – witnessing something like that is grounds for closing the teen room for a length of time as determined by the librarian doing the closing. Even if they hadn’t been on their third warning, I would have reacted the same way, which was to storm in like the wrath of God.
“That’s it, guys. We’re closed. Everyone out.”
Could I have been nicer? Maybe. Probably. But I’m both new and a pretty small woman, and the last thing I want right now is to establish a pattern where they think they can take advantage of me. There are things I’m learning I can be lenient about, and things I feel like I can’t.
Up to that point, I had been comfortable letting one of the more experienced librarians handle the disciplinary action, with the justification that watching how it worked would give me the feel for what the limits are, were we can stretch the rules, and what the dealbreakers are. Saturday was my first practical lesson in the fact that in order to develop my relationship with these kids, and establish what limits I can let them push me to, I have to be more active in telling them what’s not acceptable (and praising them for what is).
I promise my job actually rules, and I love most of it a whole lot. Next time, I’ll tell you about my first storytime with the babies to prove it.
Reading: Ender’s Game
Playing: Pokemon X
Watching: New Girl, Sleepy Hollow