I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’m feeling pretty darn exhausted right now. Happily, as of this minute I’m on vacation (yay!), so I have big plans for doing a whole lot of nothing this coming week. By necessity this will be mixed in with a whole lot of studying for grad school – I have a big research project due on April 27 (presentation) and May 3 (paper) – but it feels like a gift to be able to focus my mental energy on One Big Thing for a week rather than the crazy mental multi-tasking that I’ve been doing regularly for two years.
I think that the challenge has been that I’ve not been able to settle down and run in auto-pilot at all since the pandemic began. There has been constant rejiggering of everything to do with my job over the last two years, from policy decisions (when to start indoor storytimes?) to publicity reboots (time to write a new description for storytime logistics again!) to how to handle patron interactions (can we be up-close-and-personal today, or do we need to keep our distance?), to which programs to offer and when. Usually in my job there are certain aspects that can counted on, and for those aspects it’s been about maintenance. For instance, for years I’ve had a weekly Game Hour program on Thursday afternoons. The only challenge with that program was making sure that I had enough teen volunteers to run it, but honestly I’ve always had so many awesome teen volunteers that it was easy to run Game Hour week after week with minimal mental effort on my part. The program description stayed the same from one week to the next, it was easy to maintain communication with the volunteers, and occasional blurbs to the elementary school newsletter guaranteed that we always had the right number of attendees. Game Hour was a great high yield, low effort program which served the community in multiple ways.
So the usual way of doing things, pre-pandemic, was to have the ongoing programs that were well-established and only required maintenance, and then my creative energies could be spent on innovation and expansion of programs and services. It’s a great model for providing continuing services that are successful while always looking ahead to the next great thing that we can provide to our patrons. And it’s incredibly energizing and exciting for me to be able to always innovate and be creative.
During the pandemic, though, there hasn’t been anything that can be taken for granted: I’ve had to constantly reevaluate how our programming is provided and also which programming is provided. And with that constant reevaluation is constant rewriting of the language used to describe programs in our calendar, newsletter, website, social media, and emails sent to patrons. Frankly, this is exhausting and also emotionally draining. I’m so sick of not being able to provide programming in the way we used to, and I really really really miss being able to push our service provision in new and interesting directions. Additionally, all of this constant rejiggering has left little mental energy for me to devote to graduate school, which just makes me very sad. I love being in school, and I love studying and expanding my educational horizons, but it’s really hard to take full advantage of these (very expensive) classes at Simmons when I arrive home completely pooped at the end of each day. Ugh.
I know I’m not the only LIS professional who is feeling this way, and from the number of new jobs being posted daily on the MBLC website it feels like a lot of LIS professionals are burnt out and leaving the profession. I also know that it’s not just LIS professionals who are reaching their limit – clearly other professions are experiencing the same kind of employee burnout and exodus. Maybe the solution is for all of us to take a nice long vacation? Or to give each other and ourselves a big helping of grace and understanding? I have faith that we can all get through this, but I also think that we need to acknowledge the reality of how tough these two years have been and to support each other unequivocally.
Meanwhile, it’s time for the first nap of my vacation…