Welcome back to Better Library Leaders! It’s been a long gap, partially because of the holidays, but also because I have been working hard on a course I’m teaching this month on Collaborative leadership for Library Juice academy. We had a large class sign up to work together to design collaborative project plans that they can take back to their own workplaces. Don’t tell, but I’m learning as much from them as they are from me. Our interview this episode, after fighting through a few technical hiccups, is with Ellen Mehling of Library Career People, my absolute favorite resource for folks considering a career in libraries, searching for that elusive first job, or preparing to make the jump to a leadership position. And in our spotlight segment, we’re going to talk about burnout as a leader. Because that’s been part of the reason for this gap too. But first, here’s my conversation with Ellen Mehling!
Toward the end of last year, I burnt out. It’s that simple. I finished my PhD, started a new blog AND a podcast, dealt with some major work projects, my for-fun project podcasting about the Monkees was subsumed by their 50th anniversary and unexpected joint activities with the band’s record label to support their new album and world tour, My husband took a new job, we had a budget crisis at work, I was offered a chance to teach my first leadership course, I was serving as president of the Oklahoma chapter of ACRL and I think there might have been a presidential election in there too.
Not long after I posted my last episode in early November I finally crashed. I found myself wanting to vomit at the mere concept of doing anything more productive with my evenings than play Civilization 6. I quit the website I had joined to teach me how to turn better Library Leaders into an internet business empire because I was realizing I didn’t actually WANT an internet business empire—at least not at the cost of such a deep burnout that I spent most of Christmas Day trying not to randomly burst into tears from sheer exhaustion in front of my relatives. So for the first time in about 5 years, unless it was something that made me healthier, happier, or that I was already contractually obligated to do, I did…nothing. For about 2 months. It was glorious.
I’m emerging slowly, first by taking care of a lot of self-care stuff I’ve let slide, then on to projects that bring me joy, and some serious but low pressure thinking about what a “good life” looks like post PhD. finally, in the last week or so, I’ve started to think about Better Library Leaders again. If I hadn’t already had Ellen’s interview in the can, I might have just quietly shut it down, but I felt an obligation to get it out there. I’d love to say that I have a definite plan either to keep it going or to wrap it up, but I’m a bit ambivalent. I like doing this project, but there are only 24 hours in the day. Some things in my life have ended or calmed down, others seem to be going just as strong or will need more attention. I’m also considering taking on some volunteer political work at the local level, which is something that wasn’t even on my radar 3 months ago. I’m going to pay close attention to my stress levels during my course with Library Juice Academy since it’s sort of a trial run of what had been my long-term plan for Better Library Leaders, then make some decisions in March about whether Better Library Leaders is a Hobby I pursue when the mood strikes, the type of revenue source that the gurus like to call a “side hustle”, or an experiment that’s run its course. March is actually the one year anniversary of when I started the website, and seems like a good time to take stock. The biggest lesson I’ve learned since I started this project is that you can only be a good leader if you take care of yourself, and like it or not, that has to come first for me.
Whatever I decide, you’ll learn about it here. I debated whether or not I should be this honest about things with you all, but you’ve probably figured out that’s really the only way I know how to be. My goal with BLL has always been to serve my fellow librarians and library leaders, but keeping my efforts sustainable over time is also an important part of that purpose. And when librarians lead with purpose—sustainably—we can never become obsolete.