I Am Not Rapunzel: Breaking Out of Your Library Ivory Tower

It is time to escape! Librarians need to realize that you can’t be a librarian all the time. What do I mean? How I can talk about the profession in that way? Librarianship is a calling and all of those other statements that we are guilty of when talking about our work. Yet, the longer I have been a library director the more I have realized that being “the librarian” can be isolating and dangerous to not only your survival but your library’s survival. Too often we think of ourselves as librarians first. Why wouldn’t we? After all, it is the reason that we went to graduate school. However, it is not how our employers necessarily see us. I work for a county government. While I run their library system, a librarian is not what they think of when they look at me. To them I am just another county department head. One of many that should be taking care of my department and contributing to the county’s forward progress.

I didn’t suddenly, magically figure out that I was supposed to be a department head first, then a library director. It evolved over the years. I work for a small, rural county. There are not a lot of department heads but there is plenty of work that has to be done. I was green as Kermit the Frog when I became a library director for the county. I didn’t have a lot of experience working for a government entity and the way I have always combated my ignorance on subjects was to dive into as much information that I could get my hands on. This led to a lot of saying yes to things that even Jim Carrey in that movie we all have seen (but wouldn’t admit to) would have turned down. As a result, I ended up on committees and workgroups that I had no clue about. I was definitely not the most knowledgeable at those tables but I learned a lot. As time passed, I continued on my way attempting to educate myself on how the county operated.

Then one random board of county commission workshop (meetings are for voting, the real action is always at the workshop!) as I was sitting in the audience listening to my commissioners discuss the latest county business, I had an epiphany! In actuality, it was really just a question by a commissioner. I was asked about the status of a grant construction project. I answered the question, the workshop continued, and then 3 days later the lightbulb came on. That question had nothing to do with libraries and everything to do with being a county department head that wasn’t living in a library ivory tower. So today, I challenge you to break out and be more than just “the librarian.” After all this isn’t a fairy tale and I am not Rapunzel!

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