Can I panic yet? 2017 in review

It’s that time of year when all good librarians start reflecting on the year that was. What did you learn, what are your highlights etc etc. So here’s mine.

Koha
One of the main reasons I took the contract job was to be part of the Koha project team. It was a unique opportunity and it might be the only chance to ever do this in my career. I could write a whole post about the experience but here are the main things.
-Trying to test a library management system while also trying to train people is chaotic and stressful.
-Having worked with lots of different LMSs and people was a huge benefit during this process. I was able to think from a users perspective about how staff interact with LMSs. I did quite well at testing and now know more about how LMSs work and what staff want when being trained.
-Projects like this show both strengths and weaknesses in teams and leaders. I showed good leadership and teamwork during the project. I was supportive, put in the hard yards, and tried to be helpful because I believed in it and wanted it to be successful. I hope I helped them achieve this.
-I don’t think I’d choose Koha myself. It’s super easy to use and a good LMS but there are a few things that stop it being a truly viable alternative for risk adverse public libraries.

I’m not sure I thrived in the work environment. 
I lost a lot of confidence in myself and abilities this year. I’ve written before how intimidating it is being the only woman on the tech team when your skills are people and problem solving rather than hardware and systems. Joining a well established team, and feeling like you can get no traction when you try advocating for things that you feel would improve your services to the community all contributed. That said my branch crew were amazing people; funny and supportive, I hope I contributed something positive to them because they did to me.

Librarianship is a job
I’m not a librarian, I mean I am but it’s what I do to make money so I can do all the other things that make me me. Librarianship is just a job. A job I want to be good at but nonetheless a business in which I am a commodity. This is a hard lesson to learn but ultimately a helpful one to understand. Why? Because it puts it all in perspective. Recent events have driven this home and in the future I’ll direct efforts to what is truly of value. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up or won’t put in 100%, it just means I’m not spending every waking minute thinking or engaging with my job or the industry – for one thing this leads to burnout, and leaves no space for other things that help make me a better librarian.

I have no regrets about this year
Who ever lives life with no regrets? So of course I have some. But my regrets are not the decisions I made, inexplicable as they are to people. I’m glad I stayed for Koha. Yep, I risked it all and lost. We are all wise in hindsight. Other people would have played it differently, I was authentically me. Sure being 40 way too trusting, passionate and naive is a character flaw of epic proportions but at this age not one I have the energy to change. Being a person who wears their heart on their sleeve means I’m going to get burnt – that’s life. Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

I spent way too much of this year worrying
Mental and physical health wise this wasn’t a great year. I spent most of it anxious about what would happen with my job and career. Turns out, worrying about it didn’t stop it from going very badly wrong anyway – I know right, who knew – and instead just robbed me of my happiness. If I have a regret about this year, it’s that I did this and as much as I tried I couldn’t make it stop. There were times when I wished I could rip my brain out but alas this is not yet an option. Whatever happens in the future I need to work on this in particular, it’s exhausting having an argument with your own brain everyday.

Some quick fire lessons to finish
-Don’t gossip – no really. Yes everyone else is doing it but it’s not cool to either be doing it or on the end of it.
-In an industry that mostly employs women, men still have privilege. Yes it does totally suck.
-Being sworn and yelled should never be treated as a normal day at the office.
-I’m strong and resilient, also I have no fear when jumping in between women who are having a punch on.
-I regularly need to seek meaningful feedback, for career development and growth (more on this soon).
-No woman is ever a failure who has friends or family or a support network who cares.
-In the end nothing matters except how kind you were to other people. If you did that as best you could then you have had a great year.

Looking for a light switch – an advent reflection

We are in the season of advent, a period of darkness and waiting before the light and hope that comes from the birth of Jesus.

Right now, I am in my own season of darkness, season of waiting. A job I’ve been doing for 18 or so months… I didn’t get it when it came up permanently.

This is a terrible place to be and not just because I’m 40 years old, have a mortgage and I’m facing unemployment at Christmas. I’m angry, hurt, humiliated, bewildered.

There’s been much ugly crying. It’s feels like both a blessing and a curse to be an adult with commitments when all you want to do is crawl into bed and stay there.

Mostly though I’m just really sad at the loss of everything I hoped for. And now in almost no time at all having to say goodbye to friends and colleagues.

There’s no one to blame for this but myself. I did the best I could but not well enough. And while we could talk about the unfairness of it all, in the end no good will come from that. All I can do is take the hit, learn the lessons and make sure it never happens again.

The initial shock has worn off now and in between the moments of sheer panic, I’m trying to be philosophical. As a friend described this situation to me as God pulling the portcullis down and saying your life is going in a different direction. That’s great I’m really looking forward to that, but did he have to deliver the message with a blunt spoon?

But Advent just isn’t a period of waiting in the darkness. It’s about searching and hoping and looking for the light, it’s about waiting well and waiting wisely (to quote my vicar). I’m trying to do that.

And in having the worst happen, I’ve found a quiet peace, a determination to look forward, to reassess and find the light switch. I have absolutely no idea where it is but I’m hoping and trusting that I’ll find it when I need too.

All this year as I’ve been learning meditative prayer and I’ve been increasingly frustrated that it feels like it is making things worse not better.  In facing this failure, I see that it has changed me. This time, rather than be bitter, defeated and thinking how useless I am at everything, I’m actively choosing compassion for myself and others.

I’m fortunate that friends, family, colleagues and my amazing network have reminded me frequently that this loss doesn’t reflect on my abilities. And these people whom I love have provided words of consolation and unconditional support. My community are actively praying, hoping and helping me look for the light switch and for this I am blessed.

Despite how this has ended, I mostly have no regrets about the decisions I made along the way. I acted true to myself and I gave it my all. Who could ever ask for anything else? Sure I’ll be more circumspect in the future but I still got to do amazing things this year and for that I’m truly thankful.

So while this isn’t the ending I wanted, maybe it’s the ending I needed. And the light that shines faintly in the distance… I put one foot in front of the other until it’s close.