01 February 2012

You're Not as Important as You Think You Are

Lately, I've been learning (or trying to learn) to not take myself too seriously. This is particularly challenging for first-born, introverted, perfectionist me. But I am trying to learn to get outside my comfort zone and to try new things. Yes, I live in Africa. And, yes, there are many new things but it's still too easy to stay in my comfort zone, even here. I want to remember that living a better story means getting outside my day-to-day, comfortable habits and routines. I don't want to take myself so seriously that I think I can only be comfortable in certain situations or with certain people. I want to learn to laugh at myself and to learn from my mistakes. 
I have a long way to go.
And I'm realizing this ability also relates to my library work. Especially in a small library. I've worked in libraries for 12+ years. I've held a variety of positions and I am so thankful to the staff I have worked with in all libraries...they have taught me so much. And I am thankful for all those experiences because they prepared me for my current position.
But as a professional librarian I don't want to take myself too seriously. It would be easy to say, "Sorry I have a Master's degree I can't do ______" or "That's not my job" or "Librarians in the US don't do that". Many of my daily tasks are not necessarily things that 'professional' librarians in the US do. Although maybe I shouldn't say that since I want to be careful of sweeping generalizations. But the reality is many of my librarian friends in the US work in libraries that have teams of people to do what I do with one other person. So I'm learning again and again that having a certain degree doesn't make you exempt from certain tasks. 
[Confession: one of my biggest pet peeves when I was working in libraries pre-masters degree was when professional librarians had little understanding of the library outside their own position and therefore wouldn't (couldn't?) help with things that were outside their job descriptions. Yes, sometimes in a larger library that's just the way it goes, but shouldn't we all at least understand the basics of how a library works?]
There are some days when I'm cleaning up gecko poop and loads of red dust with toilet paper (because that's all we have to clean with) or chasing chickens out of the library and I wonder why on Earth I am here. I wonder if librarians in the US know how lucky they are. But then I am reminded it is these types of experiences that: 1. make good stories and 2. teach me both humility and that the world does not revolve around me
Who am I not to do those things? Am I so important I can't do what needs to be done? My title doesn't make me extra-important or exempt me from doing the work that needs to be done.
Really, it is in the small things that I learn the most about myself and about librarianship. I wear many hats: Reference/Instruction Librarian, Cataloger, Circulation Librarian, Book Processor, Janitor, Teacher, Network Administrator, Children's Librarian. And if I am willing to try something new, I am stretched to go beyond what I think I am capable of. I see a bigger picture. I learn how an entire library works and I see how all the pieces fit together.
In life, if I'm not prideful about my accomplishments and am willing to learn new things, I become a better, more well-rounded person. In the library, I become a better librarian. 

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