Caution - Rut in the Road

Even the most committed youth staffer runs into stale times in creative-land.  Burn-out can happen after a long string of successes.  It can hit when you're working in a non-supportive library. It can leap at you when your energy reserves are just plain low. It can descend on you when you feel isolated in a one- or two-person library. It can sneak up on you for no reason you can think of.  What do you do?

For me, staying fresh and involved is a basic part of what makes work fun for me - and keeps me out of a rut.  I need something new - a new way to create efficiencies; a new way to reach out to kids; a new conversation with a youth colleague (whether they are old friends or new acquaintances); a new thing to learn; a new program; a new approach....a "new"!

I have been roundly chastised by some for that changeability and malleabilty.  Working with me can be a crazy experience...perhaps it can be compared to trying to walk on quicksand or through a temblor. Verrrry tricky.  If stability and an even keel is what you're looking for, I am not the co-worker for you. But change keeps me fresh.

Short of driving co-workers insane, though, what can you do to stay out of a rut? There are lots of great ways to get inspired when inspiration seems out of reach. It can be as simple as looking for a new blog to inspire you (check out the ALSC blog -it has reinvigorated itself and is chock-full of ideas or Keeping Up with Kids); joining a listserv like PUBYAC or getting in touch with a colleague near or far to pick their brain. With email, IM, Skype and Facebook, everyone is close. Or check out the #libchat on Twitter Wednesday evenings (7-8:30pm Central time). Ideas will flow and something might sparkle for you. That's where I got turned on to a great post by Meredith Farkas of Information Wants to be Free that addresses ways to stay bright and involved when you work with, well, slackers.

Heading to system level workshops, continuing education and conferences are other fan-tab-ulous ways to get re-invigorated.  And its not just the content of the sessions that can do it.  Time spent talking to people next to you at lunch, in the hallway, before and after the program can introduce you to new folks who love to share ideas and work they are doing.  I never leave these sessions without bumping into strangers and friends who have something new in youth services to chat about. I can't help thinking, "Wow!  I have to try that!"

Chatting with your community members, family and school and organizational colleagues is another amazing way to stay fresh and check for ideas. Even if you can't implement all the suggestions, it gives you direction on where you might want to go and can start the creative juices flowing. 

And if you don't have a mentor, reach out.  It doesn't always need to be an ancient crone paired with a sweet young thing relationship.  You can create a compadre relationship too. Find that idea generator; that enthusiast and that committed youth librarian and partner up to share ideas and creativity.  They can inspire you and you can inspire them.  I think all my best mentor/protege/compadre (yep, been all three) relationships have been give and take from both parties that enriched our work equally.

Ruts are out there to get stale in....but with enthusiastic delving into what's new and what works, each day can be a powerful one with smooth driving and even a challenging hill or two to keep things fun!


  1. Thank you, Marge.....I really needed this today!Without change, one can become routinized very easily.Embrace change!

  2. I hope this doesn't come across as way too self-serving but participating in Flannel Friday (http://pinterest.com/flannelfriday/) has really done wonders for my morale.

    And since I don't have any other youth librarians in my building (or library system for that matter), it has helped me grow a network.

  3. Anne, Flannel Friday has been a great networking tool and glad you dropped by Tiny Tips to mention it! The more we know....

  4. It was a total pleasure and delight to be your co-worker! I still miss you everyday! I loved the iron sharpens iron creativity we enjoyed.