Chit Chat

Reflecting on Burnout

Sometime during the last month, while working on the section on the much-over-due book, a light clicked for me – I am experiencing burnout. There are many factors that contribute to burnout that result from poor policies, management, and working conditions. I can honestly say that most of what led me to burnout were my own choices. But those choices are tied to larger issues in our profession. First, let me be clear, my team and office have some of the healthiest policies, practices, and expectations around work-life balance, self-care, flextime, etc. I have ever seen. The best of any place I have worked. I am a little proud of it as I helped to shape and write most of it.

My personality and commitment to the profession are how I ended up here. I have always been a person who sees something that needs to be done and does it if it is my power. Like everyone, my life changed in March of 2020. Between March and August 2020, I sewed and donated about a thousand masks to local hospitals, senior care facilities, child care centers, family, friends, and strangers. Plus so many personal changes and challenges.

Professionally, our performance year at work runs from May 1 to April 30. During that time, I hosted 13 guest speaker webinars focused on providing services during a pandemic and a variety of self-care topics, with registrations topping a thousand. I taught or co-taught six asynchronous moodle classes, including four instances of the Wellness in the Workplace class. I led the organization and hosting BLOSSOM in just three months. It had over 6,000 registrations, 3,000 live attendees. I did this because I believe in our profession, and I was very worried about what was happening to library staff. I had the ability to host free webinars and to offer honorariums to speakers. So I did. I am writing a book about wellness in the workplace. I believe in the importance of all the aspects of that. I care about libraries and library staff. I care a lot. I care too much sometimes. Like many of us. 

I know I did a lot of good last year, but I also know I cannot sustain that level of output or emotional involvement with my work. I am working on slowing down, accepting that things will take longer or not get done at all, and that is ok. I am working with my therapist to care less about work and make it less of who I am.

Small black and white dog sitting in a lap in a hammock chair looking at the camers

Stella hanging out in the hammock chair with me.

In the summer of 2018, I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course at the University. I have worked to be more thoughtful, reflective, and mindful about my decisions personally at professionally. Sometimes more successfully than others. Twitter tells me I have been using it for 14 years. I have been writing here for over 14 years. I have used Facebook professionally for as long as people my age were allowed on the app. Facebook memories recently reminded me that I have been talking about leaving Twitter for over five years. I have gotten so much out of the connections I made on social media over the years, but as I reflect on how I use my time and energy, it is time to start dialing things back. I am no longer interested in “doing all the things!” I remain on a Twitter break, perhaps indefinitely. I am reducing the time I spend on Facebook significantly. Fifteen years might be long enough to blog about library stuff. I don’t have the answers right now, but I am exploring. 

Take time to take care of yourself. Reclaim your time. Reclaim your energy.

Join the Fostering Wellness in the Library Workplace Facebook group for articles, discussions, and more related to creating a healthy work environment in libraries. Be sure to answer the questions and agree to group rules! 

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