A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Stressed Out At The Library

by on March 18, 2013

Working with the public on a daily basis can be draining. Whether you work in an urban or rural area, high or low income, each area presents its challenges. When you attend conferences, sessions are presented on burnout and time management. Webinars are offered on compassion fatigue. You may hear coworkers lament being every patron’s personal counselor. In a world with looming budget cuts, hiring freezes, and being asked to do more with less, not to mention any personal commitments, managing stress is an essential to enjoying your job.

A Google search for “stress management” brought back over 99 million results one day; the next it was over 100 million. (I’d like to know what happened that night.) I feel stressed just thinking about that many websites to look through! In an article on the Reader’s Digest website, Michael Castleman covered 37 ways you can manage stress.[i] If you want even more, check out the Mayo Clinic.[ii] They provide quite a bit of information on this topic, including an assessment on stress level. With such a wide array of information, hopefully everyone can find something to incorporate in his/her life.

Luckily, you don’t have to read all 100 million Google hits. A few techniques seem to show up regularly. Things like, exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are standards on just about any stress relief list. One of my favorite suggestions from Castleman’s list is having someone to discuss things with.[iii] I, personally, have found that a sympathetic ear and a sounding board for tough situations are essential to getting through stressful situations. Even as I’ve become more confident in my position, I still often talk to one of my coworkers to make sure that how I plan on handling an issue sounds appropriate and maybe vent a bit at the same time. Having the ability to let go of some of the frustration helps make your interactions with others calmer and more fruitful.

One technique that didn’t come up in Castleman’s list is a little escapism. Now, I’ve known library employees who didn’t like to read, but I know far more who do. Sometimes it’s nice to pick up a book (or load one on your MP3 player or eReader) and jump into a different world. The great thing about reading is you can combine it with some of the other relaxation techniques, like exercise. I love getting an eAudiobook on my phone and listening to it while using the elliptical machine at the gym or during a walk on my lunch break. For some other library stress related tools, you can check out some archived webinars from InfoPeople or WebJunction.

Stress is not always a bad thing. I have found that some of my best work comes out when I have a bit of pressure. Many people need stress to provide the incentive to accomplish a task.  Hello, procrastination. Just make sure you are not allowing stress to rule your life. Remember that while some things are truly important, the bulk of the decisions you make throughout the day will not have a life or death consequence.

If you have some other great stress relief ideas, please share them in the comments!

[i] Castleman, Michael. “37 Stress Management Tips from the Experts.” Reader’s Digest. n.d. http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/37-stress-management-tips/ (accessed March 13, 2013).


[ii]  Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress management.” Mayo Clinic. March 19, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435 (accessed March 13, 2013).


[iii] Castleman, Michael. “37 Stress Management Tips from the Experts.” Reader’s Digest. n.d. http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/37-stress-management-tips/ (accessed March 13, 2013).