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KEEP CALM AND LIBRARY ON: Avoiding Summer Burnout

by on July 24, 2015

Summertime can be pretty overwhelming in a public library, even if you don’t work in youth services. Thanks to an increase in unstructured time, the library becomes a popular place for students and their families. At my library, we also see an uptick in usage from residents who do not have school-age children and come in to stock up on books and media before heading off on vacation. While the rest of the world is getting the chance to relax, we’re kicking it into high gear in order to provide the best possible service for our patrons.

Although Summer Reading is an exciting, rewarding time for librarians, it can also be exhausting. When I worked in youth services, the end of the school year meant a transition from running four or five programs a week to upwards of three or four a day with only one extra set of hands to help me. My first summer running our SRP entirely by myself was incredibly gratifying – we saw three times the community participation than we had the year before – but when August hit, I was drained. When that happens, it’s easy to find yourself rethinking your commitment to the profession.

Since it is rarely an option to scale back on offerings for any age group during this time, what’s a librarian to do? Don’t despair; summer burnout is not a necessity! Here are some tips to coping:

  • Plan some time away from the library when SRP winds down. Even if it’s just a long weekend, knowing you’ll have time to recharge will serve as positive motivation throughout the summer. Can’t take time then? There were a few years when I took a trip two or three weeks before the summer craziness started. Even that allowed me to go into the busy season with a clearer mind.
  • Focus on what’s going right. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae or stress over an initiative gone poorly. Take a tip from Elsa and let it go, shifting your perspective to the good. I still have a thank you letter I received from one of our five year-old regulars at the end of last summer hanging in my office. Did you receive a compliment from a board member or elected official for one of your summer initiatives? Bask in that!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if your library does not have adequate staffing to help you with everything you have to do, enlisting a volunteer can help ease your workload. In my community, high school and college students are often looking for community service hours throughout the summer, and even some parents are willing to pitch in while their kids are at camp.
  • Don’t forget about your life outside work. Sure, you may be putting in more hours over the summer, but make time outside the office every day to do something you enjoy. For me, it’s getting up a little earlier to run. Set aside time after work to unwind with friends and family.

What are your favorite tips for avoiding the summer burnout?

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