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Roaring Back from Rejection: Managing the Peaks and Valleys of Your Library Career

by on April 28, 2016

In her blog post, “Getting rejected in the library world. What now?” on ACRLog, Quetzalli Barrientos writes about her rejection in academic publishing. The feedback: “This draft would not be publishable as a scholarly article. It is really a rambling excessively personal recollection of various experiences, without a clear thesis or focus.”[1] She describes feeling “crushed, sad, lost, and many other things,”[2] before she decided to keep moving, taking pride in new accomplishments, and sharing about her journey.

During my two decades in public libraries, I’ve had a few dark valleys—failures, rejections, malaise—in the midst of many more soaring triumphs. I experienced a particularly dark valley some years ago. I found myself worn down and not sure of the next path to take in my career.

Barrientos’ advice mirrored my journey back from that valley to my personal peak:

  1. Take some time for yourself and let it sink in.
    Once I recognized I’d slipped deeply into a valley, I called my mother and my mentor, in that order. Then I knitted an infinity scarf for my mentor. I gave that scarf all I had—all my thoughts, pain, and worries. When I cast off, the scarf dragged the floor! I had to knit her another.
  2. Read Brianna Marshall’s blog postWe need to share our rejections.”[3]
    I’d read inspirational works like Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. I had not read Brianna Marshall’s blog before this assignment; her rejection was for a dream job. Like Barrientos and me, Marshall experienced a low point but is now back on top. I like the way she described her peak: “I love my challenging, bewildering, and slightly mysterious job.”[4]
  3. Once you feel a little better, make a list of goals, both short and long term. What do you want to accomplish this period? Who can help you? How can you do it?
    My goals: recharge, refresh, and roar back to the top!

My first goal was to recharge in the profession. First I accompanied a colleague to an ALA Midwinter Meeting. Although I was not on a single committee, I shook a lot of hands and met new people, learned a great deal of new practices, and had an absolute blast.

Next, I wanted to get more involved, grow my professional network, and refresh my knowledge. I got on committees with ALA and PLA, attended the ALA Leadership Institute and the PLA Results Boot Camp, blogged for PL Online, got elected to the board of the DC Library Association, got more involved with the Virginia Library Association, and so much more.

I looked beyond my personal valley to help others. I mentored and coached staff, friends, and new librarians. After I won a board election against an opponent, I invited her to join the committee. I have given others challenging work on committees followed by ample praise, a reference on LinkedIn, and opportunities to shine. I’m leading an upcoming webinar on tips for new managers.

One day during my journey, a kind, funny librarian I’d met in a preconference and talked with briefly at a state conference mixer said, “You! I want you on the _____ Committee!” I didn’t know then that she was the incoming president of the association, and she didn’t know that the offer she extended was just the hand I needed to pull me that last few steps out of that dark valley. I love it up here on this peak in the clouds. Like Barrientos and Marshall, I’ve found acceptance, opportunities, learning, and exciting challenges at work, through professional associations, and in life—a way out of a valley.

Finally, I haven’t knitted any extra-long infinity scarves in a long, long while!


[1] Quetzalli Barrientos, “Getting rejected in the library world. What now?ACRLog, February 15, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Brianna Marshall, “We need to share our rejections,” Brianna Marshall [blog], October 13, 2014.

[4] Ibid.

Further Reading:

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, New York: Avery, 2012.

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