Blue Ash - Sycamore Branch staff: Mrs. Sonia Bibbs (left) Library Assistant, Douglas Robinson, Corinne Hand (right) Children’s Librarian. Courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

The pandemic is exhausting.

Worrying about the health and safety of family and coworkers is exhausting.

Natural disasters, a nation coming to terms with centuries of racial disparity, and a Presidential campaign here in the United States are exhausting.

And yet the library world continues to provide service during this crazy year. Your library probably still did a summer reading program. You’re providing virtual programs. You support students and teachers as they navigate distance learning. You’re promoting books and offering reading recommendations.

The world throws hurdles at you, and your library responds.

Is it any wonder if you feel like you need a nap and a hot bath nearly every day?

Library marketers are expected to be energetic and enthusiastic. More than any other library staffer, you’re expected to have exciting and innovative ideas to promote all these major developments and service changes as well as the smaller services that everyday cardholders rely on.

And you’re expected to produce results, driving people to watch virtual programs, use your curbside pickup service, and follow all the rules for social distancing.

It’s only natural to feel burned out by the speed at which everything happens at your library. And when you get stressed, work stops being fun. The quality of your work suffers.

But your library and your community depend on you. So here are some tips to help you manage your work and avoid burnout.

Prioritize, stay completely focused on your goals, and say “no” to EVERYTHING else.  Humans are all weirdly programmed to say yes, to take on more, to squeeze as much out of life as we possibly can.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made!

But without space for creative thought, mistakes are going to happen. Your work won’t be what it could or should be. And that means your marketing will be less effective.

So, just like you weed your collection, you need to weed your promotions. This is especially true now, when your audience is suffering from content burnout because of the pandemic.

In my first year at a library, I said “yes” to everything. And nothing I did was any good.

When I realized I was doing too much, I set some ground rules for the goals I wanted my staff to focus on. I aligned these goals with my library’s strategic goals. They were:

  • A promotional tactic (like emails) had to produce a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage. If it didn’t, we stopped doing it.
  • A service had to be easy for the cardholder to use to get promotion. Databases are a good example. If a cardholder was required to sign into the library website with their card to get to the database landing page, and then had to create a separate account tied to their email to use the database, we didn’t promote that database.
  • We only did full marketing campaigns for paid presenters. Free presentations got a poster or flyer and a social media mention.
  • All promotional requests had to tie directly to the library’s overall strategy. If the branch or library staffer requesting promotion couldn’t demonstrate how the program or service moved the library’s overall goals forward, we didn’t promote it.

I know that sounds harsh. And some of those rules might not work for a smaller library or a different set of library leaders. That’s okay. Set your boundaries to work within your own system.

Weeding your marketing content will allow you to do a better job and be more creative with the promotions you have left. Evaluate your promotions twice a year to keep your marketing lean and reduce the stress on yourself and your co-workers.

The word “no”, while it may be very small, is liberating. It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

Define your workflow and make it the law of your marketing landscape. A defined workflow sounds like the opposite of a creative endeavor. But it ensures that a quality product is created in a timely and efficient manner. It creates space for you to think. And that’s incredibly important for anyone working in a library, especially right now.

There are two options: outward-facing workflow and team workflow. Choose the one that works best for you and your library.

Outward facing workflow means that you approach each job given to you by a senior leader or another library department or partner in the same way.

  • All marketing requests go through one person on your team, who acts as project manager.
  • That person is responsible for looking at the request and determining if it fits into the library’s overall strategic goals.
  • That person sets clear expectations and goals for each project and communicates a plan of action based on realistic timelines and due dates.

This is not to say that your team has no say in the work you do. But the ultimate decision rests with the project manager.

Team workflow is more collaborative.

  • All marketing requests are considered by the team.
  • The team looks at each request and decides what tactics will work, and whether they have the time to complete those tactics.
  • The team sets the goals and determines who will communicate due dates and expectations.

It may take some time to get a smooth workflow in place. Be patient with yourself and with others. Keep reinforcing your expectations. Eventually, your coworkers and supervisors will understand and appreciate your workflow, especially when they start to see results.

Be generous with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve happiness and effectiveness on the job. It bolsters self-confidence and inspires people to do their best work.

If you see a co-worker doing something well, say so, even if the job is small. A kind word can go a long way to boosting morale and creating energy. Don’t just say, “Well done.” Write out a note or an email praising specific actions or portions of work.

And, if you have a staff, give your employees unexpected breaks. When I was a library manager, I took my staff to lunch off-site. We had field trips to libraries outside of our system. Sometimes we had “reading time” where I would read them one chapter a day from a book we all chose together.

It might sound silly, but these little activities are energizing. They create bonds between co-workers. Staff return to work after these little breaks with enthusiasm for their work. And enthusiastic people do a better job… on the job.

You might also want to read these

Four Important Project Management Lessons You’ll Need to Survive the Next Year of Library Work

COVID-19 is STRESSFUL for Library Workers. Here Are Tips to Help You Feel Better.

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