For example, she acts as volunteer coordinator and she's been struggling with a teen who she thinks might have a learning disability or other developmental issue. She has trouble walking the line between giving her things she is capable of doing while not making her feel like she gets the boring jobs compared to the other volunteers, and this girl wants a lot more attention and supervision than my coworker is really able to give. I'm sure most public librarians have dealt with something similar.
My coworker comes from a teaching background and she's not used to the more informal environment of the library where no one is obligated to disclose stuff like learning disabilities, and where you can't make rules for kids the way you do in school. She's also stressed out because she's afraid she will be blamed for the volunteer having a bad experience, despite the fact that she has been told she must accept all 'applicants' who want to volunteer at the library, so it's not like she can decide that this girl isn't a good fit and let her know that we don't have something for her.
It's a little bit horrifying to watch someone go through all the same things I did when I started and not to have much to say other than "This is a pervasive problem in public libraries, so you either need to learn how to cope with it or decide that this career isn't for you." She did say that she would like the library to send her to a class on working with teens with disabilities, which I think is a great idea, but she has to take the step of asking for that from our hands-off manager, and being insistent if the manager brushes her off.
I was frustrated for a while, I gave her the best advice I could, and I have also made this list of things that a new librarian should be if he or she wants to stay sane and be successful:
- You must be willing to advocate for yourself
- You must be able to accept emotionally that lots of things are outside of your control
- You must be willing to do things that you don't feel well-prepared for
Pretty much a standard list for any job, probably. Are there other contenders for the top three that you would add?
By the way, one of the best pieces of job advice I have ever received was from a coworker who remarked to someone who was reluctant to take a sick day: "We're not running a hospital here. No one is going to die if things go wrong."