Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mess Up

I messed up.

I've been working at the library for the last four and a half years. Not gonna lie: I'm surprised they hired me. I felt like I was getting away with something in a sense. Like I managed to fake it just long enough that they no longer thought to ask questions. I'm surprised they hired me, and I'm surprised it took this long for them to find out I'm not professional, and I don't aspire to a career in this field, and really I'm an immature little brat who's more interested in flexibility/freedom and emotional happiness than in higher pay, longer hours, and so-called "benefits."

I thought maybe the blue hair might have tipped them off, but then that's only been the last six months.

Okay, so here's what happened. Now that a little of the dust has settled I have more clarity than I have for a while now.

My coworker left for a different position in local county government, leaving her Reference position vacant. Like I mentioned before, it involves longer shifts, it offers a retirement plan and the accrual of paid vacation hours, and it is still in my branch, a place I know well and would be reluctant to leave. Taking this position seemed to solve a lot of problems. First, more money. Great. I can pay off debts faster, and not have to worry about not running the A/C or stretching groceries for another week just to make sure I can pay rent. Second, every other person who does teen programming in our library system is a Reference person. It's always caused a little trouble that I've been technically a children's person but not really doing any children's programming. So by taking myself out of children's I'd be easing that issue completely. Third, everybody kept telling me I should do this. The coworker herself told me she hoped I'd apply. People from other branches texted or emailed to recommend I do it. It's a step up the career ladder. It'll be good for you, they said.

So I did it. I interviewed.

The interview went terribly... which is interesting, because the last two interviews I've done have gone really well. When I want the position, I feel confident, engaged, and even if my mind goes blank on an answer I can laugh it off and not give into nerves. But with this one I was a mess. I was nervous, stumbling, saying all the things I thought they'd want to hear, and at the very end when they gave me an exercise to do, I burst into tears.

I got it anyway. Go figure. And instead of taking time to weigh my options, I just immediately accepted. It all made sense on paper. It didn't matter that I felt a great unease at the thought of this new position; that was surely just me being fearful about change. I'd get used to it in time.

I didn't. The first week I was just at the home branch covering in children's and working up in circulation. It was overwhelming, and I hadn't even gotten to the new stuff yet. And then some really horrible, crushing news: while my "benefits" give me paid time off, this vacation time accrues at a rate of 6 hours each month. Since my average work day now is 8 hours, that's not even a day a month! I would have to wait 4 months to get three days off. Well, fine, whatever. I don't care about getting paid for time off. But here's the kicker: in this new position, unpaid time off is limited to SEVEN DAYS A YEAR. ONE FREAKING WEEK. THAT'S ALL. Before the change in position, I had already asked for 5 days off for the funeral, and 5 days for Salem in September. My branch manager was being really nice and trying to make this work for me, but you know what? I couldn't get the ringing in my ears to stop. I thought my brain might be melting and oozing out of my ears. SEVEN FREAKING DAYS. A YEAR. A WHOLE YEAR. Any shitty retail job will give you more than that. I was livid. I was so fucking angry. And that anger fortunately manifested itself in tears instead of swearing, because if I hadn't burst into sobs I definitely would have said something that would have gotten me fired. Seven days. Gaaaaaaaaaah. I knew right then that if I stayed in this position, I'd be gone from the library within a year. There's no way I'm missing the Europe trip next year, or cutting it short to fit these ridiculous guidelines. So yeah, that was roadblock #1.

The second week I started training at the main branch, and the first day went okay. It was all really boring, to be honest, but nothing too difficult to grasp. I could do this, surely, given time. I would be able to function as a reference librarian. But the second day I went in to do my reference interview training and halfway through I again burst into tears.

Are you sensing a pattern? I cried in the interview. I cried upon finding out about the limitations to my days off. I cried when being given important reference training.

The woman giving me the training was very kind. I explained I was likely just overly-emotional with my grandmother's funeral on the immediate horizon. I didn't even think about how the last week of summer reading is already just a stressful time in and of itself. And then of course all these changes.

The problem was, once I started crying I couldn't stop. We rescheduled the second half of the training, and I was sent to the back room to work on some database test questions. But people kept popping in to check that I was okay, and every time a new person asked I would start up again. Finally, the head of reference called me to her office and sent me home. Before she did, she told me to think long and hard about whether I really wanted this position, and to report to my home branch the next day instead of to the main branch for training as planned. I was to tell my branch manager my decision.

So I did. I told him that I wanted my old job back if that was still possible. He's checking with our library director, and with human resources at the county government center. I still don't know where all this stands.

Reasons I would be willing to give up more money and more respect and to make myself look like a fool in front of everyone I work with: because the only reason I have stayed at this job as long as I have is because of people and books. The people part is mostly programming, but also all the regulars that come in to the children's section, the folks that need help with book suggestions or finding pictures to go with a report they've written for school, that kind of thing. The books means what's inside the covers. It means talking about books, thinking about books, recommending books. Books as more than objects or statistics. In my new position, well - I'll be honest. The kinds of people I'd have to help wouldn't be nearly as cute or fun. If I ever talked about books, it would be reference texts, and not necessarily as a recommended pleasurable pastime but as a means to an end.

I realized too late that the pride I feel at getting to say I'm a librarian actually stems from getting to say I'm a children's librarian. If I've messed it up and can't do that anymore, maybe it's just time I moved on to something entirely new...

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