It’s been over a year now that I’ve been in the role of an Adult Services Librarian at the Auburn Library in the King County Library System. I’ve had the chance to learn so much, do so much, and grow so much in this job.
When I initially took this position in 2019, I was slated to be here until mid-September 2020. Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and library building closures, my end date was bumped to the beginning of January. This January end date is happening – I’ve been talking to my old manager and making arrangements for the transition to returning to circulation working as a technical assistant. Which means I’m coming to the end of this adventure.
Preparing for this upcoming change been difficult emotionally for me for a few distinct reasons.
- I always knew this position was temporary – but, to be honest, my hope was to hop from this job to another librarian position. This year I’ve spent as a librarian has cemented that this is the career that I want. My job history is filled with jobs I’ve been over-qualified for, jobs where I ended up bored and bumping up against a ceiling on what I was there to do. Returning to work in circulation is returning to a job with a ceiling, while librarian work allows so much freedom. I’m mourning the coming loss of that freedom. Librarian jobs at the moment are in very short supply; due to the pandemic, libraries in my area are not hiring since physical buildings are still closed to the public and budgets uncertain due to the economic downturn.
- I will miss the colleagues I’ve come to know over the past year. I have learned so much from them and feel respected by them when even I question myself. I feel incredibly lucky that this has been the team with which I started building librarian experience and will profoundly miss the mix of personalities, humor, and honesty when I leave.
- On a very personal note, I have larger emotional issues perceiving my inadequacies being linked to abandonment. Past experiences, including my experience coming out in a conservative religious environment, have reinforced the unfortunate messaging that I am to blame (through my flaws) for losing community and support systems. Thanks to therapy, I am aware of this subconscious toxic messaging and know there is no truth in it, that being queer doesn’t justify the treatment I received from my church leaders or my family. But the part of the brain that finds patterns can’t help but point at this new “loss” in a “I told ya so, you must not have been good enough again” sort of way. Stupid emotional brain.
To help me cope with all the messy feels, Katie has helped me reframe this transition as not a backwards step, but a side step. A slight detour while still en route. I’m trying to focus on that approach and keep some optimism for the future. One thing I can say for certain is that I have not wasted this year as a librarian – I have tried so many things, learned so many things, and had a hand in helping build so many things.
Here’s an overview of what I’ve done while I’ve been here (spoiler, it’s LONG):
End of December/early January: got to know the city of Auburn to complete the first project I was assigned – hunting down publicly accessible phones. I met with a city representative who organizes social services information and she was actually eager to hear what I learned as well, since she wasn’t aware of any public phones! I found websites and followed where they indicated phones were available, talking to staff and learning most had been dismantled or changes in policy had made unavailable. When I finally hunted down actually accessible phones (there were two!), I then put together a basic map of the city with essentials like the food bank and publically accessible phones highlighted with addresses. The Auburn Library started distributing these maps as a way to pass this information along.
I took over the Auburn book group, which was a small group of elderly women who met once a month with the adult services librarian I was replacing. I really enjoyed the few times I got to meet with these ladies.
Mid January/mid February: After attending a community roundtable, I learned (along with most of the rest of the room) that the county was going to open the application lottery process for housing assistance this year – the first time in 2 years. I scrambled to learn all I could about the application (attending trainings, reading online, etc.), what information was required, and then put together my own workshop to offer assistance to those in the community who needed help or had questions. I got some interesting reactions from colleagues when I pulled this together – some seemed really skeptical it would be successful and thought I had bit off more than I could chew, others seemed excited for the way I was digging in to the job. The workshop ended up being incredibly successful – over 20 people attending in person, which is huge for adult programs in the area. My manager was also able to wrangle some support from county housing employees as well (using his awesome connections) – they had nothing but praise for how well prepared I was and joked repeatedly they should offer me a job.
My manager also gave me the opportunity to jump in and offer support on behalf of the library to the Auburn Marshallese community for a cultural event. My involvement grew to writing questions and interviewing a special guest they flew in from the Marshall Islands – Alson Kelen, Director of theWaan Aelõñ in Majel (“Canoes of the Marshall Islands”), or WAM Program. I also took the footage of our interview and edited it down (the conversation was well over an hour, Alson is an excellent storyteller – I edited it to around 20 minutes of more focused discourse), adding in images and videos where relevant for more engaged viewing. I also attended the cultural event on behalf of the library and videoed the speakers who presented there. The whole experience was so much fun and really interesting, I loved the idea that I got to help preserve some of their Marshallese culture through the video work I did. It was actually intended to be the beginning of a larger video project documenting Marshallese culture for the younger generation growing up off-island in Auburn, done in partnership with the Burke Museum. For obvious reasons, those plans got disrupted.
End of February/mid March: We as a team of librarians started planning an Auburn Earth Day event. I took the lead on planning supported by my fellow adult services librarian (who taught me SO MUCH about putting a program together!). We had lined up special guests like the Mayor and the KCLS Director and I had used my personal connections to have some live bees attend, however, we had to cancel as the library system shut down due to COVID and everyone was quarantined. I had just started really digging in to learning the ropes of being a librarian and suddenly the way the job was going to work completely changed. It was wild to find myself basically starting over from scratch again.
End of March/May: As we transitioned to working online, we started figuring out what our online footprint would look like. The children’s librarians started recording storytimes and I joined the social media team to assist with captioning videos. I ended up creating a short tutorial video for my coworkers on how to do captioning on Facebook which my manager decided to share with the system at large. I made a sequel video as well – this resulted in me meeting virtually with some staff from elsewhere in the system who needed some extra assistance with captioning. It was fun to interact with and help train them.
In frustration with the slow transition of the KCLS website to something more direct and user friendly during a time of high-demand with quarantine, I created my own website of resources, support, and information related to COVID-19. I used KCLS branding on it as I was promoting library offerings, and it got utilized quite a bit by our local community (where it was promoted by our librarian group during the time that KCLS was figuring out how to reformat their actual webpage). I created a blog post where I discuss this project in more detail. I also volunteered to help provide virtual support services, which morphed into being asked to help co-lead a collaboration with the Seattle Public Library on a new project called Your Next Job.
And I joined the online team of content creators, writing blog posts and creating book lists as well as compiling a list of Senior Centers in the county and updating what services they are providing.
June/July/August: As I watched online programming get set in place for children around Pride Month, I couldn’t help but wonder – where was adult-oriented Pride programming? I reached out to the KCLS diversity coordinator for programming and she loved the idea of creating a community conversation space for LGBTQ+ adults – I told her that I wanted us to put together a team to flesh this idea out more, an “own-voices” group of KCLS staff part of this community and misrepresenting intersectionality where possible. Especially with the Black Lives Matter protests, we wanted to do our part to amplify and center non-white voices in this programming work. One of my proudest achievements was the product of this collaboration – a team of self-identified LGBTQ+ staff from a variety of job classifications who round-tabled ideas and helped develop a series of LGBTQ+ adult library programming rather than just one event. When the new DEI Director was onboarded later in the year, she actually met with our group to discuss how our work ties in to the direction she wants to take programming at KCLS and encouraged us to keep doing what we do! After months of discussion and planning and recruiting/training our team of navigators, the Your Next Job service launches. I work on collecting a resource spreadsheet for navigators to use to help deliver the service as well as develop some KCLS specific trainings.
September/October: The Sno-Isle Libraries come on to the Your Next Job project. After some hiccups with the way the service has been provided, the decision is made to overhaul several aspects of the workflow and software used so when Sno-Isle navigators begin taking appointments in December, the changes will have been made. Lots of planning and discussion went into all the changes. In October KCLS began conversations with the Museum Of History And Industry (MOHAI) to highlight LGBTQ+ voices via collaborative programming. I was lucky enough to be asked to join in these conversations and help lay the foundation for the first collaborative program, set for March of 2021.
November/December: With transition on the horizon, I wasn’t able to accomplish much in the last couple months of my time as a librarian. My focus instead was on wrapping up loose ends, preparing roles to transition to others, etc. I did connect KCLS with a career advisor from Green River College to begin conversations about building a more robust relationship going forward. Unfortunately, I think that will fall by the wayside since there’s a lot involved and I won’t be around to champion connecting to local colleges going forward (everyone already has a lot on their plates, plus my background of working in higher education and libraries I think puts me in a unique place to see how the two could work together). I ended the month with a lovely farewell party in Zoom which concluded with a surprise in-person house visit from my manager, presenting a goodbye gift of a “Personal Library Kit” (transforming one’s personal collection of books into a functional lending library) and a quick hug. Of course I was crying pretty much the entire time.
And with the beginning of January, I transition back to working as a Library Technical Assistant at the Fairwood Library…