an elderly woman talking to a student

The Librarians Are Not Okay – by Anne Helen Petersen

By Anne Helen Petersen, May 1, 2022

from article…

This week, I gave a talk at the CALM (Conference on Academic Library Management) Conference. I’m sharing it here because I’ve received several requests for a written copy, but also because I think you could substitute pretty much any passion job for “academic librarian” here and the descriptions (and advice) will hold. The librarians are not okay. The nurses are not okay. The teachers are not okay. The journalists are not okay, the clergy are not okay, the social workers are no okay. And we can’t start the long-term work of recovering from the burnout and demoralization of the last year until we acknowledgment as much.

So here’s the talk, which seems to start in the middle of the nowhere but that’s just because I did some normal casual intros and positioning in the beginning. Please forgive the more conversational tone (which is how I write talks), the repetition of phrases (again, how I write talks) and the abundance of dashes (an approximation of the way we often actually speak). I hope it’s useful to you in some way, regardless of whether or not you’re a librarian or work in a passion job — because writing it, and delivering it, was certainly useful to me. Real, enduring empathy demands that we understand some corner of others’ contexts. And this is the crucial context that I’ve seen missing from so many conversations about people leaving jobs and industries and fields, and struggling mightily to stay within them. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Your job has become incredibly difficult. And even though I can’t understand the very specific ways it has become difficult — what a life in your shoes feels like — I do understand the overarching ways it has become difficult, and think we should spend some time acknowledging them.

First: You work passion jobs, and passion jobs are prime for exploitation. Until I started writing about my own burnout back in 2019, I didn’t grasp why it would ever be problematic to pursue work that you love. I thought that’s what everyone should, in some way, be trying to do — and if they weren’t, I had some sort of quiet pity for them, like WHO WANTS TO BE AN ACCOUNTANT? THEY MUST BE SO BORED!!

This perspective was not, by any means, unique: for people on the college-track in the 1990s and 2000s, this was the air we breathed, passed down in maxims like do what you love and you won’t work another day for the rest of your life and in Steve Jobs’ oft-quoted 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.

To be able to follow that ideology felt so aspirational — like setting yourself up for a future of guaranteed fulfillment. But it also set up a whole lot of us to conceive of our jobs not as jobs, but as vocations, as callings — with the understanding that pushing back, in any way, on the conditions of our employment was somehow evidence of a lack of commitment to the work.

Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…

Source: The Librarians Are Not Okay – by Anne Helen Petersen

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