April 2024: Good Things, Small Packages

Column Description: Celebrating the good things happening in New York's small and rural libraries.

“Be curious and be courageous. Be curious and be courageous because at the worst – it’s like my friend says about dates, it’s either a good date or good story. I think that’s really good advice. Try things, it’s going to help you grow and learn, you know, learn something, learn something about yourself.” – Emily Weiss

En route to the PLA 2024 Conference in Columbus, Ohio I was listening to the book Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier by Marisa Meltzer. An interesting recount of the rise and near-fall of a woman-founded direct-to-consumer cosmetic brand, it is chock-full of takeaways about leadership, communications, workplace culture, and adapting to change. Amid the thought-provoking narrative (ex: Yes! The term “Girl Boss” IS ridiculous and needs to be retired.), I was especially keen on the above quote, specifically, “It’s either a good date or a good story.”

In libraries, as in life, we are often inhibited by our fear of failure. While engaging in risk management is prudent (and something I’ve previously touched upon; see: NYLA Voice June 2023 and August 2023), success is not guaranteed no matter how much you plan and prepare — and that is ok. Not only can failure be a wonderful teacher, but it can also provide us with some of the best water cooler stories and most memorable retirement toast anecdotes.

When I share programs, events, and initiatives on social media, the pictures make the execution look easy and polished and wildly successful from start to finish — but most times the reality is far from it. I did not post pictures of my shin after driving a lawn sign stake through it; the 50 full-color posters I had printed with a [very obvious I before E except after C] typo; or the time I hosted a documentary screening featuring an in-person Q&A with the filmmaker and the movie just kept buffering and buffering and buffering (and buffering… it might still be buffering) despite a smooth tech test the day before. But after the initial pain and frustration and total mortification (and literal blood, tears, and sweat), I laughed about them – and still do, and I share these stories with giggles and gusto (calibrated for the audience).

I cannot remember an instance of a group “Remember that time…?” guffaw that included “Everything went exactly according to plan and it was the most organized program/event/service launch in library history.” The workplace memories that often elicit the most laughter are when things go awry, and I think being able to find humor in such setbacks can be healthy. Being disappointed, embarrassed, or angry about a mistake made or an uncontrollable force is understandable, valid, and ok. However, holding onto those feelings can cause undue stress, exacerbate anxiety, and lead to burnout. Additionally, excessively ruminating on a misstep or unlucky circumstance can diminish self-confidence and limit personal and professional growth.

Being able to laugh, learn, and let it go is a wonderful skill to develop. Laughter can de-stigmatize failure by removing the pressure of perfection. We are not infallible and a workplace bungle does not define us, or our work. When we allow ourselves to laugh at an unfavorable outcome or situation, we simultaneously acknowledge it while removing its negativity so we can engage in meaningful evaluation. We can assess what could (or could not) have been done differently, extract our lessons, and move forward with a purpose. And then if you have the opportunity to regale a crowd with a library-related folly or two, turn your perceived loss into a win-win and enjoy a group chuckle!

Suzanne Macaulay is the Program Director at the OWWL Library System which supports library services in Ontario, Wayne, Wyoming, and Livingston Counties. Her responsibilities include Outreach Coordinator, Youth Services Consultant, State Aid for Library Construction, Continuing Education, and Social Media & Communications. Suzanne is the President of NYLA's Rural Libraries Round Table and a member of the Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services. She received her BA in English from Molloy University and MLIS from LIU Post. Originally from Long Island where she started as the Children’s Librarian at the Henry Waldinger Library (Hi, Mamie!), Suzanne now lives in Rochester. During non-library time, she runs, officiates lacrosse, plays (terrible) golf, and is a very supportive but very non-shouty sports parent.

Share this post:

Comments on "April 2024: Good Things, Small Packages"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment