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Stop Doing That

I am procrastinating.

When I look at my to-do list (because yes, I still write out to-do lists on steno notebooks), I die a little inside. Some people are highly motivated when under numerous impending deadlines. I am not one of those people. I am sitting with my earbuds on listening to Wye Oak trying to not to online window shop on Supermaggie (in my defense, it’s a really good sale, y’all).

I am not alone.

Every librarian colleague I’ve spoken with in the past month has some variation on my state of procrastination-panic. Librarians are retiring and no one is replacing them. Class requests are booming. Assessment projects are overwhelming. Conference proposal and writing deadlines are looming. What is this you say about “taking a lunch?” Who does that?

With the departure of our much loved director, my colleagues at St. Mary’s and I are preparing for a year of being not just one but two librarians down (yes, folks, she is that awesome). We’ve had all the requisite conversations about “babysitting” departments, spreading out teaching loads and redistributing duties, but our departing and soon-to-be acting director have also sat us down for a more serious conversation. The crux of the convo:

What can we stop doing?

Rather than simply “make-do with less“, we’re starting to determine which tasks we can set aside or pass on to our more than capable non-librarian staff for the year. Rather than become martyrs or long-suffering librarians, we are at a point where we can honestly say we won’t be able to do everything we have been doing at the level we’ve been doing it. And that is OK.

Repeat: That is OK.

To be honest, the conversations we’re having now about sacrificing job responsibilities or outdated tasks are ones that all libraries should have had a long time ago. We all keep adding to our to-do lists and taking on more projects and responsibilities, but in order to do anything with any semblance of quality something has to give. We’ve been tackling this issue in our writing, in unconferences, and in our conversations with one another, but how many of us can honestly say we’ve put this idea into practice?

I’ve sort of backed myself into a corner and built up a 50-foot wall of deadlines and to-dos for the next two months, but after that, I’m done. I have projects I want to work on, writing I want to do, and tasks that, to be honest, just aren’t really important. It’s time for me to stop doing them.

What are you doing less of these days? How have you started these conversations at your library?



  1. Miranda Bennett

    This is such an important conversation to have among your library staff. We’re always going to have more to do than we have the time and resources to accomplish, so we either drop things from the list arbitrarily or we make choices based on shared, strategic priorities. The latter is the harder but clearly better approach. I look forward to hearing how this works out at your library. Okay, back to procrasti-panicking!

    • I’ll be sure to let you know, Miranda. We’ve sort of started talking about it vague terms, but it would be nice to do something a bit more strategic, as you suggest. I was reading an article that was supposed to be about assessment, but really was most helpful when the authors wrote about a planning session they had to eliminate tasks that could be postponed or stopped altogether in favor of devoting more time towards assessment efforts. Prioritizing is important. This group of librarians had a half-day retreat where they literally wrote down every job task and project on post it notes, categorized them, and had discussions about priorities for the next year. I think we should all do something like that…if we can find the time!

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