When you get discouraged, when your list is too long, when storytime is a disaster, when no one shows up for an awesome program, how do you recharge?
There are lots of ways to give yourself a boost, but one of my favorite ways is to look at my touchstones. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen my blog’s image header that I like to fill my desk with visual bits and pieces of my work life. (Trust me, there’s even more you can’t see.) When I’m scrambling for motivation or am wiped out, looking at thank you notes from little kids and old storytime crafts and small gifts from my family and colleagues helps me remember that I love what I do.
Here’s three of my favorite touchstones.
This is my library card from when I was little. I had this card the whole time I was growing up and through my teen years when I paged for the library, and into my college years when I was home for the summers. It makes me smile every time I see it. I remember how long the library has been a part of my life, and how grown up I felt when I could bike to the library by myself, and how much fun I had when I started looking for books about origami and calligraphy and who knows what else outside the children’s area. It reminds me that the library was an important part of my life, in different ways, long before I even knew I wanted to make libraries my career. I think about all the changes that took place at my library over that time–moving to a new building, getting computerized (there’s a barcode sticker on the back!), offering different programs and materials and services. I look at my library card and I know that libraries will continue to be an important part of my life for a long time, and that I can weather all the changes to come.
My mom gave me this locket when I graduated from library school. (Thanks Mom!) It’s shaped like a book, and she put inside a photocopy of a photo of me from when I was a preschooler, holding a Raggedy Ann book I had just gotten for my birthday. (You can’t quite tell, but the book matches the Raggedy Ann dress I have on. How cool is that?) I have worn this locket for just about every important library interview I’ve had, and almost every big presentation. (I had it on last fall at ALSC!) When my daughters were smaller, they would fill it up with kisses for me, so I would have some extra love while I was at work. Now that I spend so much of my time thinking about early literacy programs and services, when I look at my locket I remember my mom reading us books and my dad singing us songs. I want every kid in the world to grow up with that, like my sister and I did. That’s why I do what I do.
This card has been on my fridge for 18 years. At my first library job, my awesome boss (Hi Mary Jane!) liked to toss projects at me even though she KNEW I had ZIP experience working in a children’s library before. (What was she THINKING? Did I mention she was an AWESOME BOSS?) One of the projects she gave me was developing a monthly activity program for our large and active group of homeschooling patrons.
The first year I worked on this program, I decided we would go around the world, and investigate a different group of countries or cultures every month. We made passports the first month, and then every session at the library we did games and projects, and read books, and had a great time, and then I gave them little activities to do at home. The more stuff they explored at home in between our sessions, the more stickers they earned for their passports when they came back and told me about it the next month. Well, one of the projects they could do at home was to make a recipe from one of our cultures. The second or third session, in walked one of my kids, and when it came time to put stickers in our passports, she gave me this card. She told me it was the recipe for the dish she had made at home. Sure enough, it was! It says, “Quesadillas: Cheese and Tortillas.”
It’s still one of my favorite things that any of my kids has ever given me. You know why? I looked at this card and this little girl who had not only made a dish (even though she didn’t really have to) but had taken time to write out her recipe (even though she didn’t really have to). And it came home to me that I had such a responsibility. It didn’t matter if I’d been doing this job for 6 months or 60 years; the children and families that I worked with were going to take me seriously. If I told them that this was a good book, they were going to believe me. If I created a program, they were going to come to it in good faith. If I gave them some information, they were going to trust me. If I told them it would be fun to make a new recipe at home, they were going to do it! I look at this card pretty much every day. And it charges me up to do my damnedest to live up to that good faith, and give my families, and my libraries, and my colleagues, the absolute best that I can.
What are your touchstones?