Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What They Didn't Teach In Library School: Mistakes As Opportunities

'What They Didn't Teach In Library School' is a series of guest-authored posts,
written by YA Librarians from around the country, highlighting situations or skills
that were never addressed in formal Library School, but that are integral to librarianship.

Mistakes as Opportunities
by Emily Warner

When one hears the word “mistake”, it often implies that a person did something wrong.  For example, “I made a mistake in hiring that person”, or, “I made a mistake in eating that extra piece of pie at Christmas dinner”.  While some mistakes are genuinely something wrong, I think that at other times, mistakes can be seen as learning opportunities… and as a chance to grow and develop as both a person and a professional. 

Being ever the perfectionist, I hold myself to very high standards when it comes to both my personal and my professional lives.  I hate making mistakes and feeling like I’m somehow less of a person or less of a librarian when I do something "wrong".  It’s taken me a long time, to realize, understand, and feel comfortable with the idea that it’s really okay to make a mistake… or three… along the way.  When I started work in my current library, I had never worked with high school students; my professional background focused mainly on librarianship in elementary schools (grades Prekindergarten- 8th Grade).  I was TERRIFIED that I would say the wrong thing, wear the wrong thing - be, in some way, "wrong" for working with teens.  It wasn’t until the school year was almost over that a student informed me that I was, and I quote, “the best, coolest librarian there is”.  That was when I realized that building relationships with your teens (and patrons in general) can cover a myriad of mistakes. And along the way, I did make mistakes, I did occasionally say the wrong thing, and even more occasionally I did wear the wrong thing, but my teens don't hold that against me.  Yes, mistakes happen- even to the best of us- and I couldn’t be more proud to say that I too have made many mistakes. Without them, I wouldn’t have learned that I really love working with teenagers, and connecting them with the right book at just the right moment in their lives.

The most crucial thing I wish I had learned in library school wasn't anything I could learn from books, projects, or group work, but rather the understanding that you ARE going to make mistakes.  And that's okay.  I think that if someone had just spent some time talking about how to forgive yourself, learn from the "wrong", and take the opportunity to grow, I would have been more prepared for real life librarianship.  Because, after all, making mistakes is the best way to grow.

About Emily:
After earning my Master’s Degree in Library Science, I worked for 5 years as an elementary school library media specialist.  For the past 3 years, I’ve worked as a librarian at a boarding high school near where I live.  When I’m not in the library, I enjoy playing the violin in a local orchestra, working with the school’s drama department on their costumes, cooking, and relaxing with my friends and family.

Want more posts on issues not covered in Library School?
Check out Teen Librarian Toolbox's series Behind the Scenes @ the Library.
What They Didn't Teach In Library School Post Schedule
January 1, 2013 - Overcoming the Pied Piper Syndrome
January 16, 2013 - Finding Balance - The Enforcer vs. The YA Librarian
January 23, 2013 - Dealing with Peeps Not Like Me
January 30, 2013 - Mousy & Mild Won't Cut It
February 6, 2013 - Community Service and the Library
February 13, 2013 - Dealing with the Angry Folk
February 20, 2013 - Mistakes as Opportunities
February 27, 2013 - Librarians as Social Workers
March 6, 2013 - Adapt or Perish
March 13, 2013 - No Do-Overs
March 20, 2013 - Promotion & Programming