How to embrace being a "drone" at work?
May 10, 2021 12:21 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago I asked about how to deal with my job while I hate it. I still don't like it, but I think I have a better handle on it. However, it's obvious I was hired just to be a general-purpose support staff drone. I've previously had similar positions where I had a fair amount of autonomy and I'm having a difficult time dealing with the lack of that here. How do I accept the lack of autonomy at work and not let it drive me crazy?

Honestly, I have no idea what this school hired me to do beyond supervising kids and re-shelving library books. I was recently hired by a new school to be a library technician, but there's no space for me to really "do" my job. Or at least, what I've done in previous library technician positions.

In previous positions as a library technician for schools I'd be in charge of organizing events, circulation duties, ordering books, cataloging and processing books, etc. Here, I pretty much supervise kids, reshelve books and add the odd item to the catalogue. I'm really frustrated because while this job isn't ideal in a lot of ways and I've been job searching for actual ~*~librarian~*~ jobs... it's been difficult and this part-time job is what I have from now.

Every time I've suggested sensible ideas, they're shot down disapprovingly. For example, this is a brand new school so the library and books are brand new. However, there's not enough shelving for the books and they are CRAMMED on the shelves. You can barely get books on or off of the shelves. When I've suggested maybe buying new shelves, it was shot down as a stupid idea because "kids aren't taking out many books due to covid." Okay, fine, but there's no room for new books, either. I know the books on the shelves will get destroyed, from experience I worked at a school that had stuffed shelves and I had to discard so many books with damaged spines due to that. I know, I should just NOT CARE that they think this idea is stupid and let them deal with the consequences of it, but it bothers me.

I also mentioned how I used to process paperback picture books for the previous libraries I worked at and, again, the administrative assistant looked at me like I was from mars when I said I used book tape on the outer edges of the book covers to protect them. "Well, *I've* never done that!!" She had previously been doing most of the library work at this school prior to me starting there and had worked a bit in the library at the previous school she was at (along with the current principal). Obviously, she and the principal have their own ideas about what the best procedures for a library. That's fine, but I'm questioning why I was even hired at this point. After she told me that, I said the most passive aggressive thing that came to mind: "Well, I won't do that then. I don't want to go against your ideas for the library." Uhhh... yeah, not good.

I think to deal with this position, I need to really realize that I was NOT hired to be a "real" school library technician (despite that being my actual job title here). I was hired as an educational assistant who sometimes shelves books. It's extremely frustrating, but I think if I want to "last" here until I can find something else... I have to get used to it.

How do you just deal with a lack of autonomy at work, especially when you've previously HAD autonomy? How can I just be a drone and embrace it? How do I repress any ideas I have for this school library, because they don't matter? I honestly hate being treated like I'm a stupid person, which is what I am treated like here.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
She had previously been doing most of the library work at this school prior to me starting there and had worked a bit in the library at the previous school she was at (along with the current principal).

How is your relationship with this person? Is there any real or perceived friction between you, on either your or her end, because of your degree? In my experience, things work best as a new person when you're deferential to the people who've already been there and been doing the work, regardless of who has what degree (which can be sensitive in libraries, as you know).

You might not have gained enough trust, goodwill, or cultural capital yet to be given a lot of autonomy, especially if they perceive you don't have respect for institutional culture or practice. It's frustrating! But I'm wondering if putting effort into posing ideas as questions and asking advice of the administrative assistant will help you develop a better relationship, which will then lead to more opportunity for collaboration and/or autonomy. Being underemployed is hard; having collaborative, positive relationships can make it a little easier.
posted by stellaluna at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2021 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: Yes, I think there is a bit of friction between me and this person. Maybe it's in my head, I don't know. Again, I guess I'm just confused as to what my role is supposed to be at this school. Despite my job title... I'm not being used as that.

Maybe I started off on the wrong foot because I've been in a similar situation before where I was hired to take over library duties from an administrative assistant. In that situation, she was more than GLAD have those duties taken off of her plate give me all the library duties and didn't seem to care what I did in the library. I guess I was probably wrong to think it would be the same here.

I don't know, I just feel like whatever I do is wrong here.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 1:04 PM on May 10, 2021


I'm burned out at work and the idea of having a mostly mindless job sounds very appealing to me. You could embrace the fact that you don't have to think about work at all when you leave. Maybe you can daydream while you're shelving.

But it sounds like you don't actually want to embrace being a mindless drone. So make friends with your coworker, and you'll be more likely to convince her to do things differently. Who is your supervisor? You should talk to them directly about your expectations and what you'd like to change.
posted by pinochiette at 1:07 PM on May 10, 2021 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: pinochiette That is definitely part of the problem. I don't WANT to be a mindless drone. I crave a job where I can think, where I can *do* things. I really WANT to work (I'll regret typing that one day). I WANT to contribute. That's just not this job, where nothing I do matters at all. It's truly pointless.

I don't know how to make friends with that co-worker when she, again, obviously thinks I'm a fucking idiot! I'd rather not try, at this point.

The supervisor is the principal. I have some sort of one-on-one meeting scheduled with her to discuss next year (all the staff members do, it's nothing bad) and I don't even know what to ask or say. Again, I just feel like they think I'm a rube with barely two brain cells to rub together.

(Okay, I'll see myself out, because thinking about this job is obviously upsetting me more than I thought it would.)
posted by VirginiaPlain at 1:12 PM on May 10, 2021


It's frustrating! If you really want to embrace dronehood, complete your job duties and do nothing more.

Buuuuut I'm not 100% convinced you have as little influence here as you say you do. Maybe you're pushing back in ways that you're not mentioning here, but it seems like you might be missing some gentle ways of redirecting.

Like, with the tape-on-picture-books thing, when the administrative assistant said, "Well, I've never done that!" you could have said, "Oh, it's great, one of my coworkers at $PREVIOUSJOB taught me to do it - let me try it on this batch of books because I think you'll be so happy with how much better they hold up when you tape the covers!" Maybe the admin would have continued to push back, but maybe not.

Or with the shelving issue, I get that you can't buy new shelving on your own, but could you devote a book cart or an unused table to temporary overflow shelving? And if anyone asks you, you can say, "Oh, I can't fit these ones on the shelves without damaging them. We can decide at the end of the year whether it makes more sense to reduce the size of the collection a bit or get new shelves."

But yeah, there are stupid things I had to do when I was working in libraries that still annoy me 10+ years later. I remember sending chemistry journals out to be bound, even though it was basically impossible that we would be keeping them for more than a year. Why bind them at all? Why *keep* them at all, when we had very limited shelf space and no one used the physical journals, and it was essentially a sure thing that we would have to get rid of the print version in the very near future? I remember the answer I was given but I still think it was a stupid reason. I guarantee you not one person used those journals between the time they came back from the bindery and the time they were recycled. So I probably listened to a podcast while I packed those stupid chemistry journals in their dumb boxes. I could have skipped the whole step where I argued with my boss, since it changed nothing.
posted by mskyle at 1:13 PM on May 10, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also: consider that maybe the coworker doesn't so much think that *you're* an idiot - she might think that you think *she's* an idiot for not knowing some of this library stuff, and might therefore be sensitive to criticism of her ways of doing things.
posted by mskyle at 1:15 PM on May 10, 2021 [8 favorites]


Obviously, she and the principal have their own ideas about what the best procedures for a library.

Is it obvious that the principal has their own ideas? Have you talked to the principal? Because it sounds like the admin assistant was doing that job for a while and is threatened by the fact that you have some professional training. Are you sure you should be going to her with this stuff? Are you sure that when she is saying no that that's because this is what the principal wants? If the principal is like most managers, I think the principal wants the library to be managed well, by you, and probably doesn't care a lot about these details, and I think the admin assistant doesn't want to look like she did the wrong thing, and she's probably seeing that she can push you around a bit. She's not your boss.

I would take a stab at a conversation with the principal, if you haven't done this. "I'm glad to be in this position, and I deeply respect the work that [admin assistant] has done these past few years. I have a few different ideas of how to approach things. However, I am getting some pushback from [admin assistant] on things that are pretty standard procedures in libraries. How should I handle these issues?"

I'm wondering if you keep bringing things to the admin assistant and deferring to her, and she's totally willing to tell you what to do, but really you are giving up before addressing this with your supervisor.

Here's what I think is going on with your coworker:
I also mentioned how I used to process paperback picture books for the previous libraries I worked at and, again, the administrative assistant looked at me like I was from mars when I said I used book tape on the outer edges of the book covers to protect them. "Well, *I've* never done that!!"
"The new library tech must think I'm an idiot for not doing that!"

Which is to say, you might both be personalizing these interactions and feeling stupid. I'm guessing she was assigned to train you, but that doesn't mean she's the boss of you. You are giving up here, I'm guessing before you've talked to your actual supervisor. This is all or nothing thinking. The admin assistant saying no to your perfectly reasonable ideas doesn't mean you should give up forever and be a drone. It means you need to realize she's not a great ally for your ideas that you need to bring to your boss.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:20 PM on May 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


Instead of thinking that someone thinks you are stupid, perhaps proceed with the attitude that they are threatened by you because you are smart and creative (the colleague) or because you are progressive and they are fearful (the supervisor). The best thing you can do is make sure you're doing everything you've been told to do, and then find solutions that cost no money, require nobody's extra effort, and (if possible) make others look good.

I mean, if there's no budget for book shelves, the supervisor is going to try to find every logical way to make acquiring new shelves seem unworthy. So, put the word out among friends and relations and get milk crates to use as stackable shelves for special categories. If you've got picture books for the lower grades, store them record-store style (flip-forward to see them) in dishpans on tables.

If there's an activity or event you want to create, buddy up with one of the teachers with whom you get along and describe your idea and get them to request it of you, and then you get to give that teacher credit when you make it happen (again, at no cost of money or effort for the establishment).

But if none of this is possible, and if you must see yourself as a drone, use your cog-in-the-machine time to create in your head what you'd do if you could have the ideal circumstances. Draft it all with the idea that eventually you'll have the career position you want, and right now you have all the mental free time in the world to create, something we all usually lack once we get to our dream positions.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


They don't want improvements or changes. Not everybody wants to do that.

Look, you sound like a Maximizer sort (I am too), but making improvements and changes means that you have to get the support of others and they have to put work in, and it doesn't sound like this place wants to. Buying new shelves means spending money (now) and nobody ever wants to do that (and probably more likely during pandemic). Taping the books means spending more time and a bit of money, and nobody ever wants to do that. They're thinking now, not "I'll have to replace this book in whatever amount of months or years," or maybe they just won't replace the book at all. It's their decision as to what they want to do here. They didn't hire you to improve things. As you said, they want kid supervision and re-shelving and that's it.

Which is better for your psyche: to think that there is hope and that you can talk to someone and if you're persuasive enough you COULD get them to change and then hitting your head against the wall a lot, or to realize that this is how it is and you're hopefully gonna find somewhere else someday and it won't be your problem any more if they want to make decisions that shoot themselves in the foot in a library context?

Look, I have a long list of shit I want fixed at my job. My management agrees with me on that stuff, but all of the stuff I want fixed isn't under my control or theirs, it's in the power of others in other offices who like how things are, don't have the resources/energy/time to change them, don't have the money, blah blah blah. I'm angry every day I have to spend 45 minutes writing an email explaining yet again to international clientele the ridiculous hoops they are going to have to jump through to get what they want. I spend half my day dealing with international clientele problems that could easily be solved if we had the money and/or goodwill from other offices, which we don't and never will have. I'm beyond tired of it, but there is no hope there. Eventually you will go beyond rage and reach acceptance. This is what they want to do, even if it hurts.

Right now you seem to be stuck in a mental place of "But....but...but! If I just say things and make suggestions, things could be BETTER!" and that's not actually working here. It's teaching a pig to sing: wasting your time, annoying the pig. Start learning to shut your mouth and not make the suggestions when you think of them. Squash yourself every time. Yes, you're still gonna be in a rage for awhile, but eventually your psyche will learn and the rage will die down. You need to stop resisting the reality of the situation.

I mean, if there's no budget for book shelves, the supervisor is going to try to find every logical way to make acquiring new shelves seem unworthy. So, put the word out among friends and relations and get milk crates to use as stackable shelves for special categories. If you've got picture books for the lower grades, store them record-store style (flip-forward to see them) in dishpans on tables.

I love this idea, but I would probably ask management if they'd accept crates (or whatever) as shelving before you go there. I don't know if they are just broke or resistant to even free assistance with milk crates, but you should probably find out before you do the work.

But if none of this is possible, and if you must see yourself as a drone, use your cog-in-the-machine time to create in your head what you'd do if you could have the ideal circumstances. Draft it all with the idea that eventually you'll have the career position you want, and right now you have all the mental free time in the world to create, something we all usually lack once we get to our dream positions.

THIS. If you must, make lists at home of what you'd do to improve if you were Lord High God Of The Library. Direct that desire into your imagination, and maybe someday in a few years you can actually use it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


Another person who isn't actually sure that what your boss would be happy with you doing is the same as what the admin assistant thinks you should do.

But, I absolutely do appreciate what it's like to know how to do a job, have ideas about how to do a job and just get them shot down all the time. I think there are two options, one is to find the area that they will just let you get on and do, and put your focus on that. If that's not possible, I think the other is to find a creative or intellectual outlet that will scratch the kind of itch that productive work does, and then spend as little time and energy as possible on your job. Make sure you know exactly what is expected of you, do that, be kind to everyone as much as possible and let the rest go. But the key to making this work is a non-work outlet.
posted by plonkee at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


I basically did/do it through two things:

1. And credit to Ask a Manage for changing my thinking on this, I don't really care about my job any longer. Not in the "I never do any work" sense, but in, I find fulfillment outside of work. I don't really care if my job is fulfilling or not because I have family, friends, and hobbies for any sense of fulfillment. Go back a couple hundred years and you would do what your parent did, not do something that "fulfills" you. Obviously this varies person to person, both whether they can/should do it and to what degree, but it has worked for me.

2. Aided by #1, if I make a suggestion and they don't act on it, well, okay. It's not my responsibility to fix it, if it was it would be in my job description*. Since my level of caring about the job isn't on par with "this is all I care or think about," eh, if they don't want to do something, that's fine. Instead I'll save my energy for things that are personally important to me.

Both of those basically come down to, shifting your thinking to it's just a job, a way to pay bills and for hobbies, not a calling, and caring less about it than you did before. And you can change that approach job to job. So THIS job isn't a calling, but maybe your next one is. And of course, you should care about your job to the extent of actually being able to do it, and doing it well so you can take pride in your work, and that you're not going to be fired, but none of those things require you to see it as a calling if it isn't. It's okay to see a job as just a job and focus more of your life on things outside of work.

* You said this job doesn't fit what previous jobs in the same position involve. But this employer is allowed to define the responsibilities specifically to your role. I understand titles are a shorthand to understand what the role does (ie. a fry cook does roughly the same thing at every restaurant), but there is room for "We understand most libraries have this role do X, Y, and Z, but we prefer this role to only do X, and this other position does Y and Z." And knowing they do that, you then understand while you're at this job, you are doing the things they ask you to do in this role, you are not doing the things this role does at other places.
posted by Meldanthral at 2:04 PM on May 10, 2021 [5 favorites]


Have you tried saying something like "I'd love to do more - covid has got kids reading less and I'd love to use my time to help the library be a resource for the teachers and kids. Is there anything you've been wanting to implement that you haven't had time to do before? Do you have any ideas? Shall I talk with the teachers and see if there's anything they'd find helpful during these mad times?"

Maybe (possibly) if you let them come up with some ideas first instead of presenting your own, you can start adding responsibilities and establishing yourself as someone who can do useful stuff with the library. And carefully present things in terms of being useful to the school or teachers -- or appealing to parents -- and in terms of "take advantage of how there's now someone who can spend all her time on the library, unlike the admin assistant who already has so much on her plate" instead of "take advantage of having an actual trained library professional, unlike your admin".

In the meantime, you could think of this in terms of "lurk moar": spend a while learning the place, the relationships, the politics, the rhythms, and the needs before trying to take a lead role. And if you need a challenge, maybe see if there's anything interesting to learn or do with respect to the supervisory part of the job?
posted by trig at 2:09 PM on May 10, 2021


Response by poster: Just to clarify one thing. Yes, I have actually spoken to the principal about the shelving, for instance. When I brought it up to the principal, I just mentioned how damaged the books I saw at the previous school were due to be crammed in the shelves. I was told by her that no they don't want to buy new shelving, again, because they're expecting students to have 2 books checked out next year during the school year. I mean, that's her prerogative, but I just can't get over what problems that is going to cause when a) students aren't taking out books and b) when the shelves get full. They aren't buying shelves, but they're still buying books like there's no tomorrow. That leaves ME with the problem and if the solution is less than what they want, I already know I'll get blamed for any consequences. Where am I supposed to put books when ALL the shelves are full (as they soon will be)? On my head? On the floor? I really don't get what they are thinking here! Same if the picture books are going to get damaged because they're unprocessed. It's going to be my fault if they're shitty condition, but they don't want me to process them in a way that is typically done.

The administrative assistant is the right-hand woman of the principal because of their relationship at their previous school. She seems to have a lot more "power" than I've seen at previous schools. I really don't buy that she's threatened by me at all. I think she seriously thinks I'm a moron. I could be reading the situation entirely wrong, but that is the true impression I am getting.

What I am really struggling with is WHY did they even need someone in my position in the first place? I do next to nothing and it's just wearing me down.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 2:25 PM on May 10, 2021


Not to encourage threadsitting here, but your answers to these questions will help us to sort out if there's a professionalization issue at play:

-Are you the first MLIS-holding library staff member that your current school has had in some time?
-Does the admin assistant have library-related training?
-If not, has there not been a dedicated library tech at your school in, like, several years?
-Were there more library-credentialed staff at your previous school (beyond library techs, teacher-librarians with either LIT diplomas or MLIS degrees)?
posted by blerghamot at 2:47 PM on May 10, 2021


Response by poster: To answer:

1) I am the first library technician the school has had. (MLIS does not come in to play here at all. I don't even know if the admin/principal know I have one. I doubt it since it is not reflected on the resume that is in my HR file with the school board and I've never mentioned it. I have a LIT diploma, which is what I used to get the position all those years ago).

2) No, I don't believe so.

3) The school is brand new (opened Fall 2020), so I am the first "library technician" they have had.

4) No, previous schools had no library-credentialed staff.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 2:50 PM on May 10, 2021


Unfortunately there are jobs where you have to both advocate for yourself and educate your bosses or colleagues about what your position is or can do. The principal having done library work previously is a huge benefit! It means they value the library and its place in the school, even if they don't know the full extent of a library tech's role or skills. You can (respectfully, non-condescendingly) teach them!

There are things you don't know, too, as someone new. In the example with the shelves: it's a brand new school! Even if they do need new or additional shelves, they shouldn't, and it's probably risky for someone (maybe the principal) to ask for money for them. There are always lots of factors at play in turning down someone's ideas, and I think you don't have enough of a trusting relationship (unfortunately) to always be getting the full story.

I think you're going to have to reset your relationship with the admin assistant, eat a little humble pie, and start trying to collaboratively suggest new ideas and problem solve. You can also just...start making changes, especially if they can be easily reversed or undone and don't cost money! I think you have more agency than you realize but the resentment you feel is probably starting to show and you need to focus on repairing your relationships at this school before things are going to get better.
posted by stellaluna at 3:06 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Ugh, sorry for the threadsitting, this'll be my last comment.

I just don't have the right energy or headspace to advocate for myself and educate the principal/admin assistant about this role, as you mention stellaluna: Unfortunately there are jobs where you have to both advocate for yourself and educate your bosses or colleagues about what your position is or can do.

I'm focusing a lot of energy on job searching (and looking at other fields for employment) that I just have no desire to "advocate" for myself in this role. If they think I'm an idiot? Fine, I guess. Ultimately, I suppose that's why I want to become a "drone" who can just work my 3 1/2 hours a day there and get out, without thinking about it too much. I guess with how irritated I am by the position, that might be next to impossible at this point.

I just have such a bad feeling that, again, I am going to be blamed for the consequences of not buying shelving (seriously, where am I supposed to put all the books if they don't fit on the shelves? they don't seem to give a shit!), etc. I feel like I've started on a bad foot and it's going to cumulate into being blamed for stuff like that, despite warning them about it. Again, obviously they don't care, so why the fuck do I care?! I feel like I am just trapped in this way of thinking and I can't get out of it.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2021


Mod note: Hey VP, I understand this is fraught for you but you do need to maybe step away from this thread for a bit so that people can give you some feedback.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:25 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I can only imagine how frustrating this is. Many large institutions, government and the private sector, are pretty set in their ways. Trying to change policies and procedures can be like trying to alter the laws of physics. Especially if you’re not management. Even if you’re at a new school, you’re probably part of a large school system that’s been around for 50+ years.

Growing up I always felt like we were encouraged to aim for a career that we would find fulfilling. This is possible for some people, but for a lot of us we realize we will have to find the fulfillment in our hobbies, volunteer work, friends, or family.

I don’t think you’ll be blamed for the new shelves not being bought. Lack of funding, and highly restricted funding for the money you do have, is like the fourth law of thermodynamics in the government and nonprofit world. It’s almost like a scientific fact.

I feel like you’ve satisfactorily covered yourself by talking to the principal. Maybe sometime in the future send an email or fill out a form requesting the shelves in writing. This would be more than enough to cover yourself.

AskMetafilter is great but maybe it would help to discuss these issues with other librarians on a forum, subreddit, or Discord server that allows the back and forth conversation you may be seeking.
posted by mundo at 4:27 PM on May 10, 2021


Where am I supposed to put books when ALL the shelves are full (as they soon will be)? On my head? On the floor?

Yes, on the floor. If that's the only option they give you, put 'em on the floor and let them sort it out.

You've posted three "I HATE MY JOB" threads (about the same job, it sounds like) just since April 1, 2021 and it looks like you were already dreading/hating going into this job before then too. You have an enormous lot of agita going on over a part time job. If every nerve in your body is screaming all the time over how much you hate this job and it's just part time...I mean, is it really better than working retail/food service? Or would you be better off just quitting and getting some crap job not in your field so you're not in this agony all the time? Because you seem to be in such agony right now over this and you can't/won't let any of this go. You want things the way you want them and you can't get them here. You seem to be relatively aware of that but continue to seethe and rage about not getting them to change their minds and how stupid everything/everyone seems to be making you feel and you're going to get blamed for their bad policies, etc. It sounds like you literally can't think about anything but this job and how much you haaaaaaaate it.

I think you're at least somewhat aware that the job is what it is and you can't make it be what you want. But either you need to unclench and start to release this job (at least outside of work hours, try not thinking about the job? Seriously, that helps to not think about it when you're not getting paid to) and all of your hopes and expectations for it, or just quit already. You're having a miserable time and I can't imagine that anyone working with you is finding it to be very pleasant either when you're probably in such obvious distress at work every day. I doubt it's going to be a great career booster for you and I don't know how great of a reference you'd get from them either. I get that it is literally your only hope at a career job whatsoever, but is all of this drama worth it? Can you keep on feeling like this for the next year? Two years? Five years? Like god knows I've had huge problems with my job for most of the last decade, but even I don't sound as miserable about my job as you do only after a few months. If you just cannot endure this, it might just be worth it to your psyche to get the hell out already.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:59 PM on May 10, 2021 [12 favorites]


You're at a brand-new school where there's no established precedent for your role, and it's possible that your admin and principal have little experience working with teacher-librarians or techs. That's what I meant by a professionalization issue - you're in a somewhat de-professionalized environment in terms of librarianship, which means that you aren't dealing with people who have a good sense of what you can bring to the role. This explains a lot of why you're struggling to find support for doing things in a way informed by your experience and training. That's the barrier, rather than anyone perceiving you as stupid.

Your MLIS (and attendant underemployment) does come into play here a bit more than you might realize. Grad school gave you an additional point of reference outside your previous school's practices, which shines even more of a spotlight on how incredibly whack everything is and how little power you have to make it less whack. You probably have ways to build capital that would help you make more of a difference at work, but if that's not where you land right now, then you need to consider what's really involved in noping out.

As uncomfortable as it is to say this, there are elements to your situation that are perhaps unique to fields that have more of a professionalization bent. There's a mismatch between what you think your role ought to be and how it's likely perceived, and the only way you can comfortably become a "drone" is to bring your understanding of your role into alignment with that of your principal/admin. This means you need to think of your job in a way that's at odds not only with your experience and education, but also your field's well-established norms.

Getting back to that de-professionalization angle, you're correct that they don't really care about the same things you care about or see as focal concerns. But, the reality is that as a part-time library tech employed by people who may not even freaking know what a library tech does, you're not expected to think all that much about your job and are unlikely to get blamed for something that they don't perceive you as having authority over. As bad as this sounds, warning them of the consequences of not buying new shelves and whatnot is at odds with their perception of your role, and at odds with you taking steps in the direction of not giving a damn. You may be eager to treat this role as a skill-building opportunity, but it likely won't be, and that would even be true if you were a freshly-minted LIT who wasn't somewhat overqualified for a paraprofessional role. Will you need to grieve that loss? Absolutely, and somewhat quickly. The longer it takes, the more you'll risk really negative career outcomes.

tl;dr - you can't professionalize a job through your own will alone, so it's easiest to not GAF.
posted by blerghamot at 7:17 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


I looked at your old questions and see that you are in Canada. I'm not familiar with the library scene in Canada, so take my response with a grain of salt. In New York State, I would expect a library technician to do exactly what you are doing, as far as supervising students and shelving books. In Canada, it is possible that they title jobs differently, but where I am, schools hire Library Media Specialists (School Librarians) who went through the teacher certification process and have MLISs. They also hire Library Assistants, Library Aides, and Library Clerks, which are all relatively similar technician type roles that do not require master's degrees, and are paid accordingly. Sometimes people start in Library Assistant / Technician roles to get library experience and/or a foot in the door. It sounds like you were hired for a position that was not designed for someone with an MLIS. I think you have to accept that or move on. Also remember, everything is messed up because of Covid, so you would likely be in a weird position no matter what library you work in.

If you have downtime at your, look up articles in School Library Journal or other publications related to libraries to get ideas for future jobs. See if you can network and figure out what other library technicians in your area do, and bring actual job descriptions to your boss showing that you are underutilized. Make decorations or book displays that will take some books off of the shelf. Do something that makes you look busy. Accept that this job isn't your cup of tea and start looking for other opportunities. Research other types of library jobs that you might be able to look for. You'd be surprised how broad and far-reaching librarianship can be. There are some academic library positions that have virtually no contact with students at all.

I know Canada is still in lockdown, but eventually you guys will be opening up. If you really hate your job, quit and find something else when stuff opens back up there. Around where I am, everyone is hiring for everything, from restaurants to retail, and even education. In the two-county area where I live, there are at least 26 Library Media Specialist openings because so many people are retiring. Maybe think about relocating??
posted by DEiBnL13 at 9:38 PM on May 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


It sounds like long term you and this job aren’t a great fit, so I wouldn’t worry too much about long term problems. It’s a hard lesson for those of us who care to learn, but sometimes bosses must reap what they sow (and learn the hard way). If you feel like you must do something, maybe do an occasional sweep of Craigslist / FB marketplace etc. for “free” items that could handle book overflow.

In the long term, I think you need to find a new job, but in the meantime you need to focus on what elements of the job you can control. I think the more interesting question for you is how can you support students and teachers accessing reading material (in ways that don’t cost money)? Can you help connect reluctant readers to books that may be of interest? Can you make sure that students and teachers are aware of any digital resources that may be available through your school, district, or public library?
posted by oceano at 7:36 AM on May 11, 2021 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I think it would be helpful for you to understand the principal’s long term goals for the position and the library. If the boss doesn’t have concrete goals, perhaps gently suggest some. In addition, it’s important for you to understand the supply requisition timeline and process for your school. Frame future recommendations as ways to support the boss’ long term goal.

If it helps, perhaps consider yourself as an artist who finds working with extreme constraints part of the creativity process. That being said, I think some jobs are drone jobs as you say. Sometimes a job is only a means to a paycheck and that’s okay.
posted by oceano at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2021


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