Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Self-Promotion: LJ NextGen Column

I've been thinking quite a bit about parenthood and how it fits into my career (or doesn't, in some cases), and about my career and how it fits into my parenting (or doesn't, in other cases). I then thought, hey, why not see if Library Journal would be willing to publish some of these thoughts I've been mulling over, and maybe start a conversation among my colleagues in my generation and the ones ahead of and behind mine? Hey, guess what? They were! Thanks, LJ. The column, titled Priorities & Professionalism, runs in the current issue, published the day after Nell's birthday.


  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Great article! And I think it raises questions about what is professionalism? What is success? What is being a good librarian? That are true for all of us, including those of us without children. I'm definately mulling over the whole personal v professional issue; yes, I want to be a good librarian, but why should that trump having a good, wellrounded life? Why can't we have both?

  • At 2:42 PM, Blogger Adrienne said…

    That is a nice article, and I second Liz's sentiments. I don't have kids, but I sort of hit a wall a few years ago and realized that I didn't want to worry about work too much when I was away from it. I don’t want to do too much committee work or state/national organization work, and I sure as heck don’t want to become any more of a manager than I already am (head of children’s services at a mid-sized suburban library). I’m working on a book right now, too, and I have hopes that my career will evolve in a more non-traditional way. There’s a lot of concern in our library system about who is going to take over as many of our current library directors plan to retire over the next several years, and I think they’re right to be concerned. Many of my young and energetic colleagues have no interest in management – more commitments, more hours, more personnel headaches, more funding headaches? No, thanks.

    Thanks to you, though, for starting an interesting discussion.

  • At 3:46 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Yes, yes, yes to all that Adrienne said.

  • At 10:45 AM, Blogger Tasha said…

    I just returned to full time work 3 months ago with my new job. I had been a part-time library director in a small library. Now I am a full-time director in a medium-sized library. For me, it has been all about how I could be there for my kids while still maintaining a professional life.

    I agree that flex-time and job sharing has to be addressed by each library wanting to keep high level staff. I also think that allowing work from home and telecommuting can be a vital link. Luckily, with my previous job, a portion of my hours were work from home.

    These are tricky waters to navigate and I applaud you for writing an article that will get people talking. Now I can go on and be a library director who will listen to young librarians and understand the pressures they face not just as parents but as people wanting to balance their lives.

    Oh, and don't be afraid of management. It can be a lot of fun. Along with the headache comes the ability to really make changes in your workplace.

  • At 11:26 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Tasha, you summed it right up with your comment about being there for your kids while having a professional life.

    My daughter's daycare is 10 minutes from my very family-friendly library -- if she's sick, I can be there very quickly (and if I can't, my husband can).

    As for management, I'm a never-say-never person, but right now, it's just not on the horizon for me. Right now, I can do a more reliably excellent job in all aspects of my life by being rank-and-file at work.

    When I wrote the column, I was working part-time & expected to stay part-time for at least a few years, but I'm actually going to have to come back full time in October for financial reasons.

  • At 2:05 PM, Blogger Melissa Rabey said…

    A really interesting article, Sophie! I've been realizing, like others who have commented, that I want more out of my life than just my job, and I want to be able to explore other interests. I've been lucky enough to do that, and I'm so glad I did it. But I certainly would like to come back to libraryland at some point in the future, if I can find something that lets me live my life without building everything around work.

  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger Ginny said…

    Good article Sophie, it looks like librarians are still struggling with the same issues I did 28 years ago when I had my first child. Has much has changed as far as options for librarians? I left work when she was born and returned part time when she was 8 months old, went full time when she was two. It was the same with my son, 5 years later. I took 3 years off that time and returned part time, then full time when he was five. It worked for me but back then I felt like I was starting over each time. In other words my career did not advance, it went backwards because I choose to work part time when my children were little. Not that I regret my choices but I wish there were more options like flex time, working from home or job sharing.

  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger Chris said…

    Sophie, I agree that we need to make our needs clear to Management. Like Ginny said, so little has really changed in the last 30 years. Women are still the primary caregivers and house managers. And now a lot of us want fulfilling careers, too. My fear is that managers will hire more men in upper level positions. Before the hate mail starts, let me just say that men have come a long, long way and my husband does ten times more for the family than my father EVER did. But on the whole, my opinion is that men do not agonize over the work/home/family time dilemma like women do. My personal experience is that my husband's brain just works differently and he doesn't think about the logistics of getting 2 kids out the door each day. I know when we walk into a room, I focus on the laundry that needs to be folded and the dust building up, etc - and he just doesn't see it. And I admit, it's hard for me to communicate that - it is hard for me to break out of the role imprinted on me in childhood. I am not blaming anyone else. I'm just saying it's hard to effect REAL change. I think the following article sums up more elegantly what I am trying to say:

  • At 11:09 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Chris, thank you so much for that link to the American Prospect article. I read it, have printed it out, and will re-read it. I found it particularly fascinating, inspiring (particularly the education & training section), and infuriating by turns, especially as a woman who on paper meets the "elite bride" criteria (schmancy women's college BA, graduate degree, married to a fellow professional, in professional career track myself) in some ways and not in others (my husband was a stay-at-home-dad for as long as we could afford it, and after trying out part-time work, I'm back at work full time for the foreseeable future).

    How DO we effect real change? I think what was missing from Hirshman's article was some material on raising a generation of boys & girls who don't view housework as the exclusive domain of women, and on raising a generation of girls not to agonize over such things. If you (I mean the global you, not the direct you, Chris) want to get married & have kids, great, but don't agonize, strategize. Divvy up the work, live with a messier house, hire a cleaner for some of it if you can, and teach your kids to do the chores.

    For myself, I'm done with agonizing -- once I finished writing that column for LJ, I realized I was finished with agonizing, too.

  • At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sophie, I linked to your column at "What's New in Work and Family" over at the Sloan Work & Family Research Network site: http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/template.php?name=newsannounce#news.
    Nice job!

    One of the more promising concepts I've come across in my research on balancing work and family is the concept of on and off ramping. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Could a parent decide that he or she "doesn't want to be want to be managers and have no designs on becoming library directors" RIGHT NOW, but change his/her mind, say, once his/her child in in school full time? I hope so! There doesn't have to be a "mommy track" if workplaces are willing to recognize that people have different priorities at different times in their lives and it doesn't make them bad workers or bad "future prospects." I've also seem some promising work on "new concept part-time employment" in which part-time employees are given the same vacation, sick days and medical benefits as full-timers on a pro-rated basis.

  • At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    D'oh! That's:

    [That should be all on one line, natch!]

  • At 7:17 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Regarding who does what; back when I was a lawyer, I read an article that said one reason men get ahead is that they take their work more seriously by using lunch to network while women run errands.

    Have you read The Second Shift? It was originally published around 1990 but was recently updated. Very insightful into the "second shift" most women work when they get home & what it means.

    I am interested in reading Hirshman's book and have it in order. As a lawyer drop out, (without children), I'm not prepared to remain a lawyer and to sacrifice my happiness for Hirshman's greater good. That said, I do agree that people need to come to the workplace with realistic goals and consider things like salary when making decisions; on the other hand, workplaces have to adjust -- it's not a child issue or a family issue, it's an issue of balance. How many workplaces allow for balance? If their is a balance and flexibility, people won't opt out; if it's only "my way or the highway" -- people will say OK, I pick the highway. And leave, or not go for the promotions, etc.

  • At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for starting the conversation, Sophie. I'm a male youth librarian who recently switched to cataloging in order to have a life outside of work. My wife (an elementary teacher) and I decided not to have kids, but we certainly have plenty of interests beyond our careers. I once had no qualms with putting in extra hours and working at home, but I can't let life pass by so easily anymore. I am still torn- I am committed to library work and youth advocacy, but I didn't bargain for it to pin me down so much. I plan to get into youth services again, but I will be careful not to burn myself out and I'll try harder to keep a healthy balance.

    BTW- I don't have a problem with doing housework, I just need my wife to point out what needs to be done. The dust can be an inch thick and I'd never notice. And I love to cook. I know there are lots of guys who see things differently than I do.

  • At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just read your article in LJ and as a mom to an 11-month old looking to find a new work situation you said everything I have been thinking. Becoming a Mom really has changed my focus and the way I define myself. Currently I am in a managerial position and I want desperately to take a step down and just be a librarian without having to worry about all the extra things that go along with being the person in charge but unfortunately those positions don't pay enough so I keep looking for a similar position that at least gets me closer to home.

    I think libraries need to step into the 21st century and take a hard look at their employment practices. I would have loved some type of paid maternity leave, never mind flex-time, job sharing or work from home options. It's hard having to go back to work 6 weeks after giving birth because that's all the vacation & sick time you have saved up. Things like short term disability and affordable health insurance for my family would be welcome changes as well.

    I just want to say thank you for writing this article and bringing these issues to the attention of others in our profession. If libraries want to keep energetic and talented staffs they need to examine the way we work. If we can bring downloadable audio and other technology into the library why can't we bring new thinking into how we structure the workplace?

  • At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was a refreshing article for a professional journal! I found the article serendipitous as I'm currently reading "The NextGen Librarian's Survival Guide" and one of the main points, is that future generations (our current Gen X included) will be redefining the work/life balance. I think we all suffer from an outdated definition of 'we want it all' because, today, I think it's possible, with a few tweaks here and there. Having it 'all' can mean experiencing fulfillment in both our professional and personal lives - meaning, we aren't striving for the top of the pile in every area and at the root of our motivations is compassion to ourselves. Not succombing to the eerie drive to work ourselves into the ground! Bravo, Sophie!

  • At 1:46 AM, Blogger Fiona said…

    Great article!

    As with many things, government, libraries etc follow business trends - I read an article last week that mentioned some accounting and law firms have only just announced their first part-timer partners (with the caveat that they should be available by phone on their days off). Businesses are only now starting to change, so libraries will be behind that.

    As others mentioned, we're all interested in this, if we have children or not - to have time to care for other family members, work on hobbies, study, or travel. Librarians at any level should have the flexibility to do these things. We should all work together to achieve this.

    Like others I have also gone through periods of worrying about whether I am doing too much, and seen my hobbies fall by the wayside and time with family and friends decrease as a result.


Post a Comment

<< Home