Monday, April 14, 2008

Library Stress Reduction

A few days ago I followed a link from LIS News to the School Library Journal article that summarized a session on librarian stress.

The Public Library Association couldn't find any librarians to talk about reducing stress, so they cleverly brought in a consultant. As an aside, the rage for "consultants" cracks me up, since I've yet to meet one who could tell me anything that wasn't completely obvious to just about everyone. However, they're very clever about getting people to pay them for stating the obvious, so they're certainly not stupid. Here are the relevant paragraphs from the SLJ article:

"Who’s stressed? Judging by the jam-packed crowd that attended “Everyone Is Getting Crabbier,” a session presented by Sandra Nelson, the answer appears to be loads of librarians. Nelson, a former librarian who now runs Nelson Consulting, in Nashville, TN, says many librarians are stressed out of their skulls. And since they’re so up tight, in many cases their productivity has plummeted, which—you guessed it—leads to even more stress. The culprit behind this brain drain? Today’s unparalleled rate of change.

Thanks to an armada of technological innovations, the demands of juggling work and family, an unstable economy, and plain old ├╝ber-demanding bosses, many librarians are ready to scream “Uncle!” But take heart: Nelson offered conference-goers a number of salutary strategies for keeping hysteria at bay, including setting meaningful priorities, learning how to “no,” thoughtful planning, and managing one’s time more efficiently. Ultimately, coping with stress begins at home, says Nelson. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself,” she says, quoting Leo Tolstoy."

Librarians are "stressed out of their skulls," huh? Maybe. I haven't seen any evidence of that. I'm not stressed out of my skull, nor are many of the librarians I know, and those that might be considered "stressed out of their skulls" are generally so because of having to supervise a lot of whining nitwits rather than the allegedly "unparalleled rate of change" assaulting us with an "armada of technological innovations" among other things. As for screaming "uncle," my only question is, who writes this crap?

But now let us examine the so-called remedies for this skull-exploding stress, or, in the purple prose of the SLJ writer, the "salutary strategies for keeping hysteria at bay" (is the stuff in SLJ always this awful? This is worse than American Libraries.) : "setting meaningful priorities, learning how to “no,” thoughtful planning, and managing one’s time more efficiently." Wow! I can see why this woman is a consultant! All of this is, as I predicted, bloody obvious to even the halfwits among us. And all this time I've been setting meaningless priorities, never learning to say 'no' (and lordy the trouble that has caused little old me, sigh), thoughtlessly planning, and not even bothering to manage my time after I lost that little paper calendar book of mine back in '91. No wonder I'm not stressed! Be sure to hire this person to come consult at your library. She can show up and say, "Hey, you need to plan things better. That's $5000, please." Maybe I should get in this consulting game.

While all this obvious advice is nice in its bland way, I have other suggestions to reduce stress. This is the regimen I follow, and I feel great.

1) Drugs. This is the first and easiest step to reduce stress. It seems like everyone is taking drugs for stress or anxiety these days. Xanax, Zoloft, Prozac, Effexor, Bisacodyl, Nyquil, etc. Since librarians usually have decent health insurance, this plan makes sense. I have an aversion to prescription drugs myself, but I also take drugs to relieve stress. In fact, I prefer a combination of two different drugs--gin and dry vermouth, at about a 4:1 ratio, served very cold about 6pm most days. Occasionally I vary this with a similar combination of drugs--rye whiskey and sweet vermouth in the same proportion, plus a dash of bitters. It works just the same. I highly recommend this particular drug regimen. One dose of this makes the day fade away and the evening seem much nicer. Three to four doses makes the evening go away as well if you're really desperate. And listen to some good music while taking your dose.

2) Get off your fat butt and move around occasionally. This is another proven stress reducer that is anathema to a lot of librarians and just difficult for others. This could involve going to gyms and working out and all that, or it could just involve walking more often and actually taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You're only going up one floor, tubby, you don't need the elevator. It's not like you're carting books to the top of a skyscraper. You don't have to be a jock to get up out of your chair and take a walk around the building.

3) Realize that those people you work with are just people you work with. Don't take them so seriously, and don't make their little mini-dramas your own problems. Treat work as if the whole thing were happening to someone else in a movie. Nobody will know the difference and you'll feel better.

4) While you're at it, don't take yourself so seriously, either. I certainly don't. The library was there before you were born, and it'll be there after you're dead (well, most libraries, at least). Relax a bit and quit acting like the whole operation depends on you, because it doesn't.

5) You might criticize my martini, but I see the fizzy sugar water you guzzle from the soda machine. Do you really need three liters of Coke every day? Why don't you stop drinking so much of that and have a bottle of water sometimes instead? You'll feel better. And pass the snack machine by as well.

6) And while we're on drinks, why don't you cut down on the coffee. I suppose having your hands shake and your pulse race is fun for a while, but jacking yourself up on caffeine isn't really helping. If you're one of those people who "just can't function without your first cup of coffee," then you're a sad creature who needs to go to bed earlier instead of staying up watching the idiot box all night.

7) Don't stay up all night watching the idiot box. I know you think you need that time to "veg out," but six hours a night watching desperate housewives break out of small town prisons and solve crimes the pseudo-scientific way isn't doing your brain any good. It just makes you stupider, and that will increase your stress. If you're getting stupider while everything else stays the same, even without rapid change you're going to be stressed. I assume being stupid makes life more stressful, so you certainly don't need anything that will make you more stupid than you already are.

8) Why don't you read an improving book, instead. But don't read a book about relieving stress. That self-helpless stuff is almost worse than TV. I prefer a nice cultural history, but I know most people like fiction. There's plenty of good fiction to suit every taste, though some of it will keep you just as stupid as your TV habit.

9) If the pace of technological change is bothering you so much, why don't you sit down in front of a computer and actually learn how to do something new. Oh my, I bet you never thought of that, now did you. All that time you spent staring at the television or complaining to your equally stressed colleagues about how this computer thing keeps changing on you could have been spent learning something. Plus, it could make you famous. There are actually librarians who have become well known merely because they can make a wiki. Isn't that amazing? And trust me, baby, making a wiki ain't that hard.

10) Finally (I could go on all day, but people like lists of ten, so here you are), if one of the stressors is "juggling work and family," throw an extra family ball into the juggling mix. Leave work at work. Do you have a kid? Spend time with the little brat, and not just staring at the idiot box. A boyfriend? Make him some dinner and have a conversation, even if you have to drag the lazy bum away from his videogames. If you don't have any family around, surely you must have friends. If you don't, make some, and spend more time with them without thinking about or mentioning work. For pete's sake, people, we work in libraries. We're not saving lives here. Relax.

Well, there you have it, the Annoyed Librarian's mundane list of stress reducers. Better than you'd get from a consultant, and it didn't cost you a dime.


Anonymous said...

AL: I love you so much, it is seriously stressing me out.

--Jennifer, MLIS student

SafeLibraries® said...

I wasn't going to comment on this particular blog post, but I just got an email about library stress. In a nutshell, a public library board of trustees member found out a librarian supported the use of Internet filters and has now made that librarian's life "living hell."

Can anyone suggest what that librarian should do? Has the trustee violated any laws? Ethics codes? Anything? What are the consequences, if any? How are they enforced? Has anyone heard of similar stories, and do you have web links to them to share? Any other ideas?

Until I get permission to say more, that's all I'll say for now.

Anonymous said...



the.effing.librarian said...

do I have to do all (10), or can I just do (1) ten times?

Anonymous said...

Sex. It does a librarian good.

Anonymous said...

Sex. It does a librarian good.

It hurts my bun and muses my prim and proper clothes.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have stress, you aren't working hard enough.

Anonymous said...

I like your martini solution--particularly that 3 or 4 will make the night go away.

I think I would like to live in your world--where there is time to watch TV, or even, feel guilty about watching too much TV. That in itself sounds pretty stress-free to me.

Anonymous said...

There you go AL you now can market your top 10 ways to deal with librarian stress and be a consultant too.

Personally I find Baileys over vanilla ice cream to be an excellent stress reducer. Pair it with a evening in bed with the loved one and you certainly won't be thinking or stressing about work.

Of course that stress relief method could lead to kids, which you are right, spending time with them is one of the greatest ways to reduce work stress.

Anonymous said...

In the world of small public libraries, where the rule is underfunding and a board composed of the village idiots, stress is well-known. The expectation is that the librarian will sacrifice to keep it all together, for the good of the community. Some years ago I went to a conference where another director advised us not to volunteer at our library. Duh. A light went off in my head. I stopped doing it after that. Best advice I ever got. Also, I second the suggestion of Anonymous 8:12 am. Mess up your bun!

AL said...

Spending the evening in bed with a loved one and messing up your bun are indeed stress relievers, but I only had 10 slots, and after all this is a family blog.

Anonymous said...

This is the same consultant who told us to get rid of our children's reference desk. Unfortunately, we followed that advice. However, we got a new director recently and we now have our children's desk back!

Minks said...

What a gem,, where to start...

"Librarians are "stressed out of their skulls," huh? Maybe. I haven't seen any evidence of that. I'm not stressed out of my skull, nor are many of the librarians I know, and those that might be considered "stressed out of their skulls" are generally so because of having to supervise a lot of whining nitwits"

It's funny because it is true...

But now let us examine the so-called remedies for this skull-exploding stress

That is by far the worst type of stress there is. Well,, that and bowel exploding stress, which is far more common.

You're only going up one floor, tubby, you don't need the elevator.

Lol.. Ouch, my face is starting to hurt, and my co-workers are staring at me. The only way this could be a funnier picture is if tubby were drinking a martini while eating a snickers.... but you cannot drink at work.... right? Right?


Umm,,,,,wha? =P




Anywho, One of the reasons I became a librarian was to avoid stress.... for the most part, with stunning success (exceptions - lotsa whining nitwits and internet perverts). I used to work in a law office, and therefore have something to base stress level evaluations on. When is the last time any librarian had to work overnight to prepare for a court case in the morning? I so do not miss that.

Don't even get me started on the construction industry... I think it is mandatory you yell at the top of your lungs at no fewer then 3 people a day. That would suck.

We have it good.

Those at the top of our game know it.

Anonymous said...

AL, that was a wonderful list!

Here's a standing ovation for you:

i i i i i i i

And here's the $5000 in consulting fees.
Wait! I'm hysteric! I am! I'm stressed and hysteric!!!!

Anonymous said...

[i]"Treat work as if the whole thing were happening to someone else in a movie."[/i]

That is basically what I do every day! But I never thought of it in such terms. This is the key to low-stress levels at work.

This is my first post, but I've been enjoying your humor for a while.

Kristen said...

I already practice most of this (regular cocktails, no tv, serious books, early bedtime, plenty of bun-mussing) and I'm certainly mellower than most of my coworkers.

I have to admit, though, that another solution to the occasional irritating day (and/or coworker) is requisitioning the boyfriend's video game and killing stuff.

Brent said...

Compared to an E.R. doctor or U.S. National Guard in Iraq, librarians are one on a 1-10 scale. And really, that is where they belong. Deal with it, babies.

However, pretending to have stress makes you look busy. Stress implies you are busy, thus important. Dilbert comic strips taught me this.

Anonymous said...

Spending the evening in bed with a loved one and messing up your bun are indeed stress relievers,

You have never spent a night with my wife....

Or maybe you have.....


soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why does the AL have to stick with just libraries? Their brilliant or at least pretend to be. Then again their a librarian and we are paid know it alls. I am sharing this blog with people outside of libraries its a good one. But because I am evil I ll do it through it my myspace account.

Anonymous said...


Oh my, how I love all you wonderful, wicked people here.


Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw The Consultant's comment that we are stressed about the alleged "unparalleled rate of change" I knew...she was paid by the government. See, if local government bodies can keep up the misconception that librarians are slow to adapt to ANYTHING, then they can lay off the "older, less adaptable" types and hire the new models for less money and a sexier degree (i.e. one that doesn't include the word "librarian").

The solution actually is for the Great Unwashed to get some manners...good ones, that is. I'm not sure that's possible. We are serving a generation of people who were not even reprimanded, let alone spanked, when speaking rudely to someone from whom they needed something. But once again, it's easier to blame the Crabby Librarian(s) than the Snotty Customer(s).

I cut my hair short so's not to worry about the bun (nudge nudge wink wink)...

Anonymous said...

Wow, what great tips, and you (in your generosity) did not even charge us the 5K. Those stress workshops pretty much repeat themselves, and actually I have seen one or two in the literature (when I manage to actually look at it).

Indeed, people need to learn to leave work at work. It was a big reason I left public school teaching: teachers simply cannot leave the work at work (grading papers, etc. Just not humanly possible). Here, five o' clock comes around, and the job stays at the library. I go home, spend some time reading, a nice meal, and relax. Life is too short.

Sure, there are busy days in the academic libraries (instruction season can be quite the ride), but hey, when it is done, let it be. And do mix yourself your favorite cocktail or pour yourself some vino. Enjoy life.

And I am adding this: remember to laugh. As a comedian I heard once said, "if you ain't laughing, you ain't living." Besides, librarianship offers tons of shit to laugh at. See stuff about consultants referred to in the post.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yea, and I also agree with the other commenter above: sex can do you good. Burns calories and reduces stress. 'nough said.

Anonymous said...

God, I want to be a library consultant. Be paid to go all over the world, telling people what to do, then skipping away merrily when the shit hits the fan.

Leaving work at work? Surely, you jest! Don't you realize that librarianship is a lifestyle, not a job?

Unknown said...

Stupider? How about more stupid.

Anonymous said...

The best stress relief of all is reading the AL.

louie said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I've found out plenty of techniques which can be used to relief stress. Read them up at and give them a try today. It'll do good for you.

Anonymous said...

Change doesn't stress me; change usually just amuses or annoys me.

The junkie shooting up in the bathroom? The teenagers debating whether or not to try setting a trash can on fire? The screaming unsupervised children who are about to run into the 95-year-old woman in a walker with an oxygen canister?

THAT stresses me out.

Of course, addressing those stressors would require talking to the idiots on the library board looking for any reason to cut budgets and let go of staff, so that's not really an option.

Anonymous said...

Get back to work, you slackers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:55 AM - I think I work in your library.

My main source of stress is my supervisor.One day I woke up, realized she was completely insane, and decided to look at everything she does or says as a Dilbert panel. I also decided not to bring home work and to not let myself be pressured into working extra weekends. Then I started delegating as much as humanly possible (preferably back onto my supervisor). I'm much happier and relaxed but my supervisor seems a bit more stressed these days.

My suggestion - forget the consultants, the stress and leadership workshops, etc. Libraries need to teach MANAGEMENT SKILLS workshops.If more managers actually knew how to MANAGE their staffs would be less stressed.

Anonymous said...

Er, isn't "Treat(ing) work as if the whole thing were happening to someone else in a movie." one of the diagnostics of a sociopath?

Not complaining you understand, libraries probably need more sociopaths.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiners.

"We are stressed, we need a consultant"

"Management is mean."

"I need my mommy."

Grow up and grow a pair.

If we had had this attitude in WWII we would all be speaking German today. Well, except for the Jewish population.

Get over yourselves and get back to work.

Anonymous said...

"Librarians are "stressed out of their skulls," huh? Maybe. I haven't seen any evidence of that. I'm not stressed out of my skull, nor are many of the librarians I know, and those that might be considered "stressed out of their skulls" are generally so because of having to supervise a lot of whining nitwits"

AL - so true. I had many happy years as a non-stressed librarian until I decided that managing nitwits would be a "real fun challenge". I yearn to go back.

Anonymous said...

If we had had this attitude in WWII we would all be speaking German today. Well, except for the Jewish population.

Huh? People weren't stressed in WWII? Sounds like you're in denial. Call me when you have triple bypass surgery.

Anonymous said...

Idiot, people were stressed in WWII and went a head and did what was needed.

They didn't need yoga.

They didn't need to sit around and talk about their feelings.

They did what was necessary.

Today? Ohhhhh, my boss makes me work. Oh, you poor thing, you better take time off work to relieve all that stress you are under. Maybe we should give you a raise.

Get over it and get back to work.

AL said...

Let's watch it with the name-calling. It tends to get your comment deleted.

Anonymous said...

I am stressed. My library might be outsourced at anytime. I have to deal with demanding patron, who, if I don't service, will see that I am fire. There aren't that many jobs out there, so I'm stuck with this one until I can find another. (I was in a public library. I had to deal with patrons who tried to physically stop me from passing them in aisle.) Those of you how aren't stressed are lucky. And its not the technology, its DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE.

Anonymous said...

And see, I was so stressed out, I couldn't type correctly in the previous post. Maybe it is the technology.

Anonymous said...

Let's watch it with the name-calling. It tends to get your comment deleted.

That was me.

I apologize to AL and everyone else.

It is all this stress I am under and that darn Bush and this war.

It won't happen again.

Anonymous said...

They didn't need yoga.

No, cigarettes and booze sufficed.

Anonymous said...

For all of you who are suffering from stress, a little help ....

Be sur eto check the manic mode for more fun!

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks
The URL I just posted is not complete. I cannot get the blog to post in its entirety

Anonymous said...

This came at a great time! I am new at my library, and there are a few librarians who have been here for 30+ years who make sure that I know it. Between talking to me like I'm 12 and complaining about every little thing, it can be a bit much. But you're right. They are not my problem. They are their problem. I like my job and my life. They need to get over themselves.

Anonymous said...

Actually the URL is now showing complete.
Have fun, everyone

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I might even have to print out this list.

Oh, and the one time I was a paid consultant [ONE time? Huh, maybe I wasn't that good; I certainly didn't make any $5000!] I told them things about their archives that any archivist would have thought patently obvious, but that the folks on site really didn't know nothin' about. And I recommended changes that they probably haven't made, either.


Anonymous said...

AL, are you going to charge us a consulting fee for this advice?

Anonymous said...

I can only think of one more tip:

Find a hobby that is a "flow" activity; something that is attention absorbing and involves attaining a certain level of mastery.

Kevin said...

This is fantastic. And all so true.

Brent said...

Maybe this is why librarians fight for open-access porn in libraries. A great stress reliever! ;)

Kevin Musgrove said...

We're stressed out of our skulls. Primarily due to the antics of a few fuckwitted librarians who think they're managers.

Anonymous said...

Manhattans ... ohhhhhhhhhhhh ... make up a pitcher and invite a few librarian colleagues over after work on a Friday night. Nothing better. And no work talk allowed!

Anonymous said...

How about playing "Name That Library Patron" charades with your coworkers (off work time, of course)! Games are always good stress releivers.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that's "relievers."

Anonymous said...

I've found that punching those annoying, repetitive customers reduces my stress too.

Make the world a better place, punch annoyers in the face.

Anonymous said...

Leaving work at work is a BIIIIIG problem for this little irritable librarian. I get paid for 1.5 hours of work a day* and yet I seem to spend all day every day thinking about work! But, in my late night net searches for resources for the library web page, I found the Annoyed Librarian, so Karma works after all.

*Part time work cause I have a baby. (That and before I got pregnant I could only get relief work and this part time permanent 'lib tech'job, for which I am overqualified - don't even get me started. Still, all worked out for the best in the end - I m no good at the life/work balance thing.)

Unknown said...

Perhaps you haven't dealt with a situation that truly required a consultant. Consultants usually help with highly specialized projects when the firm in charge lacks the appropriate expertise and resources needed to tackle the something-or-another-they'll-probably-only-do-once outweighs the expense. For example, setting up an IPO would be something worth hiring a consultant to do right.

Additionally, consultants are used to externalize responsibility for things that people might not like, might do wrong, or might not really care about. This might include legitimate things, like requiring an engineer or architect to sign off on house plans, or something bogus, like paying some MBA douchebag $15,000 to tell you what to name city hall. All too often, they're really just hired to cover one's ass when not qualified for the demands of his or her cushy public-sector job.

For the most part, I too find consultants to be silly, but for when some asshole architect designed a specialized building (like a theater or library) that actually impairs the poor saps working there from doing their jobs properly, because it was so awfully ignorant of the practices of industry.


While you're enjoying that gin, visit my blog and use it to relax with as well.

Regards, Diane

Unknown said...

Interesting post and the effort made is really appreciable. I agree with you Simon and I found myself a depression counselor to manage stress. It helped me in all aspects to rediscover my peaceful and cheerful life by coping with stress.