Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

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If you haven’t already guessed, I work for a public library. I’ve been doing so for nearly a decade now – just one year shy this December. It had been a childhood dream – one of the many dreams, actually – to work in a library. Even in my adolescence, I often daydreamed about working there among the books.

Lately, it’s felt more like a nightmare. It’s easy for me to blame Covid-19 – this pandemic has definitely thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into the library machine – but the symptoms have been building for quite some time now. Don’t think I’ve just been mulling the idea around and letting it fester. I’m not shy when it comes to my feelings, because in every relationship – romantic, platonic, and professional – you should discuss them. Otherwise, change will never actually occur.

Maybe that’s why my supervisor suggested I read Who Moved My Cheese? again. I understand that change is good – I’m hardly a Hem, seeing myself closer to a Haw – but my feelings have less to do with the change in the structure of the workplace and more to do with me.

I’m just no longer happy working there. I’ve reached a place where I feel stagnant, there’s no more room for growth both professional and personal. But I listened to the book again. (Listened because my attention level for reading these sorts of books is nil – it’s 100% important to know your strengths and weaknesses as a reader!) And my head didn’t come out any clearer. I’m not seeking cheese or looking to hold on to cheese, so what am I doing? I haven’t yet figured that out.

I want to offer up a suggestion – an alternative – to Who Moved My Cheese?. Instead of reading Spencer Johnson’s best selling book, read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. While one feels dated as you read (or listen to the audiobook), the other feels modern. Though, they’re both grounded in common sense. I see my goals as achievements rather something I should attain. And I’ve explained as much to my director during a meeting two years ago. To think I’ve reached a “goal” and think I’m done is silly. My next goal needs to outdo the one I’ve just reached.

This is why I dislike the current employee evaluation system implemented by the city (of which I am an employee), because it sets up the employee to feel like a failure. We’re “graded” on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 is below satisfactory and 4 goes above and beyond. An employee who loves their job should strive for a 4, however, it’s an unobtainable goal. No one has ever reached a 4 in the library because “there’s always room for improvement.” That’s like never giving a student a grade above 90 because “there’s always more things to learn” despite them getting every answer correct.

A student who passes one test doesn’t just decide to stop learning, and an employee who scored a 4 in an evaluation doesn’t stop trying to better their job performance. They’re reached one achievement and continue working on their habits to reach the next achievement – and so on and so forth.

When HR sent out a memo from the city manager about employee classification and compensation, I quickly noted that my position title was no longer listed. While not a demotion, it doesn’t feel like a lateral move either. My title has downgraded from senior library assistant to library assistant II. This was news I had to digest after listening to the cheese book. It almost felt intentional.

And it’s clear to me that the cheese has indeed been moved. This was a dream job as a child; as an adult, not so much. The cheese was never in the workplace, but the workplace itself – if that makes any sense. And it’s high time I found those running shoes of mine and start following the mice who left before me.

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One thought on “The Library & Self-Help

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