Balance is something I highly value and recognize that it’s important for a lot of things in life. It’s especially necessary to have a balance between work life and the rest of life to avoid burnout and feeling overwhelmed. Constantly doing work at home or vice versa is a recipe for disaster. This does not necessarily mean setting rigid boundaries though.
Boundaries are always artificial and can often cause more stress in worrying about crossing them. We are not completely different people at work and at home. We may act differently and have different tasks and priorities, but we’re still the same person. We still have the same values and interests, and by completely sectioning work from home both areas of our life lose something.
Two weeks ago we had ACRL’s excellent Immersion Program here on campus. I was in the teacher track a couple of years ago, and one of the things they discuss is the idea of becoming an authentic teacher. They assign readings from Parker Palmer who talks not about the how-to but about the reflective side of teaching and the “inner landscape of a teacher’s life.” Authenticity in the classroom is not about simply putting on a show or a façade, but about bringing your own identity and experiences into every situation. This is something that takes work though. This means that in the classroom I might talk about my affinity for dinosaurs, or mention that I recently at half a dozen hotdogs at a Vermont Lake Monster’s game, or get really excited about learning, research, and curiosity.
This authenticity can also carry over into the other areas of work. I was reminded of a presentation that Char Booth gave at LOEX this spring. An important point that stuck with me was the idea of personality cultivation for librarians. She gave some fun examples of librarians wearing banana suits as a promotion, creating cardboard cutouts, and some clever UPload Yours buttons they created at Claremont for their scholarly repository.
As librarians we can often be concerned about being seen as professionals, but we also need to be concerned about being seen as people. Cultivating a personality and bringing your strengths and interests to your work can make your job that much more fulfilling as well as help build relationships around campus. There are a lot of examples of librarians who bring their personalities, sense of humor, and authentic selves to the work they do. Whether they’re creating wickedly funny and informative learning objects, creating a story sailboat, or simply adding a bit more style to their workplace, librarians who let their own interests infiltrate their work life seem to have a lot of fun.
The same is true for conference presentations. People who have their own style and tell stories from their life tend to be much more engaging than those simply giving information. And this is also the essence of library social media accounts. No one wants dry, institutional, informational status updates or tweets. Our users, whether online or off do not connect with the library, they connect with people.
Finding a balance between work and home is important and will be different for everyone. But I don’t think boxes work. Bring the things that excite you to work. Bring the things that fulfill you home. Do good work both places. We’re all whole people and when we can bring ourselves wholly into our work and home lives, both places will be more enriching and enriched.