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Library Politics

business kitty

Before you start working in a library, you might believe that it is a work environment free of the all silly politics that private businesses have to deal with. It’s all idealistic librarians just looking for a way to bring the love of reading to all ages, right? … Right? Not exactly.

I work in a library system with five branches, and there is a LOT of politics going on. I am personally not a great political player. I’m terrible at mind games and easily manipulated (something I figured out after a long-term relationship that went on way beyond the amount of time it should have). I’m also really bad at general “chatting.” I don’t necessarily like to chat. I don’t mind that other people do it around me, but I don’t always want to be in on the conversation, even if it’s happening right behind me. I don’t listen when people are talking near me if I’m not specifically part of the conversation. Sometimes then they’ll say something to me as though I should know what they were talking about, and I’ll have no idea. But I’m digressing. Back to politics.

I had several meetings this week, so I could see all the players, and I know the way all of them work. Although I haven’t been in this position that long, I have been in the system for five years, so I know most of these people at least fairly well, and I definitely know their reputations. Even when we are collaborating on something, there is a definite feel of competition between the buildings sometimes. I myself am absolutely not a competitive person, so it doesn’t really bother me if someone is doing something that I’m not, but others don’t always feel that way.

There are alliances, and passive aggressive enemies. There are many different supervisors and managers with different styles and levels of directness you have to learn. There are very sensitive people which you have to learn walk on eggshells with, and then people that you can really dig into and will never be offended by anything… It’s kind of like high school. I guess everything is kind of like high school when it comes down to it. Everyone is either in the popular group, wants to be in the popular group, or doesn’t care at all and just complains all the time.

I’m still learning some of the personalities, and luckily I’m a major empath, so I can usually tell pretty quickly how far I can go with people. But especially the way all the responsibilities in the libraries are merging, the webs of communication are getting more and more complicated. Who needs to know what? Why hasn’t this person heard about that? You need to run that past her and her and him, etc. It can make a girl dizzy.

Thank goodness my direct supervisor is a very direct, honest person who does not easily take offense, so I feel like I can go to her with pretty much anything, and she can help me navigate the waters. Let me tell you, after knowing different styles of managers, it’s a breath of fresh air to have someone direct, flexible, honest, encouraging and trusting. I think trust is the best thing a manager can have. Trust me to do my job. Encouraging is great too, because wouldn’t you want your employees to learn and grow?

Anyway, this post is really just free flow thoughts, but I thought I’d share. If you’re thinking about being a librarian to get away from corporate politics, think again! I think the only way out of that is doing nothing!