The other day, as I was talking about my new work as a high school yearbook advisor–or maybe it was about taking on some union duties–no, I think it was a discussion about me volunteering to chaperon a bus heading to a football game–a friend turned to me and asked, “Is there anything you don’t do at that school?!”

I’m pretty open about one of my career (and life) goals: to never have a “That’s Not My Job” moment. In other words, never to balk at those odd little (and big) things that come up in the course of my school library day, never to pass the buck or leave a student out in the cold.

So what’s my job?

First, I should be clear on a few things that, in fact, aren’t my job:

Being the school nurse (we have a school nurse for that!)
Being an assistant principal (we have assistant principals for that!)
Being the school police officer (are you sensing a theme yet?)

While there are certainly legal and professional consequences that can come with overstepping your bounds within (and without) a school or library building, there are also the more fuzzy consequences: are you stepping on someone’s toes? Are you alienating a colleague, or a student? Are you spreading yourself too thin?

And depending on the structure of your school or library, you might have very clear Not My Jobs that aren’t the same as my Not My Jobs. If you work as part of a team or have volunteers, interns or assistants, for instance, job descriptions may clearly prevent you from doing certain tasks. And if you’re in a public library, you may be thinking less about other employees in your building and more about outside agencies and professionals, like social workers, doctors and counselors.

Let’s be clear: taking on new tasks, or wearing new hats, can be fantastic. Your teens may see you in a new light, your colleagues may begin to view you as a leader in your building, and you may discover a brand new passion. …Then again, you might also get really burnt out, find yourself frustrated with parts of your “regular” job, or establish once and for all that you’re terrible at Dance Dance Revolution.

So, what’s my job?

Advising the yearbook
Volunteering at sporting events
Letting kids eat in the library during lunch
Listening to impromptu jam sessions
Advising the Gay Straight Alliance
Answering tattoo questions
Watching (and recommending) YouTube videos
Offering sound bites for video yearbook
Exchanging tweets with nerdfighters
Talking about how great Mike Birbiglia is

…And, you know, books and databases and stuff. That too.

What’s your job?

Related Reading:

I’m a doctor, not a… from Memory Alpha
My New YA Job by Erin Daly on the YALSA Blog
Risky Business & More by Linda Braun on the YALSA Blog

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

4 Thoughts on “I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator!

  1. Megan Frazer Blakemore on October 26, 2010 at 10:18 am said:

    I have some of the same as you, like advising the yearbook, but also:
    * Advising a student writing group.
    * Starting a lunchtime discussion group for teachers
    * Encouraging the playing of bagpipes, breakdancing, and other forms of self-expression at our coffee houses.
    * Helping with Poetry Out Loud
    *Gushing about Glee
    * Helping with college essays (sometimes forcibly when I take them out of the printer)

  2. Erin Daly on October 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm said:

    I’ve added career counselor and resume proofreader to my list this week. A small group of students from the alternative High School came over to our computer lab yesterday to write resumes. After spending the morning with them, I think I would like to add literacy coach to my list of jobs as well.

  3. Megan’s Glee comment reminded me that my job includes:
    * Movie and TV reviewer/recommender/conversationalist
    * Trendwatcher

    I’d also say that one of the great things about working with teens is that the job isn’t simply something that is one-size fits all. Each group of teens and each setting in which someone works requires different duties. And, each day, week, month, year the job can change because teens and the things that they are interested in, need help with, etc. change.

    And, all of these jobs make the teen librarian – in a school or public library – an integral part of the community. Which is really what teens deserve from their librarian, and as mk says, leads to being considered a leader which should provide opportunities for advocacy and success.

  4. I’d like to add “Computer instructor” to that list. So many times teens come into my public library and don’t know how to format their document, copy or edit pictures, or send an attachment.

    I’m reminded of the “There’s an app for that” catch phrase with your assertion that you are not
    “the school nurse (we have a school nurse for that!) an assistant principal (we have assistant principals for that!) or the school police officer (are you sensing a theme yet?)”

    I think that’s how all librarians should react to calls to duty. Ask yourself “Is there an app for that?” If there’s no formal position for that task, then why not take up that responsibility? As long as you’re not stepping on anyone else’s toes and you’re not going to suffer from the consequences you mentioned, then I say go right ahead!

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