Self-Advocacy (Advocacy Series #4)

You are valuable – advocate for yourself!!

In this series we have spent a lot of time focused on libraries and how we can advocate for our libraries and our profession. Of course this is important, and if you have not told someone today about a great thing your library does – get on that!

We also need to talk about advocating for ourselves! As library people, we need to advocate for our specific jobs, and we need to advocate for ourselves to move into other jobs, to be taken seriously, and to do the good things we want to do in the library. (You can also advocate for yourself outside of the library; but here we will focus on self-advocacy in the workplace.)

Where do we start? Think about your job now. Do you like it? This is a serious question. Too many people are stuck in jobs they don’t like, or jobs that don’t speak to their skills and professional interests. Sometimes there is nothing to do about that, and then you either decide to just grit your teeth and do it (develop some good outside hobbies!), or you start looking around for another job.

Let’s assume that we are somewhere different, that we are in a job that may not really connect with the things we know we can do professionally, or that we can not see with a strong potential for growth and promotion. It’s not bad enough to leave it, but things could be better.

This is where self-advocacy can really come in handy!

First figure out, in clear language, what you want. Do you want to learn to program on your website? Do you want to be more involved with social media? Do you want to have more time spent on your collection? Do you want to to go more training opportunities to learn more tech skills? Decide clearly one or two or three things that would make your job better.

Now, let’s think about ways to make them a reality. How could you learn some programming or tech skills? is always an excellent choice, and probably available for free through your library, or one nearby. Likewise, has a wide variety of free classes to build skills in all kinds of areas. (You can even just do them for fun; I took a great class in dinosaurs from the University of Alberta! Not relevant to my work at all, but I had a good time!) Same with with a bunch of potentially interesting classes (including Library Advocacy Unshushed). Could you spend time with someone else in your library, or in another library? Would attending some training at a local organization – a community college, or a local training group – give you some good skills, opportunities, and contacts?

You do not need to have a completely detailed plan just yet; but it is always worth thinking through what you really want before you take it any farther.

And now we can start turning this into reality!

Who makes the decisions about what you do all day? Let’s go talk to them about some of these interesting ideas and solutions.

  • Are you a solo librarian, who sets the tone of your work week? Great! Conference with yourself, write down some specific plans, and make this a reality.
  • Do you report to a supervisor on a regular basis? Make an appointment to talk about your plans and the things you want to do in the library. Give all your plans, your research, and your solutions, and sit back to discuss things.
  • Do you report to a more distant supervisor? Someone who does not keep in touch with your daily workload may need to have things explained in more detail, to really understand what you want and why.

Remember: frame things in terms of how this will make you a better employee. It’s okay to say you are not entirely fulfilled at work – but you do not want to present yourself as complaining about the job. (That is a good way to lose it later!) Talk about how these new skills, or new responsibilities you want to take on, can make the library better, make you a better employee, and bring wonderful joy to everyone! (Okay, don’t overstate the value either!) But focus on the positives you can bring to the library.

Things may not change right away. It may not be possible for you to change tasks immediately, and you may not have all your work change over to be wonderfully satisfying. Or, sadly – your boss may just be a jerk. (Consider some self-advocacy into a new job if that is true!!)

Have you had experience in advocating for yourself at work? How did it go?? Do you have advice for others who may want to give this a try? Tell us all about it!