Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Does the Job End When You Get Home?

Does the job end when you get home?

This question comes to us from someone considering library school and in whose current career the answer would be “no.” Long hours at work, more hours at home, stress rarely ending, etc. I’ll give my thoughts on the question but feel free to leave other opinions in the comments. This might be the opportunity to persuade or dissuade someone from entering the profession.

Obviously this depends on the type of work. In an academic library, the difference between reference librarians, especially those who support academic departments, and catalogers is sometimes obvious.

Catalogers might work long hours, but when they leave the library they can’t really catalog anymore, so the day is done. Reference librarians often work evenings but when they’re done they’re done..

All this gets tossed aside in academic libraries where the librarians have faculty status. Then the pressure of research agendas might mean that work in some sense is never done.

And once you move into administration or IT, one never knows. Those systems librarians are sometimes always on call.

In public libraries, it would be about the same, except for the lack of a need to publish.

However, this depends on the size of the community. In smaller cities and towns, the library director and perhaps other librarians would be known quantities. They might be stopped in the grocery store and asked questions. They might appear at local events to promote the library.

The informal work might even be extensive if the director is motivated, but it’s perhaps different from having several hours of dedicated work after going home.

It also depends on the impact you want to make on the profession. Do you want to be a mover and shaker, or do you want to remain in happy obscurity? There’s no shame in obscurity, but moving and shaking requires work outside of the library, or longer hours within the library.

And then there are some common professional things many librarians do on top of their day jobs. They might write blogs or do a lot of public speaking. Obviously this is a small percentage of the profession, because there are always more readers and students and audience members than there are writers, teachers, and speakers. But this takes time, usually not work time.

Depending on the library and type of work, it is certainly possible for librarians to show up for work and then set it aside when they get home, although it might not be desirable.

Or am I wrong and librarians are working all day and then going home and working all night and it’s always stressful? What are the librarians you know like?



  1. In my case I feel like I do work a lit at home , but primarily because I am trying to promote reading . I like to try to read what my students are reading or find new things for the, to read. I am also always looking for flu and inviting things for my younger students. I work at a small private school and serve peek 3- 12 th grade. I am husslin everyday in and out of school , but I feel very drawn to it. I talk to the students in and out of school about school, books, life and just encouraging them to find their spot in life. :)

  2. (serious answer) mostly, the day is over when I go home. but I still check work email and text my staff if I want them to do something. I tweet/blog, but I don’t count that as work since it benefits no one. but my gf works at home all the time, making props for her reading programs, researching books; I’d guess she puts in another 10 hours a week. but it’s for the children, so it doesn’t bother her.

  3. I’m a public librarian but my SO is a school librarian. As it’s her first year in a new school district she works a TON outside of the classroom. I put in some work outside of my normal working hours (web admin stuff mostly) but it is nowhere near the time she has to dedicate.

  4. I think, like most other other white- (or pink-) collar office jobs, the answer depends on where you work, who your boss is, and how much you choose to bring your work home with you.

    There are many, many more significant reasons than this to NOT go to library school in 2013.

  5. I’d say it definitely depends on the library you work for, and the type of library as well. As a non-supervising public librarian with no “mover and shaker” aspirations, I definitely do not feel like I take work home with me. Some days are stressful, but I can always leave my stress at my desk.

  6. I read 3-4 books for the book clubs I run each month. I know librarians who make a point of reading a lot of new books (new books getting a lot of buzz, award winners, etc.), and I used to do this too. But at some point I realized I wasn’t doing appreciably better reader’s advisory as a result of all of the extra reading. So now I read only the books I want to read – aside from those book club selections, of course.
    I also check work e-mail at home, but that doesn’t take a long time. Most of the other work I do at home is connected to my ambitions to be a “mover and shaker” – I choose to do this, so I can’t really complain about it.

  7. Dear Depressed Teen:
    Please only text me your troubles during business hours.
    Your Teen Librarian, When I’m At Work.

  8. Sure, as a librarian you can leave your work at work, but that’s deceptive because most new librarians don’t have much family time. Expect to sacrifice your personal relationships to the job. The only thing you’re going to get in this job market is the night and weekend hours. Plus, chances are that you’re going to be working two (or more) part time jobs, because there just aren’t any full time entry level positions, so your schedule will be complicated.

  9. Frog the Librarian says:

    I work in systems and work never truly leaves me. Since my job is part-time and if I don’t check my work e-mail, I’m sure to be out of the loop on my next day in.

    If I ever get that elusive full-time position, I won’t mind the reading and the writing – I would like to publish extensively, go to conferences, and be more active in associations.

  10. Happily Obscure says:

    Thanks (seriously) for stating that choosing to be happily obscure is okay. I spent the first few years of my career feeling like I had to publish, had to speak at conferences, had to have a blog, etc. in order to be a “good” school librarian. I realize now that being a librarian is my job, and not my passion. I do the best job I can when I’m at work. I care about my students and their education, and I do everything I can to contribute. But when I go home, I’m done. And that’s okay.

  11. Techserving You says:

    As stated above, it all depends on the sort of librarian position. But, no matter what, I don’t think that any librarian short of (perhaps) the director of a large research library or major public library feels the kind of stress that people in many other professions do.

    There’s “work you take home” and “work you HAVE to do at home or risk losing your job or driving the company into the ground.” I don’t think many librarians have ever really experienced the latter in their library jobs. Many librarians who take work home do so because it benefits them – in many cases the work is not even really a required part of their paid job. Many librarians sign on to speak at conferences in order to pad their resumes (or maybe even learn something) but it’s not in their job description and their boss never asked them to do it. Others do this, and conduct research, because it is part of their tenure-track position. And still others take home “work work” (say, a lesson plan for bibliographic instruction, or a draft of a policy, or some web content) because they need some extra uninterrupted time to get it done. (Hey, that’s why most librarians have exempt status.) I have usually fallen into this last category.

    Still, this is nothing compared to what my husband faces in an upper management position at a large for-profit company. He takes work home because he needs to monitor transactions which occur throughout the evening, needs to work on a forecasting model, needs to formulate a justification for this or that or an explanation for a variance, or needs to work on a do-or-die presentation he’s delivering to the CEO.

    So, in short, you can find a librarian position which is almost entirely left at the office, although in my experience most professional librarian positions do involve a bit of extra work. But there is a difference between being somewhat relaxed as you use your mind, and being on the verge of having a heart attack because of the possible consequences of your performance. And, I really do NOT consider reading a lot of books to be “taking my work home with me,” even if I’m doing it to keep up on what’s available so I can offer reader’s advisory or select new acquisitions. People who do real work at home would scoff at that idea.

    I do want to point out that while catalogers are not at home cataloging books, most of them do try to keep up on developments in the field, and many are no longer just catalogers. Some have management and project management duties, or unrelated duties like reference. If someone is really looking for a job from which they can entirely check out (even mentally) at the end of the day… I’d say don’t make the investment in a masters degree. There are plenty of other jobs like that, but as low-stress as many librarian positions can be, almost any professional position is still going to require some extra work or thought. The job is usually an exempt, salaried position and SHOULD require a bit of involvement away from the office.

  12. Sue Cordek says:

    If reading five to ten books a week on my own time is considered taking your work home, then I plead guilty. I am a YA librarian and feel I have to know the literature in order to stay relevant with my readers and to be able to justify/defend my acquisitions in the event a parent takes issue with a particluar topic or title. Book selection often gets relegated to evenings at home also; cross-checking multiple reviews is time consuming and requires a level of concentration that is hard to achieve in a shared office space. But I love my job and I love YA lit and I don’t begrudge a minute of the time I spend “working” at home.

  13. Public Liberrian says:

    In public libraries- unless you’re the director- the job pretty much stays on the job. Even as the director of a small library system, the work that I do after-hours is largely by choice. I’m always able to be reached for emergencies, that those are few and far-between.

  14. When You are a public library director you are always a public library director, especially if you are sort of well known in town. In the grocery store you will answer questions about the library. You may be asked to return the books “I’ve got out in my car.” You may receive phone calls at home about strange stuff. People may point you out in the bar with great amusement: “Look, the librarian drinks beer!” You may attend numerous after/before hours meeting, be it Chamber or service club related. It’s all part of the job, and in many ways it is the fun part.

  15. blksquirrel says:

    It can be as stressful as you make it. Some people have nothing else going on besides work and put in the long hours. I have a very demanding hobby–I am an athlete. That said, I also have a very stressful role in an ARL and often have to work late. I am also tenure track, so writing bleeds into weekends. I do, however, create strict boundaries. For example, I NEVER miss a workout because of work. I am in bed by 8pm, get up at 4:30 to train, then get on with my day at work. I find that I am better prepared to face the craziness in my job.

  16. Kristina says:

    Honestly, as a non-manager public librarian, I don’t get paid enough to take a stick of work home with me. I read a lot at home but I would do that no matter the job so I don’t consider it work.

    I love my job. If I made what I considered to be a good wage for having an advanced degree I would be happy to truck all types of work home with me. With that said, I went into my career knowing what I would be making and, knowing that, I knew I wouldn’t be the work from home type.

    Also, I’m happy to be good at my job but I have no desire to be an innovator, mover, or shaker. I think this helps my ability to not do library things outside work hours.

  17. I work in an academic library, in a tenure track position. Yes, I work after hours for my job, mostly for the reappointment and tenure process. Frequently I am doing committee work (professional associations) and if I do those during the day, then I must catch up on work related emails at night. This does not include university committee work that I am required to do in addition to my normal job responsibilities. I find myself driving to local professional association meetings, and attending professional conferences, often at my own personal expense. Today is Saturday, and I am on a deadline to finish an article I am writing.

    At my institution, I noticed that the level of professional involvement decreased drastically after tenure attainment; now I see why. IMO, tenure will not do much for me (except give me a life time job.) I don’t think this is my last job, and frankly, I don’t ever want a tenure track position again.

    I was a librarian in the private sector, and yes, I had to work after hours. But I was paid a lot more $$.

    • blksquirrel says:

      Penny’s account is very typical in academic libraries with tenure-track librarians. So, new grads, you have been warned! The reason why professional involvement decreases so much post-tenure is because most people are seriously burned out and with very good reason. I also noticed many of the tenured faculty seem bitter, unwilling to mentor newbies, and way too consumed with their own work agenda and jockeying for position. I am lucky–I have a few great colleagues. All of these tenure-activities are fools’ errands. We are complete suckers for signing up for a 40 hr work week plus tenure in our free-time. Even teaching faculty don’t have it this bad!

  18. harmonyfb says:

    I’m not even a librarian, just a paraprofessional in a public library, but I still do a lot of work at home – research for the YA and Juv programs I lead (and readying crafts because I have very very little time off the Circ desk to get my programmed crafts ready), keeping track of new releases and reading reviews from genres I don’t read myself so I can advise patrons, reading Juv and YA books so I can fill purchase carts with recommendations, etc.

    No, I really don’t get paid enough to do that (I’m part-time with no benefits, just like 90% of the other folks at our library, both para- and professional), but the alternative is that it doesn’t get done, and the patrons suffer (and then circ numbers dwindle, attendance numbers dwindle, and the city slashes our budget because we’re not getting used enough to justify the money, so it’s also a CYA situation.)

    • Techserving You says:

      If you are an hourly employee, what you are doing is actually illegal, and I don’t even mean that the library/city is exploiting you, but you are putting the library/city in a bad position. Non-exempt employees MUST be paid for all work. You can’t simply choose to volunteer your time in addition to being a paid employee. I fully understand the problem – this was happening at a small library in which I was director, and appealing for more funding for more hours, or exempt status, doesn’t always work. But at the very least, you should let the higher-ups know, because, as I said, you should not be doing this.

  19. If you take a non-tenure track, salaried librarian position, there isn’t really that much to protect you. I watched a pile of duties and weekend/evening shifts get added to my position and took hours of work home with me each week. I had to beg for the two days of my vacation that I used and worked all through a very serious illness.

    I was advised that taking a tech services staff position was “career suicide.” As it turns out, the pay is the same, I get fifty days of vacation a year/generous sick leave, and I leave my work at the door each night beyond some occasional reading like RDA guides.

    I think it wildly depends on the position. Ask around, new grads! If I had been local, I would have heard about the reputation of my prior employer before I applied.

  20. Sure. As a Collection Development librarian in a medium to large public library system, I am always paying attention to the world around me. Every movie release, every movie in production sends me to the source material. Is is still in print, are there related biographies, are there earlier productions that will be in demand with the new adaptation? Every music release is another opportunity to refresh and replace earlier works by the artist. A new author interview on NPR? I want to be sure that our collection has the title available or on order as our patron’s interest is fresh. My job is to anticipate the community’s reading, viewing and listening needs. (Morbidly, if I have done my job, we are well stocked when an author, actor or person of fame dies and interest is revived one last time) I am fiercely proud of our collection and our community support. And I wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone.

  21. It’s all over the map. I’m a salaried department head who regularly attends conferences and I never ever bring work home or even check email after hours. And being in a government agency library, our hours are M-F, 8-5, period. If you’re not interested in being a name, it’s possible to have a very low-stress yet satisfying career.

  22. dan cawley says:

    i have been known to write down book titles when i am off the clock. sometimes, i hear an interview on the radio, sometimes i read a review in a newspaper, sometimes i’m told of a good book by a friend. i always write down the titles and (later) check to see if they might “fit” in our collection. in that respect, i am always at work. but not complaining.

  23. It is up to me how much extra work I choose to add to my plate. If I want to present at conferences, get published, serve on committees, etc., then that will require significant time commitments during my off-hours. The only job-related thing I do from home is check work email and be available for emergency calls/texts. When I check my work email from home, I very rarely send responses until I get back to the office. If you want to be a mover and shaker, and/or if you work in a tenure-track position, you’ll be hustling on weekends. If neither is the case and you want to spend your free-time pursuing personal interests, there are library positions out there for you.

  24. Luxembourg at Neerwinden says:

    workin’, slavin’ every day, gotta get a break from the same-ole, same-ole!

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