The new year is traditionally a time of reflection of the past, and a realignment of goals and attitudes to start the next year. One particularly reflective book that I have read recently is The Mindful Librarian (by authors: Richard Moniz, Joe Eshleman, Jo Henry, Howard Slutsky and Lisa Moniz. Published in 2016. ISBN: 9780081005552.}
To quote from the back cover: ” In an academic environment of rapid change and doing more with less, librarians are increasingly challenged to manage stress, remain resilient, and take a proactive approach to complex issues that affect our profession.”
The book is geared to academic librarians or the solo school librarian, and addresses the topic of mindfulness in education, with special emphasis on higher education. They begin with a grounding chapter in the concepts of Mindfulness, how it began, the science of mindfulness and some resources for further exploration of the mindfulness concept. The authors then explore the use of mindfulness concepts specifically in the broader field of education, and then the specific field of the undergraduate research process. In particular, one of the authors discusses in some detail his program for “creating a more mindful research paper.”
The focused application of mindfulness techniques to the field of librarianship begins in earnest in the fourth chapter and continues through the remainder of the text. We have chapters on mindfulness and the ACRL Framework for Instruction, mindfulness and reference services, mindfulness when building relationships with faculty and mindfulness in library leadership positions. The final chapter tackles how mindfulness can enhance the solo librarian’s experience.
The authors draw parallels throughout between mindfulness concepts of staying in the present moment and deep listening to the core tenants of librarianship. The authors share that “Deep knowledge about yourself enable you to be consistent, to present yourself authentically, as you are.” These are key attributes that help build rapport with others and increase our ability to be approachable to those we serve.
I liked the wealth of recommended reading sections at the close of each chapter. I loved Tim Ryan’s quote (p 52): “The goal of mindfulness is to make you more focused and aware, so your mind and body can be in the same place at the same time.”
I also liked the author’s perspective of seeing the research paper as a journey with each stage important.. rather than a rush to the finished product. Lao Tzu (p 53) says “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” The book is peppered throughout with many such insightful quotes that would take me far too long to share them all, and would rob you, the reader, from the joy of finding them yourselves when you read this worthwhile text.
The chapter on reference services had a number of role-played examples of the mindful, and not-so-mindful librarian and his/her interactions with students that makes for entertaining reading.
Don’t skip over the chapter on leadership, even if you have no intentions of ever being a member of your library leadership team. There are a number of insights that apply to librarians at all levels of an organization specifically about mindful communication, and how you also practice leadership from the middle of the organization as well.
How is your burnout meter running right now? While the final chapter of the book is focused for the solo librarian, a valuable discussion of librarian burnout, a hot topic these days, can be found in this chapter. All said, The Mindful Librarian is a lovely way to start the new year and new semester in a more thoughtful, connected frame of mind. Enjoy!