Ernest Hemingway said that courage is “Grace under pressure” We are under more pressure than ever before and it cannot, does not, stop us.  Doing what we must with grace is more of a challenge, but when we do, we inspire others to continue. Courage is something within us that gives us the strength to do what must be done even though we’re afraid.  By definition it is hard.  And yet it is with courage that we will be able to do more than just survive in these times.

In battle, courage is spurred on by an adrenaline rush which helps propel you forward in the face of fear.  What we are dealing with today is just the opposite.  If anything, our adrenaline is drained by the daily demands of doing our job as a pandemic rages. To my mind, true courage is doing what must be done when all you want to do is curl up in bed and shut out the world, and the best way we as librarians can do that is through service, unexpected opportunities, and joy.

Service – Although we have always been service-oriented, the business world has recently been waking up to the value of what they call Service (or Servant) Leadership.  A Service Leader puts employees first, shares power, and empowers people to perform at a higher level. The model works for us.

The library has always been there to be of service to the school. During this time, we can look for new or specific stresses and challenges that are happening for our students and teachers and offer assistance. That’s courageous. Working collaboratively, even if we take on the heavy lifting, helps our teachers and principals feel more supported and in control of the situation — in essence, more powerful.  That empowers them to be more courageous.

Unexpected Opportunities – The world is different.  When mindsets are in flux, as they are now, you can leverage these changes to transform how you are perceived and valued.

The new tech demands continue to overwhelm many teachers even as they struggle to incorporate different approaches to their teaching.  They are more likely to be open to collaborating with you.  As you support them through the process, teachers will experience how your skill set can make their jobs easier and more productive, even beyond the needs of functioning during a pandemic.

As you seize these opportunities, make your administrators aware of what you are doing. Be sure to highlight the teachers’ accomplishments and show how goals were achieved.  This not only ensures they will see you as an indispensable member of the educational community, it will also help them as they present their school’s progress to the town’s school board and other administrators. It also shines a light on the important part a library plays in the success of students.

Spreading Joy – Joy lightens the heart and raises spirits. Before you can spread joy, you need to find it.  It is easy to overlook because it is often found in the simple things. If you aren’t aware it, it can be gone in a few moments.  Joy is too important in our lives to miss.

Make a practice of seeing those things that bring you joy.  Share the moment with others. It can be seeing birds in flight or a wonderful message from a student. Big or small they all matter. Use an app you like where you and others can post your moments of joy.  Joy is contagious.

Remember to bring joy to your life by creating events and by making time for yourself. Self-care is not a new idea. We are recognizing its importance, but still can have trouble remember to take the time in our busy days. Schedule it in your to-do list if necessary. Make sure you take care of yourself.

It doesn’t seem like courage to be of service, recognize opportunities, and spread joy, but by taking positive action you break through the molasses-like feeling of moving through yet another day.  It takes courage to have a positive outlook.  I am proud that so many in our profession are showing up as leaders, leaders who demonstrate courage everyday as they find ways to help their colleagues find their way to successfully navigate living in the time of COVID-19. While not denying the dangers that are present, if we focus on our commitment to be of service, look for the unexpected opportunities, and find and spread joy, we can show grace under pressure.


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