Filling the Big Shoes

Last week, I did some marketing of my town library at the local elementary school Back-to-School night. I was lunching with coworkers a few days later, chatting about the event, and someone remarked, “No one likes the new principal.” Someone else replied, “No one ever likes anyone new, and he has very big shoes to fill.  Mr. Brown was so popular and was here for twenty years!”

This struck home when another staff member turned to the guest of honor of our luncheon, our departing daytime librarian who was going off to bigger and better things, and said, “Now, remember, if you don’t like it there, you can always come back!”  This was met with enthusiasm by our little crowd.

Ouch. Since I was the one filling the soon-to-be vacant position and moving from nights to this better day job, with more responsibilities, I felt a little bit like my entire library team had just announced my second-best status and expendability.  Thanks, guys, that makes me feel great.

Lest you all think I am a narcissist for making it all about me, I do recognize that they were displaying support and affection to our departing staff member and probably didn’t mean anything negative by it.  The problem is I do have very big shoes to fill, and I also have some fear of joining the ranks of the new school principal.

Other than my delicate ego, how is this really relevant?  Well, as new librarians, no matter where we get a job, we are likely to have very big shoes to fill. No one teaches us about that.  For how long will we be compared to the old librarian as we struggle to bring our recently learned innovations to the backward library landscape?  Will we be well received?  Or will people sit around the lunch table and say, “No one likes the new librarian?” All we can do is hope they remember that it is never easy to fill big shoes…and someday, those big shoes will belong to us.

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