The Most Annoying Thing About My Job: Librarians Tell All!

What's the most annoying thing about your job? We asked you, and you told us. In the last few days, we've received more than 100 responses to our request for your number-one workplace complaints. Here's the first batch, a double feature of teachers and librarians. Both professions responded in big numbers with similar gripes: So much responsibility, so little respect from students, patrons, and administrators.

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Librarian #1
"... No wonder one of our break room topics is who is taking which antidepressant."

I'm a librarian in a public library that's part of a larger system. The most annoying thing about my job is the lack of support in the most public aspect of my work from managers and administration. Patron behavior expectations have been reduced, primarily because it is seen as a hassle to enforce rules of behavior. Even the rules of behavior we have, like wearing shirt and shoes in the building, are seen by the administration as too much trouble to enforce if no patron complains. Which means that if I see a situation, even if it's in direct opposition to posted policy, I can't be sure I won't be reprimanded, perhaps in public, by my own boss for enforcing the policy. Yet I've also been told I was letting some patrons (that I couldn't hear at the central desk) get too loud, so it's a sort of being stuck on a morton's fork.

Librarians are professionals, and enforcing the rules is part of what one takes on when working with public. Without support for enforcing even the most basic rules, there are really no guidelines at all. I suppose any job where you are told to take initiative to ensure a public building is pleasant for everyone (repeatedly, enthusiastically, urgently), yet reprimanded for enforcing the very rules that are supposed to make a public building pleasant for everyone would make anyone feel insane. No wonder one of our break room topics is who is taking which antidepressant.

I truly hope this annoying thing about my job is too specific to be useful, because that would mean there's hope somewhere else. I really miss loving my job.

High School Art Teacher
"I pour my soul into reaching these kids, and they hardly ever say thank you."

I am a high school art teacher. Everyone always says, "Oh that must be so much fun!" like it doesn't entail every fiber of my body to reach the most apathetic teenager. Some of my students roll their eyes and half-heartedly follow my directions while I struggle night and day to make the projects relevant, funny, interesting. I lose sleep over a new lesson plan, agonize over a particular student and their home life, pour my soul into reaching these kids, and they hardly ever say thank you. And that is the most annoying and frustrating part of my job, dedicating my entire being to the well-being of others and reaching the end of the long day without one thank you or acknowledgment.

High School History Teacher
"Every principal I've ever worked for does not understand how much time it takes to implement his ideas."

Right now I'm a high school history teacher (having also taught high school English, middle school english and middle school history-15 years of experience).

Among the laundry list of things that annoy me about teaching, the one that is the most universal is having a boss (principal) who doesn't have a realistic understanding of the amount of time it takes to implement something, either in class or out of class. To wit, whether it is implementing a new disciplinary method, curriculum gimmick, or standard test preparation every principal I've ever worked for does not understand nor seem to care how much in class time these things consume, and even more galling is the same lack of understanding or caring about how much of my personal time will be spent preparing myself or my classroom for this new thing.  What makes this especially galling is that all of these principals were at one time teachers.  So it would seem that there is a line that they cross from teaching to administrators where their collective memories get wiped.

An addendum to this is having several bosses (associate principals) who each have their own area of expertise (discipline-standardized testing-latest psychological research-etc) and each thinks their area deserves even more of the teachers' time-attention and energy.

Test Proctor
"We routinely request police presence at cut-off times for online classes because students are likely to start yelling and threatening us."

I work as a test proctor at a community college. The most annoying thing about working here is not knowing when an angry student might snap. All of our testing is done on a walk-in basis, however each type of test that we administer must be started by a posted (in student accounts, the college's website, flyers, signs around campus, etc.) cut-off time. We routinely request police presence at cut-off times on deadline days for online classes because we know that students are very likely to start yelling and threatening us at these times. Many students, including those straight out of high school and adults with grown children, think that because they are paying for classes, they are entitled to get a seat in the Testing Center past the posted cut-off time, and then I get blamed for them failing their classes because I refused to overlook the college's policy.

"The most annoying part of my job is the disrespect teachers get from principal's, superintendents, state legislators, federal government."

I am so torn. I love my job - I love teaching but am frustrated that my time to do lesson plans and look at assessment data is taken away from me by others who think they know what I need. I become resentful because to do my job with the quality I believe every student deserves would not allow me the time to take care of my own health and wellness. Without my health I am not good to anyone.

I do not think that it is realistic to expect teachers to work 12-14 hours a day just to do the minimum level of quality of a job. I am a self motivated learner and teacher and will seek out training and learning to improve. But my priority is to do my job of teaching, which in my opinion should prioritize students. Good lessons and really having time to look at data is critical - yet I do not have one teacher workday this entire year that will be time for me to work on lessons and data assessment and rarely have planning periods. It is sad that due to some teachers who do not put in effort the whole has to be "punished". The opposite of what is best for students is what actually gets implemented. We do not want charter schools to take away our money - then public schools need to step up and start implementing student centered learning. And rules for teachers should be principle-centered not micro-managing.

Teachers should implement positive behavior, should seek out training for themselves (or no license renewal) and should be given boundaries such as what areas and in what time frame. Teachers should schedule their own training - not have it be scheduled for them by others who have no idea of what the teacher has on their priority to do list. Teachers have college degrees and are professionals and if they are not keeping up with best practices and technology then the individuals who are doing this should be managed, not all teachers. We should teach our grade and subject level objectives to mastery ( minimum of 80% proficiency) and students and parents should be included in being held accountable.

Librarian #2
"I'm a librarian. Librarians have one or two masters degrees or a PhD. People often assume I only have a high school diploma."

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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