I Lost My Dream Job: Keeping Library Vibes Alive in Hard Times

Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website,

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In 2017 I landed my dream job, transitioning from a first grade teacher to my elementary school’s media specialist. I was finally a librarian! I had been an avid lover of books and reading for awhile, and collecting picture books was a passion of mine. While I knew I was a perfect fit for the job, I had no idea how much I still needed to learn about being the right person for this important job. I started taking classes in library science and teaching grades K–5 about media literacy, digital citizenship, and reading for pleasure. I was over the moon.

In 2020 I lost my dream job. My position was removed due to budgetary cuts due to…COVID-19? Local politics? It’s hard to tell anymore. The year has been such a riot of confusion and loss (and that is coming from my incredibly privileged viewpoint) that the details are still fuzzy. Regardless, I was lucky enough to keep a job and went right back to the classroom I had left three years ago. Not my dream job, but I was getting a paycheck.

For about a million reasons, this year has been harder than anything I’ve ever done. My district has seesawed back and forth between remote and a hybrid model. I’ve been adapting everything I know about teaching 6-year-olds to a digital platform that is being invented as it is rolled out. Technical issues, language barriers, and the heightened stress of my entire community have made even the simplest issue monumental. In my own home, my children are struggling and I’m constantly unsure how to best support them. Not to mention I’m finishing the library classes that I started, ironically earning the license I was working towards just as I’ve left the position. It sucks.

I have to create my own happiness right now. I’ve learned the hard way that sitting and feeling sorry for myself or missing what I used to have is only going to drag me down. So I’m going to share a few tips I’ve enacted for reminding myself that no matter what my day job is at the moment, I am still a librarian. I’m a librarian, dammit!

Wear Something Book-Related Every Day

When you say you love books, people start to gift you bookish things. Even as a fat woman who typically struggles to find things that fit, I’ve managed to assemble a fair few librarian-themed shirts, skirts, and the perennial favorite, pieces of jewelry. Whether I’m running errands on the weekend, practicing roller skating in my basement, or showing up to teach phonics to my kiddos on Google Meet, I’m reliably wearing something that celebrates the librarian inside of me.

Integrate Book Life Into Your Daily Routine

Teaching in the classroom always lent itself to using lots of picture books. I adored hunting down the perfect text to support a lesson or standard we were learning. However, the necessity of delivering lessons online has changed a lot about our routines, and I found myself using a lot more texts from our reading program that I could simply screen share for convenience. After awhile, I realized that one my main joys, reading to children, had simply dissolved. From that moment on I built a handheld read-aloud back into our day. Even if it’s a little more awkward to make it work in a tiny digital square, it feels so good to do voices and turn pages, and my happiness spreads to my students. 

Hang Out At Your Local Bookstore

I haven’t really hung out anywhere since March of 2020, but I have been strategic in supporting my local indie. The Silver Unicorn in Acton, Massachusetts, went out of their way to stay connected throughout various lockdowns and phased re-openings, and I have received several delightful packages during our original quarantine and again when holiday shopping. However, my son and I ventured out (masked and distanced from others) to spend a little Christmas money, and actually being IN a bookstore was such an amazing experience. As corny as it sounds, standing surrounded by shelves of books felt like being home. I chatted about finding books the computer insists are present with the lovely bookseller, picked up some books that I could use in future lessons, and soaked in the atmosphere. It really helped.

I will be a librarian again one day, whether my old position is restored or I seek one elsewhere. But I don’t actually believe that my community, or even the world, will return to our old version of “normal.” I know how lucky I am to use this time of uncertainty to practice finding joy in smaller pieces of what used to be. And though I am constantly grieving the loss of my old job, I am cautiously optimistic that something really awesome is on the way.