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I haven’t been writing much lately on my blog (in case you hadn’t noticed the utter lack of updates).  I took over as Acting Director for the San Rafael Public Library 15 months ago and as Director 9  months ago.  Before that time, I was averaging 20-30 posts a month.  In the last four months I’ve posted twice.  That makes me sad.

I still am active daily on Twitter and Facebook, but I have been so burned out by work and personal life stress that thinking about libraries after I get home is (sorry to say) the absolute last thing I want to do.  I’ve also cut way back on my speaking engagements–down from 44 in 2011 to 25 in 2012, and looking forward it looks to be around 10 for 2013.  Sorry kids–I’m tired from my day job and real life.  The limitless power source that was my professional engagement has apparently found its limit.

What motivated me to post today was someone asking about a follow-up to the stalker post that I wrote on Halloween 2011.    I was asked–Are things better? Have things changed? Are people less creepy now and leaving you alone?

Sadly, no.  Since I wrote that post I have received:

  • several more unwanted advances and “touches” at conferences (including a drunk librarian in underwear only knocking on my hotel room door), which is part of why I dialed back my speaking engagements – I’m so sick of this shit
  • a marriage proposal from a fellow librarian (who I don’t know from Adam) who started it off with the very romantic “Now that you’re finally divorced and everything…”
  • two hand-written mailed death threats at work
  • numerous anonymous bouquets of flowers on my home doorstep, some with creepy stalker-ish poetry, which I traced back to…
  • a local stalker who eventually revealed himself while I was on a break outside the library, physically assaulted me, and got slapped with a restraining order after I kicked him where it counts and grabbed his wallet and ID when he was on the ground to get identification

And frankly, there has been a lot of stress in my work life in the last year.  The inevitable personnel and budget challenges at work, a huge uptick in illegal behavior in the library resulting in a lot of banning, a small claims lawsuit filed against the library, a patron who said he’d “bury me in paper” and then did so through numerous FOIA requests, pests and mold in the library, the facility literally falling down around us, and in general feeling that this “trial by fire new director” thing is not the best way of learning things.

So between work being insane, creepy people still making themselves seen, and an emotionally taxing personal life…yeah, I’m not writing as much, I’m not presenting as much, and I’m not as active on library issues as I used to be.  I am hoping that spark will come back and I will want to start writing again.  I guess this is the first step toward that.

“And yes, Sarah is still alive…”

  1. Scott Bloom Says:

    Today is International Hug a Librarian Day, and if I could I’d give you a big (it will all be ok) hug. Of course I would ask first so that you know it was only a hug meaning I appreciate you, your posts, etc. Hang in there!

  2. Michelene Says:

    I can’t believe how many awful things you’ve gone through, and I so admire your courage in continuing your work despite them as well as sharing them here. I can’t begin to articulate the disgust I feel when people act in an unprofessional manner at work, and these things go way beyond “unprofessional”. Hang in there, stay safe, and thank you for all that you do!

  3. Sean Reinhart Says:

    Welcome back, Sarah. Hang in there! It gets easier, it really does…

  4. Linda in NE Says:

    Lots of assholes in the world and it seems you’ve met more than your fair share. Hope things get better for you. Enjoy your blog when you post.

  5. Lori Says:

    I’m sorry to hear this happened again. You are such a sweet, kind person. Things suck and you think they can’t get worse then they do. But it makes us stronger, bad ass right? Here’s to the future and some calm and peace for all of us who have been through hell the past few years.

  6. TPN Says:

    Yay, Sarah! Through all the adversity, you persevere, and you’re AWESOME, to boot. My San Francisco life is infinitely richer knowing you.

  7. Jamie LaRue Says:

    Yikes! Sorry to hear all that, Sarah. But there really are important rewards for running a good library. There are literally hundreds of invisible transactions that make the world better: children entranced by stories, people following their hobbies and passions, meetings and programs that bring people together in NON-creepy ways. You’ll find your grove.

  8. Ann Miller Says:

    Will you marry me?

  9. Roger Says:

    We’ve not met and I doubt we ever will, but from what I know of you from your posts I feel you are one of those folks sorely needed in libraryland! Hang in there, re-group and give them hell!

  10. Robbie Says:

    Your strength and perseverance is what makes all librarians amazing. Surviving all you have been through in the last few years makes you uniquely qualified to Direct, manage and bring your library back from ruin. Stay strong…. that truly is all we can ALL do in this world.

  11. Fatima Says:

    I noticed your silence in my Google Reader, but had not idea of the amount of stuff you’re going through. Yes, this blog post is a start. You love the work. I would not have learned DRM if it wasn’t for you. Take all the time you need that passion will come back, but on your own terms.

  12. Gavin Says:

    I had a rough first year as an academic Director, but your year beats all — maybe we should make “it gets better” videos for new library directors. It’s still up and down and often not quite why I became a librarian. Each day I try to fit in at one medium or short thing that I really like to do –and cherish that. Often I succeed in doing that one thing for 10-30 minutes and that one little bit lifts by spirits so. Sometimes it’s just going upstairs and facing and straightening up some stacks. And when I’m done, I can see what I’ve done, and it might stay done for 20 minutes or so.

  13. Patty Says:

    Never thought about the things that could happen. Hope you get your spark back and things get better.

  14. Cognitive Dissonance | Wrong Again Says:

    […] I also found the level of trust she talks about terrifying, and that crystalized when I read this post from Sarah Houghton. Because as much as I want to live full-time in Amanda Palmer’s world of […]

  15. Sarah Says:

    Thank you to everyone for the support and solidarity.

  16. john, who is incognito Says:

    That’s ridiculous, enraging behavior you’ve put up with. I would have been tempted to take a picture of the underwear-clad drunk librarian in the hall and email it to his library director and/or board of directors. I’m glad you got that other guy’s ID for the police. I wish crap like that didn’t happen at all.

  17. Michelle Says:

    Yeah, it’s tough sitting in the big chair. And the worst part of all is that it spoils you for future jobs, where you can’t even consider NOT being the boss because you still want to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not so great when everyone has a long list of complaints but then follows it up with, boy am I glad you are the one dealing with this poop because I wouldn’t do your job for anything. Makes a gal feel appreciated. It does get better, bad patron behavior goes in cycles, and the budgeting stuff gets easier. My first year was crazy, it took me almost two just to understand budgeting and finance. But the coolest part is when you realize that you’ve got some mad director skills even when no one will acknowledge it and that you’ve made improvements that matter to real people. You do have to learn to turn it off at home, and don’t work too much overtime. The issues will still be there, and none of us get paid enough to work on our days off.

  18. Stephanie Brown Says:

    Glad to see this post — but sorry for the recent difficulties. I’m just an anonymous supporter sending good vibes across the country.

  19. Jody Says:

    Hang in there, Sarah! You have so much good to share. Keep fighting the good fight and keeping the rest of us informed! You do it so well!

  20. CJ Says:

    Sarah I deeply appreciate a manager who can admit she/he can’t always handle everything all the time, perfectly well and without any outward signs of stress. If I worked for you, this would make me want to work that much harder. Good luck and it seems like you are making good choices to ease the stress a bit.

  21. melissa armstrong Says:

    Geesh.. that is crazy.. Try to hang in there.. You are an inspiration and we all look up to you!

  22. Leeanna Says:

    That is CRAZY. And sadly I can believe it, and empathize with some of it. I never know quite how crazy working for a library could be.

  23. The Book Maven Says:

    Hi Sarah–I just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing how you handled the stalker who assaulted you. Your courage amazes me, and it does me no end of good to see a librarian (or any government employee who works with the public) stand up for herself. It reminds me that we don’t always have to stay silent.

    Here’s how it is, at least for me–patrons sometimes violate personal space. Or they ask for a date, or give you a compliment, or ask if you have a boyfriend, or whatever. Nothing as extreme as the jerks that bug you, but then, I’m not as prolific as you and (I’m trying to say this delicately) maybe my looks don’t “appeal” to as many people. But still, the behavior makes me feel uncomfortable. And because I don’t want to get in trouble for being rude to the patrons, because I am not management, because I think “maybe I’m overreacting,”, because because because…you get the drift of my feeble explanations. I’m a wuss, and I am hesitant to stand up for myself in the grey areas, and I am uncertain (at least in my own ninny head) about how much my supervisors would back me if I “fought back”, verbally or otherwise.

    So to read about you standing up for yourself and fighting back, LITERALLY, I find to be reassuring and inspiring. Thank you. Anytime you want to blog about sticking up for yourself, you’ll have an avid reader, right here. You rock. I know you know that, but it still doesn’t hurt to be told.

  24. Alex in Leeds Says:

    Glad to hear you’re alive but it sure sounds like ‘interesting times’, hope 2013 settles in a more survivable pace for you.

  25. Walt Cook Says:


    I’m sorry to hear about things you mentioned in your post. Good for you for dialing down, and trying to find balance in your life.
    As for me, I’m taking an awesome class width Michael Stevens, and another class in Info Lit. I’m also trying to abide by the mantra, Less is More.”

    Be well, and stay in touch!



  26. Don Says:


    No-one should have to put up with the catalogue of moronic behaviour which you describe … such behaviour demeans the whole profession.

    Step outside the big office with the sign “the buck stops here” and recharge your batteries with the little things which give you pleasure (and maybe even find some new ones). Top priority is rediscovering the innovative, enthusiastic Sarah. You will then find you are on top on the pile of work difficulties instead of being weighed down by them. Keep fighting the good fight.

  27. Jenny - New Zealand Says:

    Wishing you well Sarah.

  28. Doug Smith Says:

    Cheering you on as well, Sarah. It’s a healthy thing to let go of work at the end of your day–and you remain an inspiration, so don’t worry.

  29. Tina Young Says:

    It must be karma from all your bitter posts – 🙂

  30. Catherine Voutier Says:

    Gosh – what crap you’ve had to put up with. I can’t believe behaviour of some librarians – that is so NOT ON. The public, we expect. But we do have our bad apples just like other professions, like it or not. Does ALA have a Professional Ethics board? Librarian associations should have accreditation and if any misbehaviour is reported, there should be an enquiry. But yay you – standing up for yourself! That is what everyone should do, male or female – personal space is personal space. Maybe those rumours of drinking competitions at library conferences are true …

  31. Lauren Comito Says:

    Thank you for writing about these situations, it makes it easier for us all to discuss it now that you’ve been brave enough to put it out there first. I just wanted to say that I really admire your work, and that you are inspiring to the rest of us for both your ideas and your attitude. You’re awesome, and don’t let the creeps shut you up.

  32. Sally_K Says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m just catching up on reading my favorite blogs. So sorry to hear about all this. I hope things are starting to improve. I hope your muse returns when you have time. I know the feeling, been there with the work burning our the creativity. It’s okay to take time to take care of yourself. The blog and your readers will still be here.

  33. Cheryl Says:

    I’d call you “Warrior Librarian” if that title wasn’t already taken.

  34. Chuck Darwin Says:

    This is only the third blog entry that I have read at your blog, the first being the 4/13/11 Freegal sucks (I’m paraphrasing) post. I used to work in a library. My sister and most of my friends are librarians. I’m a library fiend, going 2-5 times per week, depending on what topic or artist has hold of my brain at any given time.

    I am genuinely shocked at what I’ve read.I feel like I’m enabling such horrible things now by uncritically supporting my library. I feel that I should urge my sister and friends to seek new occupations in fields that aren’t such creep magnets, and then immediately petition my community to investigate/audit how our libraries are being managed and if there are any threats like the ones you’ve mentioned. The kind of harassment that you’ve endured just shouldn’t be happening at all, let alone the numerous times that you and some other comments have suffered.

    The harassment, combined with the poor business choices (e.g., Freegal), have made me question whether my respect for public libraries is naive and misplaced. Perhaps all information, books, and media should be made available online-only so to minimize human contact? At the very least we need an overhaul and better training on sexual harassment and respecting coworkers. It sounds like public libraries are way overdue for a paradigm shift in how they operate.

    The things you’ve gone through cannot be tolerated, and I thank you for bringing to light what should not be kept in the dark. I hope that your blog posts sparks positive changes and thank you for being brave enough to share the seedy underbelly of the public library system. People should not support institutions where such rampant, unethical interactions take place, whether it be, for example, the government, the Boy Scouts, Catholic churches, or public libraries. Appalling. Just appalling.

  35. Chuck Darwin Says:

    Sorry for the typos in my last comment. The words/letters are so small when typing that I have difficulty seeing them and I’m too lazy to go get my glasses, LOL.

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