Things I Didn’t Learn in Library School: Maintaining your sanity when you are in charge of ALL the things
Something they don’t teach you in library school is that, if you take a job in a small library, you may be in charge of everything. And I mean everything – you may be the only person who works there. Increasingly, this will be true for you if you decide to go into school libraries.
Teaching multiple classes daily (sometimes simultaneously), writing lesson plans, collaborating with teachers, and managing every aspect of a small library can be overwhelming. Add to that committee work, planning staff development, managing multiple sets of passwords for an ever increasing list of online resources for both faculty and staff, and a possible responsibility for every piece of equipment in the building that isn’t managed by the custodial staff. Oh, and you can manage web sites built with incomprehensible software without any training, right? If you work in a tiny public library, add your own list of responsibilities – you know what they are.
Here is my advice to you in a simple, two word command – “Let go.” Odds are if you completed your library degree you have either a strong steak of perfectionism or tendency to enjoy being in control of your surroundings. To maintain your sanity you’re going to have to let go of these. Sometimes things are going to be messy.
First, teach anyone who wants to learn how to do things in your library. Students who come to the library during lunch because they are fasting for religious reasons? Ask them if they’d like to learn how to shelve books. Yes, they won’t always get it right. Let go.
Teens and tweens love to make displays – have them suggest themes. Make a list of books for them to pull. Let them get creative with the glue, construction paper, and clip art. No, the displays won’t be of professional quality, but you may find some new topics that are currently interesting to your patrons.
If you don’t have them already, set up some self checkout stations. Teens and tweens are fully capable of checking out their own books. You don’t need to spend your time on this. I decided to go to self checkout when the school system cut our library clerk positions as a cost saving measure. Our circulation system doesn’t provide for a self checkout option, so I set up a login and password that is restricted to checking in and out books with a student ID number. And I unplugged our security gates. It’s not perfect. Books go missing all the time, but they do come back. I don’t have any greater yearly loss than I did when I had a clerk who handled circulation.
My final suggestion is that you look into setting up a Friends of the Library group (or advisory board) with your teens and/or tweens. If you invest time in a small group of committed patrons, you will find they can be endlessly helpful. I’ll be posting a guide to Friends of the Library “tween style” soon.
Let us know what you’ve done to help maximize your output in these times of reduced staffing, etc.! Leave a note in the comments.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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