A few weeks ago, after yet another #1styrlibs tweet chronicling my first year as a full-time librarian, a colleague who follows me on Twitter marveled, “I don’t know how you do it all without an assistant!”
And here’s my secret: a lot of it doesn’t get done.
At a time when budgets are slashed, volunteers are being trained to fill in for librarians, and so many are out of work, complaining about the job you have may seem anything from gauche to downright dangerous. But for those of us who have ever had the good fortune to work as part of a team, or even with a regular volunteer or two, the contrast is clear: working alone is hard work.
There are advantages to being the only teen librarian (or librarian) in the building, of course. My position as a department head within my high school is somewhat of a running joke. (Any sentence beginning with “Our friends in the library” is sure to elicit a chuckle at faculty meetings.) I don’t have to get my “department” to agree with me, I don’t have to schedule departmental meetings, and I have a lot of freedom to set my own agenda.
But on the flip side, there’s so much I’d like to do with this library that I just haven’t yet. I have a massive shelving project in the works–right now circulating non-fiction winds around into the room with the photocopier–but so far it gets done only in small bursts when I have help from students. The whole collection needs weeding, which I do in haphazard chunks. Any time I need to cover a hardback, catalog a donation title or make new bookmarks, I do it myself.
Sometimes working alone is fun. I get to be the first to see new books when an order comes in, and I’m the one who handles any reader’s advisory question, from the impressively specific to the maddeningly vague.
Sometimes working alone is frustrating. If I don’t like a particular task, tough luck–if it’s getting done, I’m the one doing it. When upward of sixty students descend on the library during study hall, I’m the only one keeping track of who’s here and whether they’re behaving.
How do you do it all in your library?