Those of us who have ever had the luxury of working as part of a team–particularly that rare, unicorn-like beast that is the school library team–know how easy it is to take good co-workers for granted. Not sure how to approach a reference question? Consult the team. Need someone to grab the other end of that table so you can rearrange furniture for a DDR tournament? Ask a co-worker. Forgot to pack a lunch and need to pop out for a bite? You can probably get desk coverage if you ask real nice.

But what do you do when suddenly you’re the only librarian in the building?

It’s one thing if you’ve been working in the library before and find yourself suddenly flying solo. But for new librarians like me who are showing up on the job and discovering mostly empty drawers and the odd rubber band box, the need for help suddenly starts feeling pretty dire. It’s time to introduce yourself to some of the folks who should become your new best friends:

Janitorial Staff. No matter what kind of library you’re in, someone somewhere has a master set of keys, and one day you may just need them. Janitorial and building operations staff can also be lifesavers when it comes to climate control, maintenance issues, and, heaven forbid, pest control.

Secretaries. This is more for those of us in school libraries, who should probably all be working on that first batch of cookies for our friendly front office staff. If you’re not sure who to ask about just about anything, from purchase orders to highlighters, chances are the secretary can at least point you in the right direction.

Security. Whether you work in a big public library with private security staff or a school with district-assigned officers, you should find out pronto who’s in charge of building security. These are the folks to check in with when you’re scheduling events outside normal building hours, and of course in the case of an emergency. And don’t let the title intimidate you–security folks are some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, and they’re there to support you.

IT, Network and Tech Specialists. Many of us now have technology integration somewhere in our job description, but being a whiz with wikis and podcasts doesn’t help much if the network’s down or the printer breaks. Know where to go for more advanced troubleshooting, and don’t be embarrassed if you think you’re asking a dumb question–just as you would walk a teen through the steps of creating a Google Doc, a good tech professional can explain what they’re doing and how to do it yourself the next time around.

Guidance, SPED and Student Support Staff. If you’re in a school, make very good friends with the counselors, special education coordinators and other student support professionals in your school. They’re the ones who will be able to help you navigate the world of IEPs and 504s, tell you about referring teens to the appropriate services, and help you make sure your library programs are accessible to all teens. And public librarians should seek out these folks, too–they know all about the teens who show up in your libraries after school’s out, whose needs and challenges don’t disappear when they leave the school building.

Other Librarians. I can’t stress enough the importance of networking with other librarians, whether it’s on Twitter, through YALSA and regional associations, or face to face over coffee. Get to know the other librarians in your area and don’t be afraid to ask for advice or bounce an idea off of one of them.

Every library is different, of course, so where I’m leaning on a vice principal, you might find the local florist to be an invaluable resource.

So where do you go for help?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

3 Thoughts on “Help! I Need Somebody

  1. Spoken like a true veteran! Are you sure you weren’t a school librarian in a previous life?

  2. Lynn M. Moses on August 27, 2009 at 7:59 am said:

    You forget the school nurse. He/she can be a lifesaver, sometimes literally!

  3. Ack! How could I forget nurses?! The nurse at my last school was actually the only reason I knew anything about student support there, and she had gone so far as to get a further degree in counseling because she was seeing so many kids overflowing from student support and getting sent to her office.

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