05 April 2012

Lessons Learned While Working Solo

This past year and especially the past two months(ish) since Joshua left, have taught me a lot about being a Solo Librarian. Yep, that's a term. It is what it sounds like: I am the only librarian at my library. It's been an interesting ride, for sure...I've learned a lot about myself and a lot about being a librarian. It's a stretching experience in a lot of ways to work solo. Stretching in the ways that make you grow and learn and trust yourself.

As a Solo Librarian, there are no other professional librarians with whom I can discuss issues or changes at my library [at least for now...this will be changing very soon! :)]. So any changes become a bit scary, which is what I mean by learning to trust yourself. Yes, there are librarian friends in the US and here and, yes, there are listservs, all of which help. But when you have no other librarians to bounce ideas off of on a daily basis, you have to trust your own education and experience. This has been a good experience for me. I have plenty of library experience...13 years of it. But too often my insecurities get the best of me and I think: I'm not smart enough to do this. Or, who am I to decide this? But when you're The One to Make All [or most] Decisions, you have to get over those thoughts pretty quickly. Granted, for me, this is an almost daily process but still. I'm learning to trust myself a lot more. And that's a good thing. It makes me a more confident librarian [but hopefully not in the prideful way].

I've mentioned this before but being a Solo Librarian has taught me a lot about humility. When there's little help, you have to do whatever needs to be done. Again, it's often a daily battle [read: whining] in my head: "I don't want to shelve that mountain of books. But there's no one else to do it. Maybe I'll wait tomorrow. No, I should shelve at least 10 today. Well, tomorrow I'll shelve 20. If I had help I wouldn't have to do all this work while trying to get things cataloged. Ok, fine, I'll do 10 today." Yeah, growing in humility can be a bit painful. [And maybe childish.]

I guess growing in humility is also teaching me about time management and discipline. Learning to do things that need to be done, when they need to be done. It is admittedly overwhelming....in the 'I have no idea where to start' kind of way. But also in the 'Wow, look what's been accomplished this past year' kind of way. So if I am willing to just do the tasks, 'beneath' me or not, I also learn to manage my time better and get to see the results of doing those things. Which is pretty exciting.

Being a Solo Librarian also teaches you a LOT about being a librarian. I mean is there really a choice when you do most everything? I have learned so much! I now have experience writing policies, managing a computer network, implementing said policies, organizing a major project, picking an ILS, running a library on a daily basis, etc. Admittedly, I've made mistakes along the way, but it is through those mistakes I continue to learn how to be a better librarian.

I suppose right now part of the challenge comes from battling the 'I'm only here for a few more months so I better get a lot of things done' mentality. Knowing that there are only a few months left makes the pressure more intense. I want to know I worked hard and finished all the cataloging, taught all the computer skills necessary for the students to know, invested in their lives, created policies to move the library forward, etc. But the reality is, to do everything I would love to do, I need to stay another 5 years. The other reality is, I'm only here until mid-June.

So, I guess as a Solo Librarian I'm learning that I can't do it all. [Who can?] But I can do my best. And keep trusting, growing, and learning.

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