Having read a spate of articles on the solo librarian in the October Update (pp.28-30 & 49) and 28 September-08 October Gazette (p.19), a lass in libraryland has been pondering why she finds this lonely corner of the profession so appealing…
A lass in libraryland didn’t set out with a clear plan to become a solo, it just happened. She was employed comfortably enough in a library with a team of three other professionals and two library assistants when her current job was advertised. The post didn’t offer a higher salary, a bigger collection to play with or better opportunities and perhaps would have been considered, by some, to be a backward or foolhardy step for a relatively new infomaniac. But something about the post called to librarylander and she felt sure that it was right for her and her professional development, even though she couldn’t quite put her finger on why…
Twelve years on and having had little or no company at the coalface during that time ALIL has become familiar with the daily concerns, joys and challenges of the lone librarian:
Time – a limited resource in the life of a solo. Tasks need to be done promptly, at the right time and only once
Resources – solo services often have small and/or limited resources available, whether it be budget, staffing, time or support. These resources need to be used wisely and every ounce of usefulness squeezed from them
Isolation – access to other librarians at lunchtime or over morning coffee are non-existent in the world of the solo, professional succour must be sort outside the workplace and maintained to avoid professional isolation and the slow slip towards madness
Jack of all trades – the solo needs skills in all aspects of library service provision from classification to inductions, managing the LMS to marketing the service, acquisition to budget management, user enquiries to student support, managing e-resources to un-jamming the photocopier… you get the picture
Two pairs of hands – all this must be done whilst offering a comprehensive and good quality counter service… this is where genetic engineering and the ability to grow an extra pair of hands can really start paying dividends
ALIL has little doubt that it is this time as a lone star which has allowed her to develop into a more rounded and multi-skilled professional, capable of developing a small specialised service into a usable and proactive resource for its users.
Whilst ALIL for the most part ‘wants to be alone’ no librarylander is an island and as the years have passed she has developed a network of fellow librarylanders to lean on, pester, share and develop alongside.
However over the past year or two life at the coalface has become more crowded as ALIL finds herself with an opportunity to work with a variety of professionals and non-librarylanders to develop a small group of services operating under an affiliate umbrella.
What started as a bunch of disparate services huddling together for warmth has developed into a joined up, network efficient grouping with a remit and central funding! In little over two years the group has been able to introduce joint access to electronic resources across eight HEIs, become a sub-committee of the umbrella organisation, secure central funding and inform policy. The group has found itself able to affect major changes to its provision, by improving access to resources and saving money into the bargain… all without losing the autonomy of the individual services.
A lass in libraryland is well aware that by far the most rewarding aspect of this joined up thinking is that a group of lone wolfs have been able to find a voice loud enough to be heard simply by hunting as a pack when required… perhaps this corner of libraryland isn’t so lonesome after all.