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Tips to succeed as a Solo Librarian

Being a solo librarian can be difficult. Even experienced librarians find it very challenging to run and manage libraries all by themselves. Those who take on the role require not only the willingness but an understanding of the diverse skills that they will need to acquire to successfully manage the role. After all, many career opportunities nowadays require solo librarians.

In Lucidea’s Thinking Clearly Blog an article, “Going Solo – 8 Skills Critical to the Success of One-Person library Management” (Nichols, 2016), discusses an infographic the author saw that was based on the Larry Cooperman book Managing the One Person Library. She notes the infographic is “a test that allows you to assess whether you have the right stuff to operate as a solo librarian” and identified eight skills needed to be effective in the role:

  • Time Management
  • Change Management
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing
  • Collection Development
  • Cataloguing
  • Serials Management
  • Professional Development and
  • Stress Management

If you are considering a career as a solo librarian, focusing on developing those skills will assist you when seeking the position.  If you are already a solo librarian, then the above-mentioned skills can act as a guide for developing your departmental plan.

The way you prioritise the skills will depend on the organisation’s goals. Use them to ensure your library/departmental plan is in sync with the top level business strategy.

If the library does not have a suitable library management system (LMS), selecting and implementing a functionally rich and stable product like Liberty is vital. It will enable solo librarians to efficiently manage required tasks and implement value-added services while the Support services delivered by your LMS provider can act like a virtual second staff member from whom you can seek help and advice or use as a sounding board.

Collection development may not be a high priority in some corporate libraries. In specialized industries or organisations, for example, the collection requirements are specific and may be dependent more on depth and currency rather than breadth.

Many solo librarians need to know how to manage serials, how to catalogue – creating original MARC or bibliographic records for material produced internally by the organisation, as well as manage request or reference requirements within a specified time frame.

The ability to market is a very important skill. Marketing is the way to promote the library’s material and your services – it builds awareness among your users of the benefits you, and your library brings to them and, by extension, the organization. Your LMS can help you do that.

Professional development, change management and stress management may not be as important as the other listed skills but may become an area of focus as your career progresses.

Increasingly, many career opportunities in libraries are in single-person libraries. Knowing the key skills required of the role and developing those that may not yet be your key strengths, will help you meet the challenges inherent in the job!