Saturday, March 3, 2012

Staying Sane on the Fly

There is no doubt that working at multiple schools has its challenges, and, unfortunately, there seems to be a trend toward reducing library staff. So what have we learned from this experience that you may benefit from? Our top five lessons learned:

PRIORITIZE: We cannot do it all, so we do what matters most. Have a mission, set goals, and be sure that your actions align with them. Write your goals down and find someone to hold you accountable, whether it be a supervisor or a colleague. Fortunately there are two of us, so we keep each other on track.

RECRUIT: If you still have a library assistant, count your blessings. We all know who really keeps the books circulating! But where else can you find help? We recruit parent and student volunteers to keep books shelved, update bulletin boards, and assist with book fairs. Communicating with key office staff has resulted in substitutes with empty periods being sent to the library to help. We live in a community with a large population of senior citizens that winter here, so we have recruited them to read with students. Sometimes people are just waiting to be asked, so ask.

DELEGATE: Is your time better spent making copies or learning a new technology that you can teach to students? Should you reach out to teachers or read shelves? Which tasks address your priorities, and which tasks can be done by others.  Spend your time doing what Mark Victor Hansen calls your "best and highest good". If you are short on staff, pay for processing - it's like hiring part-time help without having to train! We encourage each of our library assistants to keep a list of "it-would-be-nice-to...tasks" so when help drops in unexpectedly, they aren't at a loss at what to have volunteers do.

DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF: If you are a perfectionist, let some of that go. Note, I only said some. Don't compromise your standards, but this takes us back to our first point... prioritize. I'm a stickler on cataloging, but I can live with imperfect bulletin boards and displays (they are coming down in a month or less anyway). Do you stress out over shelving books? Our Playaways and books in 741.5 fly off the shelves so fast that perfect shelf order is unnecessary in those sections until we cease checkout for the year. But I expect other sections to be in order to facilitate locating materials.  Examine how much time your perfectionism is requiring versus the results. Are they worth it?

USE YOUR TOOLS: Technology allows us to reach a broader audience. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction and relationship-building, but we can and do make use of technology to broaden our reach. Share what's new in the library via Facebook, email, twitter, blogs, and/or your school webpage. Doing book talks with a class of live students is great, but use your tools to reach the students you don't see in the library. Teenagers love book trailers. We run a loop of trailers on a library computer or TV. Trailers associated with summer reading and classroom curriculum are available via our webpage for classroom and home access.  What tools are you overlooking?

Please add comments if you have tips that help you juggle multiple tasks.

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