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Are You A Solo Librarian?

By: , Posted on: April 27, 2015

For most of my library career, I have managed small academic libraries with student populations of 600 students and under, with some assistance of two to three students who covered the library and assisted students when I was not available.  Prior to that, I worked as an intern in a small corporate library.  You could say that I thought other librarians who worked in groups or in larger libraries the odd person out!

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Why did I become a solo librarian?

I enjoyed learning different skills, such as cataloging, collection development, and reference, and enjoyed being the librarian in charge.  I never found a solo librarianship position lonely or difficult; I appreciated the challenge to learn new skills and to manage a library successfully on my own.  Many librarians become well-versed at one skill and I appreciated using my numerous skills, when I managed solo libraries during my career.  As a solo librarian, I usually was the go-to person or the point person, and not just from students and faculty.  Management asked me to troubleshoot IT problems on the school’s computers, for instance.  I became responsible for any testing or teacher evaluations, as most them took place online and most of the computers resided in the library.  There were times when I needed to use my organizational skills to the fullest, as I was pulled in many directions by my patrons and my management, but I overcame them and learned to become a good organizer and facilitator.

When a person thinks of a librarian, they usually think of a professional who works with other librarians, usually in a public library, in a school library, or in a college library.  Yet many librarians do work alone, some without any assistance from students or volunteers, and they successfully run and manage their libraries to serve their patrons, whether it is the public or whether it is a handful of students or many students.  These librarians cover a wide range of specialties, such as medical, law, school, and business.  They serve populations in large cities and small towns, with a wide range of people with different backgrounds, personalities and occupations.

Many other library managers around the world may not have the credentials, such as a Masters degree in library and information science, that most professional librarians have earned, but these paraprofessionals, as is the main technical term for them, perform the same library management tasks as do their credentialed counterparts.  They need to have the same skills and strategies to manage their one-person libraries like their counterparts with a professional degree.

There have been several books and articles that deal with solo library management, but I have not, in my career, noticed any books that deal with a personal or an anecdotal approach to solo library management, as well as include many case studies from other solo librarians, which will help them learn from other solo librarians’ experiences, so that they can combine their own knowledge and skills and learn new ones.

managing one person libraryMy new book Managing the One Person Library will fill a niche that needs to be filled, that of an appreciation of solo library management and how to approach it successfully, whether those solo librarians are new to the field or veterans of the field.  I will cover such topics as time management, circulation, cataloging, collection development, and professional development, with an emphasis on how solo librarians can enhance their services to their patrons, students and customers and thrive on their own.  Finally, I will also include additional resources for further reading and reference.  Many librarians thrive in this environment and enjoy their work; this book will affirm their career choice and help them pursue their career choice successfully.

Managing the One Person Library is available on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save 30% on your very own copy!

About the Author

Larry Cooperman PhotoLarry Cooperman is an adjunct faculty librarian at the University of Central Florida, specializing in online reference research for undergraduates, graduates, and faculty. He received his M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) in 2002, and has 10 years’ experience managing solo libraries, primarily in the academic field at the baccalaureate and associates degree level. He volunteers approximately twelve hours per month as an online reference librarian on the State of Florida’s Ask-a-Librarian, and serves as one of five state-wide mentors for new librarian participants on Ask-a-Librarian.

Larry has taught his online course, Managing the One-Person Library, for Simmons GSLIS since 2009. He also writes book and Internet reviews for School Library Journal, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and College & Research Library News. He received the 2009-2010 Everglades University Librarian of the Year Award and the Outstanding Achievement Award for Book Reviews from the Reference and Users Association of the American Library Association.

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Social Sciences

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