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Get Organized – To App or Not to App

By: , Posted on: February 4, 2016


In this time of smartphones, smartwatches, and other technological gadgets, many librarians wonder if paper day planners, calendars and written to-do lists are a thing of the past. There are so many organizational apps available that any librarian who wants to organize their time effectively and efficiently must bow to the inevitable electronic time management apps.

Most of them fall into two types—reminder apps and organizational apps.   Which of the two results in more effective and efficient time management for librarians?

The conventional wisdom would say that the reminder apps (alarms of any tone the user sets on their smartphone, for instance, which is similar to the reminders in Microsoft Outlook) work better than the organizational apps, because organizational apps may be difficult to set up and to use (for most computerphobes), but reminder apps allow for librarians to remember their prioritized lists already available in an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document.

On the other hand, organizational apps, if constructed well and made user-friendly, would allow even the most computerphobic librarian the ability to use the organizational apps to manage their time.   And don’t forget that some organizational apps are not just to create to-do lists; they perform organizational functions that librarians never thought could occur successfully.  DropBox allows librarians to send large files cheaply and effortlessly, so organizational apps do not just pertain to keeping to-do lists in a proper and prioritized order.

Another app, such as the Universal Password Manager, manages the numerous passwords librarians accumulate for all their programs and databases (short term memory organizational apps can be a godsend, in this case!)  And an app like Daily Agenda allows a librarian’s schedule and to-do lists to become (simultaneously) synched to various devices, which is useful for the librarian who staffs a reference desk and then has to conduct bibliographic instruction to a classroom full of undergraduates.

Finally, Cardmunch electronically organizes the torrent of business cards that librarians can accumulate over time.   But does a librarian need an arsenal of organizational apps to remain on top of their work?    Not necessarily—a librarian who wants to successfully manage their time should utilize the method they feel most comfortable using, whether that method is electronic or old-fashioned pen and paper.

I am one of the few individuals who does not now own a smartphone—I may own one in the future, and may take advantage of electronic organizational apps available, but for now, my preferred method of organizing my time are paper day planners, daily paper to-do lists, and bits of paper with reminders of the very important daily tasks I need to finish.  I know, it sounds a little like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumb trail in the forest, but it works for me.

And that is the take-home message here—if a librarian want to organize their time effectively and efficiently, they need to use the organizational tools most comfortable and most helpful to them, whether from the 20th century or from the 21st century.

Are you a librarian that uses apps? Leave a comment and let us know what works for you!

Managing the One Person Library provides a useful and needed resource that solo librarians can use when confronted with the challenges of running a small library over a wide array of different types of libraries. The book is available on the Elsevier Store.

managing one person library

Use discount code “STC215″ at checkout and save up to 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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