Many librarians choose to work on their own, inside many different types of organizations. All library skills—whether reference, cataloging, or collection development—are useful and valuable to both solo librarians and their users. However, there are challenges (both budgetary and organizational) to going it alone which require one-person library managers to seek out both a network and a professional “support system.”
Solo librarianship combines the skills above and many more, resulting in challenging and rewarding roles, whether in a school, a hospital or a law firm—or somewhere more exotic, such as the Charles Darwin Research Station, located in the Galápagos Islands, or the Grateful Dead archives at the University of Santa Cruz, or somewhere with the opportunity for significant cultural impact, such as a small community art museum. (It will of course be argued that a Grateful Dead archivist has significant opportunities for cultural impact as well!) The variety of libraries with the need for one person to “do it all” can make solo librarianship a very unique and rewarding field.
Finding a cohort and staying connected
However, many solo librarians, despite their love of, and dedication to their work, can feel alone in the profession. It can be a significant challenge to find, get, and stay connected to a professional community, and there may be difficulties getting professional development—especially with a limited budget.
Elements of a professional support system
Solo librarians, for those new to the field and those with extensive experience, need strategies and answers to their questions about the most effective and efficient library management methods—as well as some networking opportunities. Online options such as MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses)—especially those presented by universities with library schools—conference archives, and webinars hosted by trade associations such as SLA or CILIP are all good (and mostly low cost or free) channels that solo librarians can leverage to keep the professional development engine running.
An upcoming professional development opportunity
In addition, some software solutions vendors provide access to free online courses, like the one Lucidea is sponsoring beginning Monday, July 17, 2017. This month-long, self-paced small library management course offers proven organizational, operational and professional development strategies in an interactive environment. It’s hosted by Larry Cooperman, the author of the book Managing the One-Person Library (Elsevier, 2014), who has over ten years’ experience successfully managing small libraries.
Just remember that you don’t have to go it alone… there’s a community of other solo practitioners out there who face the same challenges as you! If you can recommend additional great professional development options for solo librarians.
Classic skills for special librarians include versatility and generalist knowledge; these translate seamlessly into a virtual library environment
Tips for special library survey design. Surveys are great for collecting user data that informs special library strategy and changes.
Collections development skills for special librarians include placing digital images of photographs in finding aids and catalogues to increase usage
Collection development and technology skills for special librarians include evaluating older formats including moving images