New Librarian? Five “Need to Knows”

I worked in publishing when I decided to get my master’s degree in library science. I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to use the degree, but knew it couldn’t hurt my current career and would allow more skills and flexibility. Fast forward a few years and I snagged a job in a great library system as a youth librarian. These are my five “need to knows” for new librarians.

  1. You will need patience

Coming from an extremely fast-paced for-profit environment, making the transition to the library world has come with a few hiccups. You mean it takes six people to unanimously agree to make a decision? (Okay, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing).

It also turns out libraries are very traditional institutions (duh, right?) and change comes slowly. It’s my nature to want to make changes quickly and decisively, much in the way that was required of me in my old positions. I’m learning to practice patience.

  1. Your impact will feel immediate

My library is small, and after only a few weeks I already had regulars coming in just to chat books. I started getting some regular attendance at my storytimes and few things have felt as wonderful as having storytime kids excited to tell me what’s happened in their lives since the prior week. It’s been really wonderful to be welcomed into a community so quickly—in my first weeks I felt I was already making a difference.

  1. The library world is a gracious one

Maybe the stereotypical librarian reflected in TV and books is a mousy, bun-haired, cat-eye glasses, cardigan-wearing older woman shhh-ing everyone. (Now that I pause on this, I do look a bit mousy and have an infinity for odd glasses. I also like to sock bun my hair. Huh.) However, the typical librarian I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been smart, happy-to-help, and extremely passionate about improving literacy in her community. Everyone’s willingness to mentor has been nothing short of incredible.

Picture retrieved from
  1. You will need to work independently. And hard.

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it’s still worth noting. Due to budgets and the size of my library, there is often only me and a library assistant in the building. This leads to lots of on-desk time, limiting the time I have for programming and other initiatives. My branch manager oversees three libraries and doesn’t have the capacity to provide a lot of onsite help and guidance. Most of what I’ve accomplished has been through a willingness to ask for help. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume it’s like this for many librarians.

  1. You will make fast friends

Whether it be your patrons, other members of the community, or fellow coworkers, you will make friends easily and quickly. The library world is a good one, filled with intelligence, commitment and ambition.

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