Go ahead. Fill in the blank. And then think about it for a bit. As librarians, we spend a lot of time preparing for many things, be it the next one-on-one patron meeting or an instructional training. We spend a lot of time working on pedagogical issues and rightfully so. We are cutting edge on many things – why not be strong in best teaching methods and willing to try different things to get the point across. But these are not the only aspects of our jobs. I may spend a normal day on a variety of projects and tasks ranging from answering emails on library policy, taking a reference desk shift, or even getting things settled for a pizza order for a student group session. Where does everything fit in? Let’s just say it fits in.
With that said, there are three skills that librarians need to be willing to embrace, and they all deal with the idea of preparation. They may not seem like traditional librarian skills but are very important in our wide-ranging career field.
Project management: When I practiced law, I did a large amount of real estate work. We would get the request and have a certain set of deliverables by given dates. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being forced to develop project management skills that have served me well as a librarian. Keep in mind that getting that project from the beginning and working it until completion can be a time consuming task with many different road blocks along the way. But after a few times, you will get much better at plotting out a course, and it will even help your ability with the next topic. And for an excellent discussion on project management with a librarian slant, see Ted Tjaden’s recent Spectrum article.
Time management: This is not a new theme but deserves repeating. Everyone struggles with time management, but there are many tools out there to help. Michele Thomas did a wonderful job discussing just a few in an earlier blog post, and Shawn Friend followed up with additional ideas. If you take a look, I bet your university’s Human Resources department offers classes on the topic. It can never hurt to keep thinking about organizing your time. We only have so many hours in the day and we need to be productive at work – and then we all need to go home and experience the rest of our lives.
Perspective: I can’t spend all week preparing for that next class. I can’t spend all day on one email. That faculty request needs to be completed in one hour not two days. While we always want to put forth a professional work product, we need to remember that not everything is earth-changing, and too much time spent on certain tasks is not the best use of our time. Keeping the right perspective on a task is key. It needs to receive the attention it deserves.
It seems to me that all three of these skills go together as getting better at one will help with the others. But they may take work and time to master. Be willing to stay true to the process and the rest will follow.
Do you have other tips? Please share them in the comments.