The Best Advice I’ve Been Given as a New Librarian

The Best Advice I’ve Been Given as a New Librarian 

In late July, I was told I was being promoted to a children’s librarian as I was within weeks of completing my MLIS. I was equally excited and terrified. I had taken children’s and teen classes for my master’s degree, but everything suddenly felt very real and frightening – especially since children’s librarianship scared me a little more than teen did. Thankfully, I have some amazing librarian friends who have offered me fantastic advice that has been very applicable as a new librarian. I’m very happy at my new job and I learn something new every day. But for now, I wanted to share some of the librarian advice I’ve been given. Some of it is children’s librarian specific, but most of it is general librarian advice. Enjoy!

  • It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
    • Funny enough, this was the advice given to me by a children’s librarian who happens to run quite a bit. I can’t count how many times she has told me that “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”, but I appreciate hearing it. I’ve found that it’s really easy to get overwhelmed very quickly when I start thinking about programs, summer reading (we’re already planning it), story times, out reach, etc…. and I feel like I need to get it all done at once. The truth is, the work takes time and patience and the finish line isn’t immediately in sight. It’s not a race to get through everything; rather, it’s about pacing yourself and working carefully toward your goals.

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  • Archive everything.
    • Archive, back up on a flash drive, e-mail copies to yourself, etc. My old coworker made copies of every story time and program she did and filed them in a drawer for reference. I thought this was brilliant. Templates, outlines, etc. are all duplicated and organized for her convenience.
  •  If you’re having fun, the kids will have fun.
    • Have fun with it, whatever it is you’re doing. One of my librarian friends really stressed to me that if I have fun, the children will also have fun. It’s easy to feel stupid in front of the parents, but it’s the kids that matter. She reminded me to perform stories that I enjoyed, not just the ones that everyone else was doing. Kids are smart little things. They can tell if you aren’t enjoying yourself, so have fun and enjoy the moment.

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  • Before you call IT, turn the computer off and back on. It’ll probably work.
    • My library is very fortunate in the fact that we have an IT department wecan call when something goes wrong. When I was an intern for a different library, there was no IT department on call. If something wasn’t working, you just had to accept it. However, in my years as a library employee, I’ve learned that before calling IT, it’s important to try turning the computer (or whatever electronic device) off and back on. Unplug it and plug it back in. Jiggle a wire. Make sure everything is plugged in. Then call IT if none of that helps. I’ll never forget frantically calling IT one morning when my computer said it was on, but the monitor was blank. The IT guy kindly, but also in an amused way, asked if I had tried jiggling a wire. I huffed and rolled my eyes, but when I followed his directions…. they actually worked. That was the day that my advice to myself became TRY EVERYTHING and then call IT.

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  •  Your coworkers are your teammates.
    • This was advice I was given before I was a librarian. It takes everyone to keep the library running, so working as a team is important. Offer to help your coworkers and thank them when they help you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    • One of my former coworkers really stressed this when we met for coffee the other week. It seems like an easy thing, but asking for help can be really tough – at least for me it is. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Everyone needs help from time to time.

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  • Know your collection.
    • When I transferred to my new library, a children’s librarian friend of mine reminded me to jump into my collection. It ended up being one of the first things I did, and I’m glad I did that.
  • Not every story time/program is going to go well and that’s okay.
    • Just about every children’s and teen librarian I know has told me this. Sometimes the kids just aren’t in the mood or no one shows up to a program. It doesn’t mean you failed. The timing could have been wrong, it could have been an off day, etc.
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    Take a deep breath and move on
  • Always thank your IT department.
    • IT does a lot. They know we’re on the front lines dealing with frustrated patrons, but that also puts stress on them to fix the problem quickly. They work hard, are sometimes on-call, and are so crucial to the library. Let IT know you appreciate them.
  • It’s okay to not be okay.
    • I reluctantly admitted to a close friend that I had sat at my desk and cried one day. A horrible week  on top of stress from a new job caught up to me and I broke down. I admitted that I felt horrible and, quite frankly, ashamed. She reminded me that it was okay to not be okay all the time. Bottling up feelings or taking them out on other people isn’t cool, but you don’t need to have it all together all the time.

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Same, Ben.
  • Have a few books/rhymes/songs ready as backup during story time.
    • Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes the kids just aren’t having a book or there is extra time and they’re ready for another story/song/etc. So having a few backups in always a good thing.
  • Take advantage of free webinars and training.
    • There’s always more to learn (whether it’s about programming, books, computers, etc.), so keep an eye out for webinars and training opportunities – especially when they’re free.
  • Get creative with your budget.
    • Budgets are always a hot topic. They are often tight, which can make programming and such a bit more difficult. Shop the clearance racks, buy gently used items, and ask other librarians if you can borrow their materials. I’m very lucky to know multiple librarians who have said they were happy to share their materials.
  • Network, network, network.
    • Seize the day and put yourself out there. Easier said than done, I know. When I went to ALA this past summer, I was encouraged to talk to as many people as possible. It was intimidating, but I made some great connections.
  • Hand-sanitizer, always.
    • I don’t think I need to say more.
  • You don’t have to memorize everything.
    • I was surprised at how many children’s librarians used notecards and other little “cheats” during story time. I assumed you had to memorize everything. That’s not the case, which took a lot of stress off my shoulders.
  • Be willing to adapt.
    • This goes back to having an extra story ready or not being discouraged when something doesn’t work out. Back up plans are great. Smile and roll with the punches. Besides, if you have fun, the kids will have fun. They don’t need to know that whatever it was you had planned didn’t quite go perfectly.
  • Find ideas on Pinterest and librarian blogs.
    • Templates, story time ideas, rhymes, advice, etc. can all be found on the Internet.
  • Make everyone feel welcome.
    • My coworker encouraged me to learn the kid’s names, and to always make every patron feel like they belong in the library. A smile can really go a long way.
  • Get to know your community.
    • Learn about the culture, what the people like, etc. Reach out to community centers and put yourself out there. People will tell you what they hope to see in programs and such.
  • You don’t have to be crafty/a good singer/etc. to be a good children’s librarian.
    • This was very helpful (and stress-relieving) to me because I’m a horrible singer and can’t craft my way out of a paper bag (I got consistent C’s in art class as a kid).

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  • Don’t let low-attendance programs discourage you.
    • Just because one library gets 45 kids and you get 7 doesn’t mean you’re a failure. There can be many reasons behind low-attendance. Try different times, different kinds of programs, and see if there are ways to get the information about the program to the community.
  • Find your thing.
    • Don’t compare yourself to other librarians. Learn from them, but make your programs, story times, etc. your own.
  • Drink your coffee.
    • My advice to myself every day. Drink your coffee, smile, and get ready to make the world a better place.

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      Judy Hopps is my hero. 
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My little doodle that it taped to my computer as a constant reminder.

2 thoughts on “The Best Advice I’ve Been Given as a New Librarian

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