librarianship isn’t for sissies

Library bloggers and graduate students regularly ask “what’s the most important thing you learned in graduate school?” or “What do you wish you’d learned in graduate school?”, and I almost always talk about project management skills.  But that’s not the thing I think is most important to success in our profession.

I came in to work this morning hoping to pull the first weeding truck of the semester (I even made a new mix on my iPod in anticipation!), write the SUNYLA Treasurer’s report for Friday’s meeting, and finish up on my two nearly-done LibGuides.

Instead, I’m in full-on triage mode. I’m going to put on my Faculty Senate Secretary robes and send a “change the date, folks!” email to the faculty and the campus facilities folks and the catering office. I’m going to assess the scope and implications of what might have been a very flawed budget projection, based on new information from a staff member.  I’m going to track down the old and/or order a new power cable for one of our key technical services printers.  And I’m going to make some tea.

Because what I think most librarians need more than anything is the ability to be flexible.  To remain calm under pressure.  To adapt to changes and to survive with grace under fire.  To remember to make some tea and take a deep breath.

I’m not sure you can teach that skill, but if you can, LIS instructors… get on it.  Your students will thank you later, when printers are blowing up and the budget’s wonky and they need to call campus catering, like, yesterday.


  1. Thanks, Matt. I’ll see what we need… I haven’t gotten as far as the printer yet. My phone keeps ringing, of all inconvenient things.

    Dorothea, I give you full credit for trying. 🙂


  2. Can we also add that there’s no more room for the “that’s not part of my job description” attitude? I never understood that — in any profession, really. If co-workers need help putting out fires, grab a bucket! The metaphors abound, but it’s truly about independent parts of a whole working well individually and collectively.


  3. Jenica–you got it. No two days are the same and your to-do list is never static. Even if you accomplish 10 things in a day, none of them may have been on your radar at 5pm the previous evening.


  4. Damn straight! I think library schools could learn a lot from how MBA programs teach these skills through case-based learning. I think some people will always be more flexible and resilient than others, but there are ways to teach people to be better able to roll with the punches or at least to better anticipate punches in the first place.


  5. Dorothea, I don’t know, really… I guess I’d say to think about what your reaction is when you’re pushed to change a plan, or do an about face, or triage a fire, and figure out which piece of that reaction is least helpful. And then work on that one small piece until you can suppress it in the moment. And then identify the next piece. And work on that. And onward.

    My personal Small Piece is not verbally snapping at the first person to cross my path when my day has gone wrong. 😦


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