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graphic of library shelves with text "a day in the library life."My mom has no idea what I do all day at work.

It’s not her fault. My job is unique to libraries. As the head of access and public services at an academic library, talking about my work gets quirked eyebrows and, “Access services – what’s that?” from  family members.

Even within the library community, jobs with the same title vary from library to library.

Even my job is different every day. My role is to coordinate circulation, interlibrary loan, reserves, and basic information help at a combined service point in the library. A day can bring anything from sticky customer service situations to long-term strategic planning.

The mystery and changeability is common to a lot of people in library leadership. I’m so curious about what’s happening today for a small town library director, a director of development for a metropolitan library, or a library user experience director. Like my mom, I want to know what everyone does all day!

So here’s the first in a new Library Lost & Found series: Day in the Library Life. I’ll tell you what I did today at my library. Want to contribute a day in your library life? Drop us a line.

8:30 a.m.

Arrive at the library and try to figure out where to temporarily store an AV cart with VHS conversion equipment, which had to come out of deep storage because of our renovation. Start drinking coffee.

9:00 a.m.

Head to the conference room to conduct a mock interview with colleagues for one of our graduate assistants, who has a real interview lined up for a professional gig. We ask just four questions and then give some feedback. She nailed it!

10:00 a.m.

Go around the corner to the library classroom for a meeting with my fellow department heads and our associate director. We talk about a hiring plan and creating departmental goals that align with the future scenario plan we developed collaboratively this summer. I take notes in our shared agenda.

11:00 a.m.

Scoot to our public service desk for my shift. We provide circulation, basic reference, and technology help at a single service point, so an hour on the desk goes by quickly. My favorite reference question this hour is about finding books with realistic pictures of birds for an art student.

12:00 p.m.

photo of librarian using a computer at a study tableI like food. Food tastes good. I eat lunch at my desk while checking emails from the morning.

12:30 p.m.

Gather the equipment for beta user testing of our newly redesigned library resources log in screen. We want to make sure it works well before rolling it out next semester, so we’re asking users to try it out and give us feedback. They’re willing to give the two minutes as long as they get good snacks out of the deal.

2:00 p.m.

Our monthly library faculty meeting has a packed agenda and goes by Robert’s Rules. We had a great opportunity to discuss: how to spend professional development funds awarded to the library.

3:30 p.m.

Address my email inbox. Total stats for the day: 33 emails received, 12 emails sent.

4:00 p.m.

Weekly one-on-one with my boss. I ask her about how to prioritize professional development opportunities for my staff, update her on next steps for a collaborative, cross-departmental reference service modeling exercise, and talk about scheduling visits to other libraries in the area.

4:30 p.m.

More emails! We’re seeing some challenges with construction blocking the entrance, so I ask my access services staff to be on the lookout for any issues.

5:00 p.m.

Head to the bus stop only to see the bus pulling away as I round the corner. I grab a table at a coffeeshop across the street and get cozy with a coconut mocha before editing the loan rules for new DVD locations, then catch the next bus home.

This wasn’t a typical day for me. I usually spend more time talking directly with my staff, since I have a one-on-one meeting scheduled almost every day. I was also a skosh more scheduled than usual: usually just 2 – 4 of my working hours are booked, rather than 6+.

This meeting packed day is indicative of a shift I noticed in moving from an entry level librarian position to a middle management position. Libraries are full of committees, which generate meetings – and the more oversight you have, the more committees you join.

Share a day in your library life!

This week I’m leaving my job at one library to move 1,200 miles away and join another library.

I’ve left jobs before, but I’ve never resigned as a manager.  After writing a resignation email to my boss, I was faced with a whole new dilemma: how to tell my team?

Ask A Manager, my go-to resource on all things supervisory, has plenty to say on how to resign – but there’s not a lot out there on specifically how to communicate with your team. Here’s the step-by-step plan I pulled together to let people know their supervisor was leaving.

Make a Transition Plan

Helping decide on new leadership, even if it was interim, became a priority. I’ve worked without a boss before and it felt like steering a book cart with three wonky wheels.

photo of walking feet with wheels of library cart in background

Walking away. Note non-wonky library cart wheels

I wanted to make sure my team knew what was happening after I left. Of course, they know what to do to keep their part of the library humming without day to day direction, but knowing the overall plan is a big help.

I worked with my supervisor to decide what needed attention right away, and how I would share the news with my department.

Tell Direct Reports One-On-One

I met with each of my direct employees to share the news with them. An unscheduled meeting with your boss can have a chilling effect, so I broke into the topic as quickly as possible: “I want to share some news with you about me and my role here.”

After sharing the facts, I moved as quickly into the impact on each employee as quickly as possible: “Of course, this impacts you.” I then shared as much information as I had at that point, including the timeline for settling on a new supervisor.

Tell the Team ASAP

After sharing news with a few individuals, rumors start spreading across the library. I wanted to be as clear as possible, so I sent an email to my team and then my department. Ask A Manager recommends brevity on the order of a few sentences, but my personal style and library culture extends to a few paragraphs of “Here’s the deal” and “I’ll miss you all so much!”.

Exit Feedback

In one of my final acts, I asked my team for feedback about my managerial style. 360 reviews and periodic feedback are always worthwhile, but the manager-employee relationship means that upward feedback will always candor held back. This was a rare opportunity to ask for feedback with no constraints. I sent an email to my group asking:

  • What worked well?
  • What do you wish I’d done differently?
  • Specifically in communication, what different techniques or skills should I try?
  • Any other thoughts?

Return All Library Material

Sometimes library employees make the worst library patrons. I realized at the last minute I needed to turn in all my library materials – including my leadership guides! Now I need the good advice of Library Lost & Found. What are your pro tips for starting a new library manager job?