Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Day in the Life Redux: Director Style


I recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague. The conversation started with me giving her an update about the flood we had in the basement of the library. Yes, you read that correctly: flood in the library's basement. Among other things you'd expect in a library basement, do you want to guess where our archives is located? You got it: the basement.

When I first learned about the flood (thank the deity of your choice that there were some students working in a basement group study area, otherwise we might not have noticed for a while), I ran - a full out sprint - to get down there. You see, the holdings of the archives were mostly dumped in that basement room, with very little organization and lots of cardboard boxes sitting on the floor. I've been slowly making progress since I started working here, trying to figure out what the heck is even in there and to get things up off the floor. So when I heard about the flood, my heart sank. I needed to get things up off the floor, no matter where, immediately. (Before you judge me for having things on the floor of an archives located in the basement, please remember I'm still in my first 6 months of being a library director. I've got a bazillion other hats to wear, so I've only been able to devote about 8-10 hours to working in the archives so far.) To make it all humorously worse, I was wearing a skirt and a cream colored shirt during all this physical and wet labor.

Flash forward and things have turned out for the best. Those students who first noticed the water helped me move the boxes. Our maintenance department came, in force and almost immediately, to help us stem the flood. And when I checked things yesterday, I was pleased to find my suspicions confirmed: the only items we really lost were cardboard boxes. Almost nothing that had been in the boxes even got damp, and there was no permanent damage.

After I was done updating my colleague about the flood and subsequent events, she joked in response: "I'll bet you never thought you'd be doing this as a library director."

I laughed, but not because I didn't expect it. Quite the opposite, really. Okay, no, I might not have expected to be dealing with a flooding basement, but I've always known that being a library director at a small library is all about doing whatever needs to be done. Cleaning up when a toilet overflows, and shoveling snow, and toting and hauling wet boxes are all as much a part of my job as writing grant applications and information literacy instruction and marketing. If something needs doing, and I'm the only one around who can do it, then it qualifies as "the director's job."

To expand this point, anything can be part of a librarian's job. You may or may not have the "and other duties as required" clause in your job description, but it's pretty much always implied. Actually, those "other duties" are a big part of why I love this profession. How about you?

(I know there's not an official Library Day in the Life Project going on this summer, but I still tagged it that way.)


  1. All of those and then some fall under "other duties"! However, I enjoy when my other duties give me a chance to fill in on the desk. Patrons (and staff) are pleasantly surprised to know I am not just an administrator, but someone who will always pitch in where necessary.

  2. It always amused, and relieved, my co-workers that when there was a mess, even one of "those" kinds of messes, I was always willing to help clean it up. I've seen in all - diarrhea dripped on the library carpet from a patron's unexpected episode to "there's a woman in one of the bathroom stalls downstairs and I'm not sure she's breathing."

    You get your gloves, you get the carpet cleaner, you check on the woman, you call 911, and you handle things. I've always figured that they may not pay a library supervisor as much as a library supervisor deserves, but when you signed up to be a supervisor, that's part of what you signed up for.

    Besides, my dad cleaned and maintained public libraries for 26 years. You show me something that freaks me out, and I'll give you a medal. :)

  3. Sorry to hear about the flood! The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has a really strong emergency preparedness (for libraries) initiative. They have a toolkit that's probably relevant for all sorts of libraries. http://nnlm.gov/ep/