Short-Staffed! Lunch with a Friend, Part 2

So we are at lunch, my out-of-town friend and I, and she asks what is happening with this blog. A librarian friend had wondered if it still existed and was I still writing it.  I started to say how tough it's been over the past five months while we've been down a position. And, wise woman that she is, she said "Blog about it!"

I'm not sure I have anything insightful to say about what it's been like. I know so many of my colleagues across the country have been under such extreme duress with positions, funding and hours slashed. Short-staffing affects us and our communities on so many levels.  This is just a personal reflection on what we were able to do and not do (um, this blog) while work-time marched on, minus 40 hours per week in our department.

Everyone in our department shouldered extra responsibilities and desk shifts. They covered for our lost colleague (and me during the lengthy interview process which stretched over holiday closures, vacations and ALA; essay question answering and analysis and final interviews).  Our able desk assistant became uber-Jill of all trades and showed a welcome acumen for all things YS. We cut back on our programming and outreach frequency but developed early literacy initiatives like 1000 Books Before Kindergarten; Early Literacy centers; "Between-Storytime" coupon books and a new summer reading club for birth - 35 month old kids (thank you Naperville (IL) Library for sharing the Rubber Ducky Club with us). We also worked hard to partner with our schools and colleagues including a highly successful collaboration with the high school to bring in an YA author and have a "One Book, One Community" reading program.  These initiatives involved advanced planning but literally ran themselves once developed.

Little things were hard to keep going. We kept up with collection development and weeding but our PR was tough to cover. We field newsletters, Facebook accounts, webpage event updates, info to the schools, handouts and etc. Much of that was on a "way-beyond-deadline-whew-we-made-it" schedule, if it happened at all.  We felt lucky to have fewer programs so our lack of PR fabulousness maybe wasn't noticed. I, for one, got even more rushed and sloppy and 40 hour weeks, crept into 42, 45 and 50 hour weeks just to keep things going. The storytimes I covered weren't as good as I like to have them and though I kept all appointments, I stayed awake nights trying to keep it all in order.

This blog...hah!  Lucky if I got anything in. The hardest thing for me, though, was finding time to work with and support my colleagues.  Time spent with each of them meant time away from deadline-specific work and that was a balance I couldn't find. These are strong, tough people and they brought amazing resilience to the fore during this stressful time.  While we were getting towards the end of our short-staffed period, our much appreciated half-time outreach librarian announced her retirement.   With budget constraints we knew we couldn't fill this position, but the team stepped up again. 

And now, as of six days ago, we have a new full-time team member. She will bring new skills and perspectives into the department. We will re-assess what we can realistically do and move forward to serve our public.  And I wouldn't want to be anywhere else and working with anyone other than the team at my library.   

Image: 'Ivi is crazy -20080804_0233edbw'   http://www.flickr.com/photos/99037763@N00/2805780029


  1. Hi Marge,
    When we talked at the Thursday WAPL luncheon, two things came up that I think would make great blog posts for you. At least, I personally would love to hear more about the idea of getting stuck in a rut and creating a 'cult of personality' at the library. That idea really resonated with me, and I've love to hear more about it. I bet others would glean some good things to think about too!

    The other thing would be for you to share some more thoughts on building/keeping great J nonfiction collections.