Red light, green light

I’m actually so swamped it was hard for me to find time to compose this blog post, and my calendar reminds me I’m late with it, too. I’m sure everyone knows the words to that song, but nonetheless it’s true, and I think particularly so for solo librarians to whom all responsibilities fall. (And no nearby professional shoulder to cry on, either.)

Not only is it research project season across all grade levels, I’m also working towards some major changes in the library, both physical and philosophical. By August 2015, we expect to have finished construction on a brand-new upper school building that comprises a ground-floor academic commons with café, offices, outdoor pavilion and a writing center; and a second story with a STEM lab and technologically innovative spaces such as a virtual conferencing room. At the same time, we are also retrofitting several of the older buildings to accommodate growing middle school needs, such as a dedicated middle school library space and science area.

For me this means engaging in complex and thought-provoking conversations about print versus digital for middle school users, what to do with weeded assets, where to house what parts of the collection, if I anticipate future growth or reduction in particular ranges, and so forth. As well, I am also responsible for some very mundane stuff, such as literally packing weeded books into boxes and driving them to a dropoff point, or putting colored stickers on books to designate their ultimate destination. Every day is a peculiar combination of engaging with students and faculty in classrooms as I give research lessons; having deep philosophical debates with my office mate about the looming digital horizon; and ripping stickers off spines with my fingernails. I’m never bored (but I am constantly confused about how to dress every morning. Am I speaking in front of a roomful of peers and professional superiors, or am I doing the library equivalent of gardening today? Or both?) Did I mention I’m also helping to plan and host the spring AISL conference? Y’all should come, if only to check on me and see how I’m doing.

Just like we tell the students, you gotta break the task into manageable pieces and check them off one at a time or else it’s overwhelming and that’s why your paper is late your library doesn’t have any books in it because they’re still in boxes.

I have a clear deadline to meet and it’s all up to me, so I try to spare time each day for these things:

•Tagging books for removal, retention, allocation to the middle school, and “maybe I’ll get rid of this if there’s a digital version but I have to check.” I have several packets of transparent round stickers in red, green, yellow and blue. Red books go, green books stay, blue books go to the future middle school space and yellow ones are in that liminal zone above, so I attack one shelf at a time and sticker as needed. Unscientific, but I’ve been here six years and I know my books and my users. I see the little red and green dots in my sleep now, hence this post’s title.

•Meeting with the physical plant manager to discuss space; with the library interior designer to discuss book storage, workflow and furniture choices; with my office mate to delineate who and what will go where after the new space is built. This seems to change daily, so I also devote a few minutes each day to meditating on the illusory nature of permanence.

•Packing and delivering weeded books. I know that re-homing discards is a challenge for many of you. I am fortunate in that just this past August, a new independent school opened nearby and they are delighted to receive current books that I have weeded – all I have to do is show up and open my trunk and away they go. Other books will go to Thrift Books or to a recycler to have their paper pulp reclaimed.

•Exploring digital equivalents to things I might either weed or retain depending on what I discover. I am tasked with keeping physical growth under control, so I devote such time as I can to looking for alternatives and building a case to present to those who make budget decisions.

It’s a heady mix, and among all those things I still have a sixth grade advisory to work with, research lessons to schedule and give, books to shelve, periodicals to manage and all the other daily business to which I am sure you can all relate. I know many of you are on a similar cusp, in that you may also be charged with planning for a new space or conversion to an academic commons rather than a traditional reading-room library. If what I have posted here is of use to you, then please avail yourself of it, and best of luck with your journey! Please comment and share as your own process moves forward.

2 thoughts on “Red light, green light

  1. Alyssa,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this! It is affirming that other folks are paddling similar boats. Do you remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? “Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” “Bail! Bail! Bail! Bail!”

    In the end, when we are in our new spaces or have achieved our current goal, it will all be worth it.

  2. Thanks for taking the time in your chaotic life to share this part of your library, Alyssa! Your tale of stickers and boxes brought back the not-so-distant-past when we moved out of our library in prep for a renovation. We could take 1/3 of our books to the new ‘Mini-Mudd’ to see us through the year, and we stored 2/3 away. That in itself was a great opportunity to examine our collection and our CD philosophy but you’re right– those stickers still haunt me.

    Just remember these wise words– This Too Shall Pass. And you’ll end up with a revitalized collection and facility, and a whole new view of your domain.

    Chin up!

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