The Solo Librarian: Alone, but at Home in SLA

Maybe Jesse White should have been a librarian.

From 1967 to 1988, White was “the loneliest man in the world,” aka the Maytag repairman. Sitting in his repair shop in his clean, pressed Maytag uniform, White would lament that Maytag appliances were so reliable, he had nothing to do and no need for an assistant.

Had White been a solo librarian, he would have had plenty to do and would rarely have lacked for company. He would have needed to possess not only a good understanding of library science but also skills such as project management, copyright management, and competitive intelligence. He would have needed to be able to connect and network with people, solve problems, and communicate across departments. Above all, he would have needed to be inquisitive and to seek out opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge.

“When I accepted the job . . . I had limited experience with creating and managing collections, and I am the only library and archives employee at Mt. Cuba Center,” writes Liz Fite in the March-April issue of Information Outlook. “Fortunately, my organization encourages and supports professional development. I’ve been given a lot of flexibility to explore various trainings and professional groups to determine which would best fit my needs and the needs of our collections.”

Many times, Liz has turned to SLA to develop her skills, especially in networking. Gabi Hysong, another solo librarian, has also used SLA as a learning resource, both formally (through webinars and certificate courses) and informally (through discussions with other SLA members).

“As a novice librarian in my early years at Rolls-Royce, I utilized the resources of SLA heavily,” she writes. “I received my SLA certificates in copyright management and competitive intelligence, studied all of the SLA knowledge management courses, and participated in every library-related webinar from SLA headquarters and the various divisions and other groups . . . In addition, I have always relied on my fellow SLA members for their depth and breadth of knowledge, not to mention their words of encouragement.”

Learn more about the resources available to solo librarians through SLA by reading the article.

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