In the Library Journal Salary Survey for 2014, 16 % of public librarians noted that they work at their jobs on a part-time basis. This trend is here to stay for a number of reasons (budget cuts and reorganization of staff responsibilities, to name a few). Many librarians (myself included) have had stretches in their career where they are employed at multiple libraries, each on a part time basis. Working as a part time librarian provides both challenges and rewards that ultimately can enhance your career.
Part time work can be physically and mentally demanding. When you work several jobs at several different libraries, you often have different roles and responsibilities at each of the jobs. In addition to different responsibilities, each library may have a different computer system, as well as unique standard operating procedures. Part-time employees also juggle double or triple the amount of coworkers and patrons with whom to interact and develop good customer service relationships. To keep all of these elements straight in my mind, I needed to develop excellent organizational and time management skills.
Managing my time wisely and staying focused on the task at hand enabled me to take on a large number of varied tasks and responsibilities that may not have been available to me in one library position. For instance, at one library, I created adult programs and taught computer classes. At another library, I managed an adult literacy program. At my third job, I administered part of the adult collection.
In addition to gaining valuable experience, part time librarianship can be a way of building professional contacts. While working at the Belleville Michigan Area District Library, I was tasked by the Director and Assistant Director to coordinate the Library’s Adult Literacy Program. Through coordinating the Literacy Program, I developed skills in project management, grant writing, and networking. By networking with other librarians who coordinate literacy programs, I was asked to be a part of a team that presented a “Creating Your Own Literacy Program” at the 2014 Michigan Library Association Conference.
Finally I am often provided with concrete evidence that people’s lives are improved through my work as a librarian. Working part time in a number of local libraries has enabled me to provide services to a large number of patrons. It is such a thrill for me to see the difference that I can make by performing my work as a librarian. Researching medical topics for an ill elderly man, helping a patron fill out an online employment application, or helping people improve their reading and computer skills are some of the ways that librarians can make a positive difference.
Part-time librarian work is a trend that is here to stay. Sure—there are a number of challenges to overcome. However; it has been my experience that the rewards are well worth the effort.