Administrative and Management Skills

Children’s Librarians are Experts at….Multi-tasking

You know how it goes.  You arrive at work on Monday, expecting to cover the desk for four hours, plan storytime for Thursday, prepare a list for the staff Mock Caldecott, and present a STEM program at 3:30.   

You know you will be doing all of this simultaneously, of course, but that’s okay, you’re an expert at multi-tasking.

And then, life happens.  Instead of well-laid plans, your day goes something like this:

During the hour before the library opens you lose your storytime prep time because there is a phone message that needs a response.  A patron is disturbed by a book she checked out for her preschool child because it “has blatant promotion of the homosexual lifestyle.”  You review the book, review reviews, jot some notes, call her back, and explain about the library’s commitment to diversity, as well as the reconsideration policy and procedure.  She hangs up on you.

Photo of miscellaneous STEM supplies
Figure It Out! Photo taken by Heather McNeil

The library opens and you’re on the desk.  You have an email from your co-worker, and she’s sick, so you’re it.  Which means no desk coverage while you do your after-school STEM program.   And you haven’t had a chance to pull together the supplies!  So you dash to the craft cupboard, load up a crate with what will be needed, periodically looking out into the children’s area to see if help is needed.

Help is needed.  You assist, you return to the cupboard, you finish the crate, you return to the desk.

You check email.  Your director tells you she needs a quick memo outlining what is needed for the early learning space.  A potential donor will be at this week’s Board meeting and wants to give a check to cover the cost.  So you begin to prepare the memo, outlining your ideas and the cost for those ideas, but you don’t get to finish because an email from a teacher comes through requesting twelve books about winter that she’ll pick up today after school.  And you think, “Are you kidding me?  Twelve?  I’ll be lucky to find one since every single teacher is requesting winter.”  But you take the challenge, and find some not-so-obvious books that include at least a mention of snow.  Or hot chocolate.  Or even animals that are white.

Photo of Early Learning Space
Early learning space at La Pine Public Library, La Pine, OR. Photo taken by Tina Davis.

Back to the memo.  You finish the first draft, adding information about the research that clarifies the importance of play in learning. You assist several patrons who want “more books like Mo Willems,” (all of his are checked out), and “stories of single parent families, but nothing about divorce,” and “recommendations for an avid reader who’s read all the Harry Potter books three times.”

A group of 3 homeschoolers arrive, and each is doing an individual research project.  Arachnids for what appears to be a 10-year old, robots for an 8-year old, and unicorns for a 6-year-old.  You show them the Dewey location, as well as database resources.  In between you answer the phone, glance at email, and continue fine-tuning the memo about the early learning budget.

Lunch?  Yeah, right.  You step into the craft room to munch hummus and pita, then back to the desk to review the memo again.  You send off the memo.  Whew!

An email from a co-worker asks if you can cover for her on Saturday so she can attend her child’s soccer game, so you do some juggling with your schedule and agree to help her out.  An unexpected school tour comes through—“We were at the police station and had extra time so thought we’d just pop in.”—and you quickly pull out the reliable scavenger hunt game, explain the parameters, and off they go to find a novel by an author that begins with W, a fairy tale, an  early literacy kit, and more.  While they’re searching, the teacher schedules a school visit with you so you can do Book Bites.

You have five minutes and quickly create a ballot for the staff Mock Caldecott with your ten recommendations.

It’s time to set up for the STEM program, which you subversively entitled, “Figure It Out.”  Twenty-five kids arrive, ranging from 6-13, even though it’s advertised for 9-12.  An hour later you’re cleaning up craft sticks, cotton balls, googly eyes, screws and bolts, and wiping glue off the table.

Books and props used for an elephant storytime
Elephant storytime! Photo taken by Heather McNeil.

During your last fifteen minutes you answer an email from a grandmother who would like to read to children, assist a student who needs a monologue for an audition, and quickly pull three favorite picture books about elephants for Thursday, realizing you need to cut out 40 giant letter E’s that they will make into elephants.  You gather up grey construction paper, and plan to cut them out tonight while eating dinner and watching something mind-numbing on Netflix.

Just another day at the library.

Multi-tasking?  You got it!

This post addresses the following ALSC Competencies: I Commitment to Client Group; II Reference and User Services; III Programming Skills; IV Knowledge, Curation and Management of Materials; V Outreach and Advocacy; VI Administrative and Management Skills; VII Professionalism and Professional Development

Head shot of guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Heather McNeil. Heather is the Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library in Bend, OR.  She is the author of Read, Rhyme and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers and Parents, as well as a professional storyteller and author of two collections of folklore.  You can contact her at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Kelly Doolittle

    Hah! What a perfect post! I’m forwarding this to my husband – hope you don’t mind…; )

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