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I attended Allison Girres’ presentation about her experience as a County Librarian for Pioneerland Library System and managing five libraries for Renville County – hence the title “County Librarian”.

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I attended Allison Girres’ presentation about her experience as a County Librarian for Pioneerland Library System and managing five libraries for Renville County – hence the title “County Librarian”.

Pioneerland Library System looked to combine the five Renville County libraries under one librarian because for staff it allowed for libraries to:

  • share staff – having people cross trained at different libraries and continuity of coverage
  • share supplies – some libraries don’t have storage space so they can combine storage for many libraries at one facility
  • share time – an example of this is sharing one reading list instead of each library making their own

For patrons they receive continuity of service because if they go to any of the five libraries they can expect the same policies and rules. They also benefit with more services and programs being delivered to all the libraries and service has improved as well because staff are more knowledgeable of each other’s programs, services, and they are more familiar with the patrons that frequent each library.

Allison also talked about how she manages her time between each library. It’s never going to be an equal split. She can’t spend the same amount of time at each library. She likened her management of the libraries as children – when one settles down the other pipes up. In a similar tone, she doesn’t compare one library to another because they are each different with its own set of patrons and staff. She does strive for individual happiness with shared goals among them by allowing each branch to do what works for them. An example of this was book clubs – in may work for one library but not another.

Time management is a key piece to being able to manage all five libraries. Allison uses a tool to track shared goals that is saved in a Google folder accessible by all library staff. Google has proven to be a very useful tool since she regularly is at different sites but can still see the most updated information from all staff. They use the tool to track physical space, collection management, circulation, promotion/branding, programming, and community outreach.

To keep track of her time, Allison heralds the use of a time tracker app as a way to clearly see exactly how much time it takes to complete tasks and the different tasks she does at each library. This gives her a better sense of how an upcoming work week can be scheduled so it is clear for her as well as her library staff. Stating expectations with staff of what should be considered an immediate need (must be handled right away) v. a non-emergency (what can be communicated via email when she is online) was also needed to keep balance between libraries. Delegating responsibilities to staff has also been key to keeping balance.

Here is a list of some of the books Allison has found helpful with gaining time management skills:

Design the Life You Love, Ayse Birsel

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam

Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Adam Pash

Library Management Tips That Work (ALA Guides for the Busy Librarian), Carol Smallwood

Written by

Carla Pfahl
Reference Outreach & Instruction Librarian