Is being a one-man librarian worth it?

Nowadays, librarians are in high-demand in the Philippines. There’s a lot of institutions looking for librarians, and there are few licensed and professional librarians. However, due to budget cuts and saving, some institutions only require the bare minimum to meet the requirements. Most librarians or fresh graduates of library science often find themselves as ‘one-man librarians’.

They may or may not have assistants, but essentially, they work alone in their library. They manage the library, acquire and organize its books and resources, keep the books and chairs in order, and serve the clients.

In my first official job, I was a one-man librarian in a small college library. Due to the situation and the burn-out I felt, I eventually quit. In my experience of being a one-man librarian, I often compare it to being the only waiter (and cook) in a restaurant. You take the order, you cook the food, you serve it and take the money. You clean up after the customer and buy the supplies yourself.

In being the all-in-one librarian, I had to budget for the library’s needs, manage work students, prepare accreditation documents, monitor the borrowing and returning of books, catalog the books and arrange them, and go to the bookstores and buy the books myself. My next job at my university was less stressful because there was only ONE work to do: catalog books. If you’re alone, its always a challenge to prioritize and you have to focus on one thing at a time while having to delay other important things as well.

I think being a one-man librarian depends on many circumstances in an organization. Personally, I feel that its better to have other librarians so they can team up together. Having more than one librarian also means a clearer division of work.

I think being a contented one-man librarian depends on two factors:

The Organization and its Management. Your library’s success also depends on the organization. If they are understanding and supportive, the better. In my case, I often had to explain what the librarian does to non-librarians who have no idea about my work.

The number of clients and their service demand. The smaller number of people and the lesser their demand, a one-man librarian is able to manage. In my previous job, it was stressful during exams time. Their demand for research and study materials is overwhelming, and you don’t have time to decide what to buy for their needs.

As for me, one of the main reasons why I was so stressed is because of the unlocked door (really, of all reasons!). The library was in a building and I wasn’t allowed to ‘close the library’ when there was no one to guard it because the students are there all the time, and they might need to study. So, I was always nervous even before I opened the door because the students might have messed up the books again, or someone borrowed without permission or some other unexpected nightmare. The work students assigned in the library often get pulled out for other activities. It got to a point that I couldn’t sleep or relax, even during holidays when I’m supposed to be resting.

If you are applying for jobs and considering a position as a one-man librarian, think it over and research the organization thoroughly. You may be overwhelmed by the work. But if it looks like a good opportunity and you can manage, it may be a welcome challenge for you.

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