What the Boss Should Give a New Librarian (A newish librarian’s perspective)

Editor’s note: I asked after Midwinter for people who wanted to guest post on the blog and Catherine volunteered! It turns out her post is even more timely now as she will be starting a new job soon. Yay! So, congratulate her on that too when you get a chance (@ms_codson). If you’ve got a topic that you’re interesting in writing about (burning issues in librarianship, management, stuff like that, let me know!) I really love the message that Catherine is sending in her piece her and I think you will too! Happy reading!


I’m a Millennial librarian, and a relatively new one, having just passed my three-year mark in a professional position. At this point in my career, I am starting to think about management opportunities in my own future, and as such, I’ve been reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and what else I wanted or needed from managers in my first position.

By the time you reach your first professional position, you ideally have some general knowledge about how a library works. How to answer a reference question, how to work on teams, how to balance a crowd of patrons in front of you — between library school and internships/practicums/paraprofessional work, these are your responsibility. Your boss should not need to teach you how to work. What a good boss should give you, however, is a collection of maps.

First, a physical map. Each library building is different, and knowing where the bathrooms are is key. This was the first question I was asked at the reference desk as an intern, and I didn’t know the answer. (It’s a trick question of sorts — there isn’t one on our first floor!) Help your newbies find where they need to be, as well as where visitors may wish to go.

Next, a virtual map. What does your library do that they may not have learned elsewhere? Even if we (the new hire) are amazing librarians, some things are specific to a particular organization. Nothing can replace years of experience in the building, but the more you can document and share your policies and procedures, the easier it will be for new librarians to jump on board. This includes people, too. Use your knowledge of interpersonal relationships to help newbies navigate the library and get things done as efficiently as possible. Someone is notoriously bad at email? Point that out. If you have a good strategy for getting a meeting hijacker to back off, share that, too. Set new hires up for success.

Directions to the nearest committees and working groups. I entered my first professional position straight from an internship, and it never occurred to me to ask for these assignments. Other new hires were quickly picked up, but I slipped through the cracks and didn’t join any committees at the library- or university-level until almost a year later! Identify opportunities for your new hires to get immersed in current library projects as they gain their footing and find their additional teams.

And finally, a (metaphoric) kiss and a shove out the door. You hired us, and you have set us up for success. Push us past our comfort zones and into projects where you know we can add our expertise. Especially for the first new hire in a while, it’s easy to fall into the “new person” trap. At some point, it’s time to jump and do the work. As long as we have a net.


Catherine Odson will soon be a tech guide with Anythink Libraries in Adams County, CO. She previously worked in educational technology at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and earned her MS(LIS) from Drexel University in 2011.

3 thoughts on “What the Boss Should Give a New Librarian (A newish librarian’s perspective)

    1. Oof. That’s really situational, I feel. And something *your* boss should be guiding you about. If you want more advice, let me know and we can email 🙂

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