How I prepared for maternity leave as the solo MLS Librarian for a small rural library with a full time staff of five, serving a population of 30,000.
The key to preparing for maternity leave when you are the only MLS holder and solely responsible for collection development, community outreach, budgeting, and facilities management, is to get strong Board support.
The first and key step is getting your Library Board to support your leave and how it will effect your library. My board took 5 months to approve my leave, even though I do qualify for FMLA and will not be receive paid leave outside of my earned vacation time. While they couldnt deny me the FMLA time, I wanted them to support my decisions about how library services would be handled while I was gone and make sure they understood that I would not leave our citizens in a situation where they would losing access to quality services. One key element to this goal is that I agreed that I would pre-plan everything possible and to clearly communicate with local government and other agencies that library services would continue and who the appropriate contacts would be during my absence.
My maternity leave will roughly be August through October. The timing worked out pretty good, because those are actually the slowest months for our library usage and my office paperwork.
My planning included the following:
- Plan all library events for August through December with the exception of movie showings since I dont have access to release dates that far out.
- Complete all paperwork (that I have access to) that will be due prior to my return
- Pre-schedule Board meetings ( we will have 1 while I am on leave). My Board agreed that I should be present for all Board meetings. We will have to have 1 meeting in September so that we can pass our annual budget
- Clarify any special tasks for staff via email ( so there is a record to refer to - verbal requests can be easily forgotten).
- Set out off office message to reflect the situation, length of leave, and alternate contacts for information.
- Meet with staff to review expectations while away.
- Send memo with alternate contacts and leave expectations to local government and other relevant agencies.
- Updated my laptop with current antivirus and made sure that I could access our ILS from my laptop on my home network.
- Contact the schools and let them know we will not be providing school visits during my leave, but that a library presence for special events may still be requested ( for which I will schedule other staff).
- Order or purchase all craft supplies, reception needs, equipment, etc in advance as much as possible.
- Intensively weed collection to prepare the shelves for 3 months of non-weeding.
- I have an assistant that works in my office with me 10 hours a week. She will be responsible for filtering my email, forwarding messages as needed to other staff, typing event calendars, and bringing all messages, correspondence, etc to my home once per week. This will make sure that no deadlines are missed. She will also compile book requests for me into a spreadsheet, and prepare/send Board packets out for our September meeting.
- While on leave I will plan to work approx. 1 day per week from home to make sure books are ordered, documents are signed, and any needs of the library are met that other staff do not have the skill or legal ability to handle.
- In preparing for my leave I have not taken on any new projects, so that I can leave the office without creating an extra workload I will need to keep up with.
- I have asked the staff who will be acting as Library Manager to send me weekly reports via email of any library, patron, staff issues and/or incidents so that I will be aware of any problems in case they are brought to me at a later date.
- I have made sure that the staff have my cell phone number, but know only to call with absolute emergencies that they themselves cannot handle.
In a later post, I will share the written request I submitted to my Board an the memo I prepared about my leave for other agencies I regularly interact with.