Saturday, August 2, 2014

Preparing for Maternity Leave as a solo MLS Librarian

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.

Additional specifics:

  • 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. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Emerging Leader 2011 - Now What

I was thrilled to be able to participate in the American Library Association's Emerging Leader program for the class of 2011.  The program allowed me to meet librarians from all over the country, some of which I hope to maintain lifelong friendships.  The program allowed me to learn a significant amount of information about ALA and provided me the opportunity to get more involved with the organizational side of the organization.  I truly believe that the Emerging Leaders program has given me opportunities that I would never have had otherwise.  The opportunity to meet and mingle with ALA officials and staff was not only memorable, but it gave the opportunity to create professional ties with many people I might not otherwise have met and/or had the courage to speak to on my own.

I am excited to say that my participation in the Emerging Leaders program, along with my participation in my state library association, has allowed me to help push forward and solidify the Arkansas Library Association's future sponsorship of Emerging Leader participants.

Update - August 2014

The Arkansas Library Association now has a standing Emerging Leader Selection Committee.  This committee is organized with past Emerging Leaders and our goal is to continue to encourage Arkansans to apply for the program and participate in both the state and national library associations.  For more information about the Arkansas Library Association's Emerging Leader Selection Committee, please view our webpage here: