Solo librarians face unique challenges everyday. How can those who work alone ever do it all -- budget, reference, collection development, bibliographic instruction, online searching, and more -- and not get lost in the hectic shuffle of hospital library management? It's a sometimes overwhelming and tricky road to travel. While solo library managers experience many professional rewards, there are many times they can feel exhausted, isolated and alone. Increasingly, they are forced to prove their value to the institution while they grapple with diminishing health care resources. How can solo librarians benefit their institutions and themselves at the same time? One way to reduce isolation is to connect with clients outside the library. Scheduling regular "field trips" to visit patrons helps to market library services, and casts the librarian in a caring light. Here, we can weave the library firmly into the institution's social fabric. We need to be seen, and to let those we work with see how we shine.
As solo librarians, it may seem easier to remain tethered to the library each working day to tend to routine tasks. After all, we have plenty to do in our library. But, by limiting our visibility to the library, we do a disservice to our institution and to our profession. We must do more to make ourselves available. We need to shine the spotlight on our value to the organization. As the experts in accessing information, we need to step up to the plate in providing health information to our community. We have the skills and creativity to expand our services and take on new roles beyond the library. We need to step out of our library to play a more proactive role in our institution. We need to stop isolating to end feeling isolated. And, we need to teach our clients the importance of our role within the institution, and what we have to offer.
Solo librarians should participate in hospital wide committees. It is essential to support the information needs of the Patient/Family Education Committee, the Continuing Medical Education Committee and others. It is crucial to find new and innovative ways to assist all of the institution's health professionals and staff to support their work with research based tools. It is important that we volunteer to support clinical rounds and/or grand rounds as a vital part of the health care team. We are the information professionals linking the health care team to the medical literature. We instruct clinicians to access the literature to aid medical decision-making. Therefore, plan on attending regularly scheduled department head meetings. This is a good way to meet other department heads and find out what other departments are doing. Send out regular newsletters to staff which may include not only news about your library but also medical news items (make sure you cite your source!). This serves as a good PR for your library.
As solo librarians, we can find ways to make our voices heard in our institution. We have the talent to do so. And more importantly, we need to walk among our clients to be recognized as part of the team. We need to break out of our routine, and go beyond the library. As the organization's manager of knowledge-based information, we have the potential to become a key component of our organization's information system. And, although we are solo librarians, we are not alone.