Solo Librarians share tips

Solo Librarians share tips from their experiences of how best to increase their visibility and impact.

– Grace Hillis, Librarian, Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services / Mental Health Commission, Dublin, Ireland. (2 part-time roles)


How did you increase your visibility/value/impact?

“In the Daughters of Charity I increased my visibility by joining committees. I’m on three – Journal Club, Health & Safety and Information Transformation. I’m Secretary of the Health & Safety one. As well as increasing my visibility it enables me to learn about what is going on in my organisation. In Information Transformation I work with people in other disciplines and in other parts of the service to make information more accessible for people with intellectual disabilities. There is great energy in the group. I also do a little bit of work directly with our service users – people with intellectual disabilities. We enjoy it, people know me and I learn a lot.

I am fortunate to be friends with clinical staff. As well as it being great socially, it means I learn a bit about what they are focusing on which gives me ideas for how I can contribute.

In the Mental Health Commission, I started in September 2015 and did a survey at the end of the year. A finding that came out was that people wanted Question & Answer sessions. I ran 2 which were well attended. They created more work for me (in a good way, of course!)! I am feeding back to the staff on my progress made in implementing their suggestions via the library newsletter“.



  • ‘Draw out aspects of your service which you see are key for your users
  • Actively go outside the library and link in with other departments/groups to make people aware of what resources are available
  • Keep users up-to-date on a regular basis by e-mail about new library resources, websites etc.
  • Creating and updating a library website or blog about changes or news that your library may have is  also another beneficial way to promote the library service.
  • Get involved in collaborative projects, library and other organisational committees, discussion lists etc. This is a good way to keep in touch and it also enables you to share your knowledge and expertise with other people
  • If possible, take the opportunity to get involved in undertaking and disseminating some library research.  This can play an important part in increasing the visibility of the library both inside and outside the organisation.

There’s a wide variety of day to day tasks to undertake working as a health sciences solo librarian so flexibility, having a willingness to learn and engage with other people and to remain positive I think is key to this job!’

-Fiona Lawler, Librarian, Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, Ireland.

‘For librarians who do thrive on adapting to meet the environment they are in there is opportunity to shape the job around your skills and to meet the needs of the organisation around you. More librarians in non-traditional settings (as solo librarians often are) are working as almost specialist consultants in organisations and learning to leverage and market their unique skills. So the first step in increasing visibility is marketing your skills.
As solo librarian you have to try to balance the need to be visible with the reality of only being able to stretch so far, usually easier said than done. So once you have marketed your skills you have to be strategic in the projects you commit to. The best way to do that is to try to keep your activities aligned with the organisational focus. Be aware of what the key goals of the organisation and of the different departments are and what you can bring to help achieve these goals. This can come back to marketing and sometimes it means keeping your ear to the ground and being ready to jump in to projects where you see a benefit. Hopefully though the more you work in across the organisation the greater the opportunity for visibility’.

Laura_Rooney_FerrisLaura Rooney-Ferris, Information & Library Manager, Therese Brady Library, Irish Hospice Foundation, Dublin, Ireland.


Solo Librarians

Librarians & information professionals may often work alone without any additional staff.  Working alone, regardless of the profession, presents its own unique challenges.  Solo librarianship is common in school and special libraries.  When you work alone, it becomes even more important to reach out and connect with others who are in similar situations.  Librarians are generally good at helping people, sharing ideas, collaborating with each other and developing best practice.  Here I’m gathering thoughts from solo librarians who are happy to share their ideas on the profession.  Please contact me if you would like to contribute.

What is your favourite thing about being a librarian?

Photo~2“The variety, plus where I work I get to know so many people well. As a solo librarian I am in a position to make changes. There are opportunities to do new things. I have been working as a solo librarian for 7 years and I’m learning all the time. Also, I have worked with some wonderful library volunteers, including one who has stayed for many years. I often seek her opinion before implementing changes; it’s great to have another person’s perspective!”

  • Grace Hillis, Librarian, Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services / Mental Health Commission, Dublin, Ireland.

‘I enjoy helping library users find the information they are looking for and also showing them how to use the library resources.

It is also very rewarding to receive feedback from users letting you know the help which was provided to them benefited their work.

I also enjoy the variety of tasks involved working a solo librarian – each day there is always something new to learn.

Working as a solo librarian has also provided me with the opportunity to personalise the service and I think by doing this it has resulted in users coming to the library more regularly requiring assistance with their information needs’

Fiona Lawler, Librarian, Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, Ireland.

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