For librarians, deadlines invite a special chance to embrace the sometimes absurd—but always rewarding—task of meeting patrons’ unique and changing needs.
Here are 10 deadlines that only a librarian can fully understand.
1. Buy $100,000 worth of books in three days—but only titles NOT available in the U.S.
Spanish Language Selector Nerissa Moran: “My funniest book deadline would be buying at the book fair in Guadalajara. Talk about a rush order!”
2. Become a master on The Masters as fast as humanly possible.
Richard Hallman, M.Ln.: “Way back when I was a news librarian, we had many deadline requests.” Here’s one Richard remembers well: “Find out everything you can, as fast as you can, about everyone who’s a member of Augusta National Golf Club, AKA ‘The Masters’ golf club.”
3. Order at least 1,000 books per day.
Fern Hallman, M.Ln.: “This was back in the day, before Bibz and the World Wide Web (1988), ordering an average of 1,000 books per day for new library branches in Atlanta.”
4. Give children a library tour of a building you’re completely unfamiliar with.
Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS: “The only crazy deadline I have faced would be: Show up as a substitute librarian at a branch and find out I need to take school kids on a tour in half an hour—but I’ve never been in this building before!”
5. Set up a camera to welcome students to school on live TV—with NO prior experience.
Suzanne Hawley, MLS: “I was hired to open a new school… My attention was solely focused on unpacking and organizing the collection on the new shelves, as well as managing the set-up of computers in the library… The principal mentioned to me that I would also oversee a TV studio. Late on the Friday before the first week of school, she told me she expected to welcome students live on TV for their first day. I Had NO idea how to operate ANYTHING in a TV studio. Wearily, I unpacked the camera and tried, without luck, to figure out how it sent signals to the classrooms. Never underestimate a librarian! The principal was seen on the TVs in every classroom at 9 a.m. the first day of school.”
6. Find a way to wheel a TV downstairs for a group of toddlers—while the elevators are down.
There is no limit to the lengths to which a librarian will go to help little ones gain a literary edge. Desperate times sometimes call for creativity. Luckily, librarian ingenuity often strikes at the eleventh hour. Never bet against a librarian under pressure.
7. Find 26 wine corks and make a pumpkin out of them. Post-haste.
Autumn opens the door to all kinds of unique opportunities for librarians. And that means unique challenges. Programs like Wine-Cork Pumpkin Making provide a chance to feature special activities for adults, giving them a new excuse to visit the library.
8. Get told you have to create an escape room in time for the library’s grand reopening—and on a shoestring budget.
Escape rooms challenge those within to use problem-solving skills and sometimes motor skills to successfully unlock a door and emerge with a sense of accomplishment. Such a program, with adult supervision provided, could benefit library goers. Organizing the event, though? That’s a different challenge altogether!
9. Learn everything you can about ska, starting yesterday.
Maybe a fellow librarian was going to lead a program on ska featuring instruments the young attendees could make themselves. Unfortunately, she’s come down with a nasty bug and asked you to fill in. So you dive in and get to work. Librarians are masters of the impossible.
10. Dress up as a children’s book character when the person scheduled to play that character suddenly cancels.
There’s a unique adrenaline that comes with undertaking such a substantial feat with little to no prep time. But nothing beats putting a smile on someone else’s face or eliciting giggles.
This is just a sampling of the quirky obstacles librarians often face. Odds are, you have your own fun anecdote about a library deadline no one else would understand. We hope some of these have brought a smile to your face. Remember, you’re not alone!