The problems faced by working parents in technical fields in libraries are not unique or particularly unusual. However, the cross-section of work-life balance and gender disparity problems found in academia and technology can be particularly troublesome, especially for mothers and single parents. Attracting and retaining diverse talent in work environments that are highly structured or with high expectations of unstated off-the-clock work may be impossible long term. (Indeed, it is not only parents that experience these work-life balance problems but anyone with caregiver responsibilities such as elder or disabled care.) Those who have the energy and time to devote to technical projects for work and fun in their off-work hours tend to get ahead. Those tied up with other responsibilities or who enjoy non-technical hobbies do not get the same respect or opportunities for advancement. Such problems mirror the experiences of women on the tenure track in academia, particularly women working in libraries, and they provide a useful corollary for this discussion.
We present some practical solutions for those in technical positions in libraries. Such solutions involve strategic use of technical tools, and lightweight project management applications. Technical workarounds are not the only answer; real and lasting change will involve a change in individual priorities and departmental culture such as sophisticated and ruthless time management, reviewing workloads, cross-training personnel, hiring contract replacements, and creative divisions of labor. Ultimately, a flexible environment that reflects the needs of parents will help create a better workplace culture for everyone, kids or no kids.
© 2015 The Authors.