I’ve been working at a library for nearly two years now. When I started, I had zero experience in the library world and no clue about how much libraries do. So, to share a bit of knowledge I’ve learned on the job, here’s a list of reasons why librarians are more than stereotypes:
1. Librarians process every item on the shelf. From the online retailer to the shelf, books, books on CD, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and other library-specific items go through many hands to get there. Someone has to order the item. Someone has to create a record in the library system for it. Someone has to add a barcode to the item. Someone has to cover it with plastic or move it into a library-specific container. There are more things that happen behind the scenes that even I don’t know because it’s not part of my job. So, the next time you’re dying to checkout the newest James Patterson or Debbie Macomber, please be patient. We’re working as fast as we can.
2. Librarians don’t usually read on the job. Sometimes we do, but that’s when we’re caught up on our work and no patrons need our assistance. Usually, when we do read, it’s for work. We read literary magazines to decide what we should order next. We stay up-to-date on the library world by reading articles and blog posts. So, if you see us reading, don’t hesitate to ask for help! We’re literally waiting for someone to ask for help.
3. We geek out about displays. This is part of my job. I am in charge of four library displays. My coworkers and Google give me great ideas, but I find the right books for those displays. I find the right props to add to those displays, when necessary. I do my best to keep them updated and relevant. So, please take books from library displays if they look interesting. It makes my day.
4. Many libraries do their own graphic design and social media promotions. This is part of my job, too. I’m part of a very small social media team. I manage the library’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Even though I’m not a designer, I create graphics to promote our awesome events. So, follow your library on social media and, when you visit the library, admire the event flyers. They’re not perfect or exceptional, but they were made with love.
5. We geek out about events, too. They are FREE! Two of my coworkers manage events, so we always have events for kids, teens, and adults. We bring bands to play in the library. We bring in local authors. We have Nerf battles in the library. We host scavenger hunts and kick off summer reading with a visiting petting zoo, face painting, mini golf, and more. So, if you have the time, go to a library event you’re interested in. We put a lot of work into those events.
6. We love books, but we also love people. A lot of my job involves helping people not only find a specific book in the library, but also using the computer, printer, scanner, and copy machines. People of all ages need help with technology – even their new tablet or smartphone – and we’re always happy to help. So, please, ask us for help! Like I said before, we are literally waiting for you to ask for help. That’s why we’re here. We might be sitting behind a computer at a big desk, but we’re on the floor of the library for a reason. We just have other projects to work on while we wait for you to approach us.
7. In the age of Google, when just about every answer to every question is at everyone’s fingertips, a true reference librarian is rarely used.
Reference librarian: Someone who researches a ton to find a very specific answer to a difficult question.
A library job nowadays is primarily a service job. We are here to help. So ask! I can’t guarantee I know who that author is whose book you read in the third grade, but I might be able to figure it out with the help of Google. Was the book cover blue? Was there a dragon in the tale?
8. In my opinion, the hardest part about being a librarian is looking for an item for a patron and not being able to find it for them. Many public libraries are connected to hundreds of other libraries. We share items and ship them back and forth. This is wonderful because our buildings are finite; we can’t possibly house every book you could possibly want to read, not even in ebooks. (We buy copies of ebooks, too.) But our goal is to have something for everyone. So, when we can’t find the item you want, please let us find a read-alike or a similar movie. It breaks my heart a little seeing someone leaving the reference desk empty-handed.
Overall, librarians do a lot because we care about the communities we work in. We might start working at a library to look at all the new, shiny books before they hit the shelves, but the job turns into a responsibility. It turns into a daily act of service.
Challenge: When was the last time you dusted off your library card? Visit a library. Ask the reference librarian for a book recommendation or a tour if you haven’t been there in a while. Sign up for the Summer Reading Program. Admire a display. Check an item out. Take their events calendar home. Like or follow them on your favorite social media platform. Repeat every three weeks.
If you liked this blog post, please buy me a cup of coffee.