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What I’ve Learned from Working at the Library

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

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I’ve been working in the library system for 2 years now, and as I move from one library to another, I want to take the time to reflect on what I’ve learned from working at the library.

1. Most people are nice.I can think of only once incident in which I’ve had a bad experience. That’s not bad for 2 years gone by.

2. Most people want a friendly face. Even if the patron just wants to get in and out very quickly, they usually appreciate a friendly face who is courteous and willing to help them. Often, they will return a smile.

3. Libraries are more than just books. Libraries are community centers where people can get access to the latest movies, music, and audiobooks along with the ability to use computers and take advantage of quality programming.

4. Libraries are the 411 of knowledge. Want to know whether the “a” in “at” in Sergeant-at-Arms is capitalized? (That’s a real question I’ve received.) We can answer that for you. Want to know whether Mrs. Jones still lives on 123 Main Street in King of Prussia, PA? If it’s public knowledge, we can tell you.

5. Libraries aren’t the quiet places they used to be. You can easily find children screaming or running around. In the children’s department at one library I’ve worked at, we were allowed to play music to showcase our musical selection. And with the population getting older and unfortunately getting hard of hearing, you can hear circulation clerks talking a bit loudly. In fact, circulation clerks are probably the loudest people in the library next to small children.

6. Gone are the days of no food or drink. One library I know of has a small cafe area that sells coffee, beverages, cookies, and fruit. Other libraries I know of don’t bat an eye if your drink is too close for comfort near a CPU (central processing unit). Didn’t finish your drink from Starbucks? Feel free to bring it on in!

7. It’s not necessary to know the Dewey decimal system as in the days of yore. The Dewey decimal system is still in use, and some knowledge of it is helpful, but if you want to find comic books, you likely can head straight for the graphic novels section instead of browsing through 741. Some libraries have even ventured to put subject classifications up, e.g., Art, Economics, World War II, Travel so you can browse for things yourself instead of needing to ask whether 917 is still U.S. travel or whether the 200s still house religion.

8. In the case of children’s series, it’s no longer necessary to know the author. Many libraries now have series sections for popular titles such as Magic Tree House, Diary of Wimpy Kid, or 39 Clues. This process simplifies things greatly, especially in the case of the 39 Clues books, which can be written by multiple authors and would be spread throughout.

9. Many libraries now offer a vast selection of e-books, e-audiobooks, and even music. Got an e-reader? It is most likely compatible with the library’s online lending service. Some libraries with large budgets can lend music online, and others with limited budgets simply offer e-books. This online lending service is at little to no cost and often incurs zero fines. Check with your local library if they offer e-books for download and how to take advantage of this valuable service.

10. Check out a magazine! Really want to read last week’s issue of People magazine? Wanted to flip through last month’s In Style but it’s already off the stands? You have the option of either leisurely flipping through a magazine at the library or checking it out for a minimum of one week.

11. Need information on local history? Your local library probably has a local history section with archives and niche publications.

12. Can’t find the latest release of a movie or album? Ask at the desk! Often, when movies or music are just released, you won’t see them on the shelves because they are out circulating with other patrons. The best way to ensure you get your hands on new material is to ask circulation assistants or reference librarians. They can either check the back office to see if it’s sitting on their shelves waiting to be put out or they can add your name to a waiting list. That way, you won’t have to walk into the library every week hoping you’ll finally see the new release you’ve been waiting for. (And you probably won’t see popular titles for months if you’re not on a list.)

Those are just some of the things I’ve learned from working at a library. What have you learned about the library that you didn’t know before?

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