I’ve worked at my local library for the past year and absolutely love it. Here’s a list of four things I love about my local library:
- The staff there is great. I can say this with assurance because I work there, but everyone on the staff is fantastic.
- The patrons are friendly and overall respectful.
- The thoughtful selection of materials such as books, DVDs, and music.
- The cozy atmosphere. It’s not a sprawling library, but it’s smaller and inviting, which I like.
The library has a small-town feel where people seem to know one another and run into one another. It’s a community center, and oh, you can read this other post on things I’ve learned while working at the library.
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?
Temecula Public Library (Calif.) image from http://www.leightongeo.com
Taking a detour to more lighter-hearted fare, I wanted to add a bit of insight into Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Public Library. Dale Spindel over at “Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room” posted two wonderful posts about misperceptions at public libraries (see first post and second post).
Spindel hits the nail on the head on some of these. I began working at a library last summer and absolutely love it! I love helping people find what they need and providing quality customer service to every person. (In fact, I am considering going for a Master’s in Library Science next year as a result.) I’ll probably reiterate a few points Spindel had but also add a few of my own: Read more…
Image from acuratedlifestyle.blogspot.com
1. We are not stupid. We know when you are gaming the system. We know when you are trying to be deceitful. And we will monitor you if you raise suspicion or seem consistently dishonest.
2. When you come to the checkout counter (aka circulation desk) with more than 5 CDs at time, we pretty much know you’re burning these CDs on your machine but it’s not our job to police you.
3. We would really, really appreciate it if you stopped using that big floppy disk that has virtually nil storage capacity compared to a tiny flash drive that has tons of storage. In this case, bigger is not better.
4. It’s almost always not a stupid question.
5. We know that you swear on your dog’s life that you returned that book and returned it on time, but if we can’t find it on our shelves, we’re pretty certain it’s still in your possession in some form, most likely under a seat in your car. Please check and double-check under the seats in your car before adamantly insisting that you’ve returned an item.
6. You are responsible for a borrowed library item in your possession. As a result, we will hold you responsible if it is returned damaged or missing in any way (eg, water damage, cracked CDs, missing DVDs from a set, an unidentifiable sticky substance we do not want to touch without using a biohazard suit).
7. We love talking to our patrons and spending time with them at the circulation desk, but be conscientious of others. Sometimes lines quickly and quietly form behind right behind you and it’s not pleasant for another person to be kept waiting because you want to keep talking. If you really want to keep talking, at least move to the side so we can speedily assist the next person but really everyone would prefer it if you saved the conversation for a less busy time.
8. Please do not shelve things yourself. You’ll most likely put it back in the wrong place and cause undue distress to others because it can’t be found. If you pull any library item off a shelf and choose not to check it out, please ask the staff where you should place it. In some libraries, there are carts for depositing items you do not want. If this is not the case, leave the items on an empty table or (even better!) bring it to the circulation desk and tell the staff you don’t want the items.
9. We are not tax advisors. Do not get huffy when we cannot offer tax advice beyond the location of your tax forms. (Actually, some librarians might be cheeky enough to tell you this.) Some libraries have third-party tax assistance that comes in and helps patrons with tax inquiries; ask your local library whether this is a service it offers. In addition, do not get huffy with us if we have run out of tax forms. We do not poop out these documents on site and we are not intentionally withholding them from you; they are provided to us by the government who would prefer that you file electronically by walking into H&R Block or using Turbo Tax. Blame them, not us.
10. Using the library is a privilege. If you rack up fines, pay them. If they’re extremely excessive, you may be able to negotiate them down some by speaking to the person who oversees circulation. If the fines are constantly excessive, we lose patience and sympathy. Take care of the items that are loaned to you (remember rule #6!), return them within the allotted time frame (or pay promptly if returned late), and be courteous to staff.
If the library is your primary source for books and other media, then you need library staff to be your “friends.” Being a nice, courteous patron goes a long way and staff will go out of their way to make your visits pleasant and satisfactory. Be a consistently rude or difficult patron… well, don’t be surprised if all your library experiences suddenly become harrowing.