Monday, June 20, 2011

I Was a Librarian in a Past Life

I have a charming friend, and besides being friends, we used to work together at the library. She posted a wonderful blog entry on working at the library, and she has given me permission to re-post it here! Enjoy!

Being a librarian is not what you think it is.
by LAR'N

When I tell people that I work at a library, one of the many reactions I receive is "Oh wow! I always wanted to work in a library. Do you just read books all day?" But when I tell them that I don't even have the time to read a book, they always look astonished and then ask, "Well, what is it that you do?" The answer to this question is always a little hard to answer, especially since you don't want to bore them with all the crazy responsibilities that a librarian has to do (and they probably wouldn't believe you anyway). Being a librarian is definitely not what you think it is and many interesting events usually happen during a shift (this is part of the reason why many librarians can be very grouchy). Let me give a few examples:

Today the library received a phone call informing us that there was a person passed out in one of the study rooms. Why this person didn't come up to the front desk, I'm not sure, as the study room was located only about forty feet away from the front desk. Anyway, so my boss walks to the study room, opens the door, and sure enough, there is a man passed out onto the table. It takes a few moments to wake him up and sure enough, he is so drunk that you can't get one sensible word coming out of his mouth. Eventually, the cops are called and they showed up at the library to investigate the matter followed by two paramedics with a bed on wheels. The study room turned into a small make-shift hospital as the cop and the paramedics performed different tests on the man only to come to the conclusion that he is indeed drunk and drunk enough to be escorted to the hospital. The sad thing is that the entire time, the four employees (including me) just sat back and watched the entire scene unfold like it was daytime television or something.

Calling the cops is not a rare occurrence. Another time we had to call the cops was when four homeless people got into an argument, yelling at the top of their lungs accusing each other of some action or another. Two of them quickly disappeared though once they discovered that an officer was on their way.

There has also be the problem of someone violating a restraining order, someone dropping off hundreds of boxes of stolen books from another library under the guise of "making a donation," getting involved between two parents who are in the middle of getting a divorce, children getting lost, and even some patrons becoming hostile towards the employees over a matter of owing fines or getting caught looking at pornography.

One time a dog escaped into the library, and I (because I am so young and athletic apparently) was assigned the job of tracking down the dog, catching it, and bringing it back to the front desk. Let me tell you, when a dog doesn't want to be caught, it can be a very tricky thing to complete an assignment, especially when little children decide to invent a game centered on the dog.

Being a librarian also means that you are the source of all knowledge. People make random phone calls asking how to spell certain words, ask for advice on what to do for a science project, want to know where the best campgrounds in the area are, how to study for the GRE or the ACT, and what the name AND author is of a certain book that the patron only vaguely knows what it may be about, and even then they aren't quite sure. Most importantly, being a librarian also means that you need to know what is wrong with the computer when it becomes frozen and to get it unfrozen within five minutes or so, explaining why video streams and game sites are blocked on a daily basis.

Finally, as the source of all knowledge, you have to be able to teach really old people how to use the computer, use their cell-phone, how to make a facebook account, inform them what a kindle is, what twitter means, and the different between talking on the cell phone, IMing, and chatting online. It's not unheard of for me to be with an old patron for a good hour teaching them how to use a computer.

Being a librarian also means that you are a babysitter for all the patrons who drop their kids off to the children section while they sit at the computer for multiple hours at a time, then complaining to you about the fact that the children's area is a complete mess and they aren't able to find a specific book. You are also a picker-upper of all messes, without complaining, no matter how bad the mess gets. This is one I had to clean up today.

Being a librarian also means being a detective. Many many times I am sent out among the shelves to find certain books or movies that were lost or that couldn't have been found. A librarian also has the duty to find all the missing books or the patron who mysteriously disappeared with ten of our videos or owe us eighty dollars in fines, or sitting through watching lots of camera film to discover who blew up ceramics in the boys toilet.

And let's not even mention the fact that there is always that person who decides they hate you because of your lack of knowledge, the lack of speed in the Internet, and the lack of responsibility on their part for turning in their books and movies on time, that old man who keeps hitting on you even though you may be thirty years their junior, and the endless supply of people who smell like smoke, pot, or just plain BO.

Being a librarian does have its perks however. I mean, I get paid for being a smart alec and for showing off how brilliant I am by blurting all all the many random facts I know (I mean, where else can you do that?). I also get to recommend books, read the new books before anyone else, don't have to pay fines, use the building utilities (such as the scanner, the shredder, the fax machine, the interlibrary loan system, ALL FOR FREE!) I can check out as many books as I want, and even get to play with little kids after story time or helping them check out books with their brand spanking new library card. Plus, you can always help those cute young men while checking out the missionaries that are, alas, off limits. In the end, its always rewarding to help those who really appreciate it and are willing to say thanks and smile at you and inform you at how great of a help you have been or that they really like the last book you recommended.

So being a librarian is not just reading books, checking them in / out to patrons, or re-shelving items back into their spots. Rather it is a much more complex and has so many responsibilities that aren't even mentioned in the job description. So the next time you go to the library and the librarian at the desk is a little grumpy when they are checking your items out to you, just remember, they may have just had to call the cops or chase a wild dog around. Being a librarian is not an easy thing.

Maybe I should write a book about it. 
(Now this is Brandon writing.)
She was not exaggerating. Lucky for me, I was in the Happiest Place on Earth when the picture was taken. My friend even sent the picture to me as a text while I was at the parks, and I was glad I wasn't there.

Again - Be nice to your Librarians!
And check out my friend's blog, she has some fun entries! A Girl With a Bucket List


  1. What an interesting post. It's good to know what a day in the life of a librarian is like. It makes me cry a little inside. I thought I had it bad....

  2. Jake! I thought for sure you'd vanished from the earth, but I'm so glad you didn't! Keep in touch!