Shhhh! This is a library!
Just kidding, we actually don't do that anymore. Whether you're a frequenter of libraries or haven't been to one since you were a kid, you probably have some ideas about who librarians are and what they do. But you might not have the full scoop.
Before I chose the writing career path, my previous life was that of a librarian. There are a lot of assumptions about what librarianship looks like and the skill it requires, and some are just false. Come along with me as I reveal the truth about librarians, our experiences, and what we think of our patrons!
Sadly, We Don’t Get Paid to Read All Day
A lot of people assume we get paid to sit at our desk and read all day. Really, most librarians do their reading outside of work hours (you know, as a hobby). We get paid to do things like manage the library collections, run programs, and help patrons.
You Can Get Free eBooks & Audiobooks With Apps Like Libby & Hoopla
I truly want everyone to know about these resources, so I'm mentioning it here. If you like reading eBooks or listening to audiobooks, most libraries offer access to apps like OverDrive Libby and Hoopla. You can "check out" a certain amont of items per month, free with your library card.
We Want You to Come to Our Programs
Library programs take a lot of effort (and sometimes money!) to plan from start to finish, so we want lots of people to come and enjoy them! If you're looking for something free to do for kids or adults, check out the events at your local library. It'll make us so happy.
“It Had a Blue Cover” Is Probably Not Enough Info
It's a fun challenge to try to solve the mystery of what book you read 10 years ago, but we're going to need more than "it had a blue cover." If that's all you can remember about it, we probably can't help you, but if you can dig a little deeper to remember characters or events, this is one of our favorite quests.
If You Think You Need a Lot of Help, Book an Appointment
You can always walk in and ask for tech or research help, but if it's during a busy period at the library, it might be difficult for us to help you as much as you need.
Most libraries offer one-on-one appointments if you need tech or research help. By booking an appointment, you'll usually guarantee at least half an hour of help from an expert who can sit down with you and give you undivided attention. This is super helpful so we can plan our staffing needs, so it's a win-win!
We Aren't Judging You for Late Returns
Lots of libraries are going fine-free for a reason, which is that we don't feel like we should be robbing people for returning a book a few days late. We want information to be accessible, and we don't want you to feel a sense of shame about late returns or owing money. We're glad you're here and using the library.
We Don’t Know Everything…
A librarian isn't just an endless supply of knowledge about everything, but we appreciate that some people think that. We specialize in "figuring things out" and providing access to information, so we're good at digging into things to find the answers you need. And many of us have our niche area of interest that we probably know a little extra about ... for me, that was Stephen King books.
We Care a Lot About Our Communities
Many public libraries extend their reach beyond the physical library building and participate in community events and intiatives, like working with homeless shelters, hosting Meals on Wheels, and book delivery programs. We need our community as much as they need us, if not more.
Libraries Also Offer Unique Programs Based on Their Community's Needs
Libraries offer different programs according to their patrons' needs. I worked in the downtown branch of a county-wide library and we had a book delivery program for patrons who were unable to leave their homes, mainly those who were elderly or disabled. This made our materials more accessible to our community, and these patrons were very grateful for our help.
We also assisted patrons in applying for expungement so they could start living their lives again. Having a criminal record can affect things like applying for safe housing and securing a job, making it difficult to get back on your feet. This was extremely important for our community.
Look into your local library to see what special programs or services they offer that you might have never known about.
Unfortunately, We Do Have to Throw Some Books Away
"Weeding" is our process of pulling old books that haven't been used in a long time (relative to their category) or are replaced with newer editions. We have to make room for new books somehow! Sometimes it's necessary to throw them away.
Questionable stains, water or insect damage, missing pages, broken bindings, or just plain inaccurate or outdated content can all be reasons to toss a book in the dumpster. So if you see a bunch of books in the library dumpster, rest assured it's for a reason.
We don't throw all of our "weeds" away, though; if they are in good enough condition, we'll set them aside for the book sale or repurpose them for book crafts.
The "Library Cake" Is a Rite of Passage for Librarians
You know how when you have a certain job, your friends and family like to send you memes or pictures they think you'll relate to? "Library Cake" is an infamous Pinterest photo that almost every librarian has received from a family member or friend — possibly multiple times!
It's a bit of an inside joke in the library world, but it's actually such a sweet gesture. We want you to keep sending us every book-related pic you see that reminds you of us.
If We Don't Have Something You Want, Feel Free to Request It!
Did you know you can request libraries to purchase books or materials that you're interested in? It's not always guaranteed, but if it's in the budget and seems like a good addition to the library's collection, we might order it!
Please Don't Yell at Other Library Patrons (But Do Come to Us)
The library is a public space, which means we see people from all walks of life. If you disagree with or are disrupted by another patron's behavior, please come to us to resolve the issue. That's part of our job, and we would rather have a calm conversation with someone rather than see two patrons get into an altercation.
That said, if the other patron isn't hurting anybody or violating our library policy, there is not much for us (or you) to do. We might suggest that you relocate to a different area where you won't be bothered by them.
We Appreciate Kind Words
This goes for just about any profession, but gosh, it's so nice when library patrons tell us how great and helpful we are! And how much they love libraries. We love them, too, and we always want to talk about it!
We Try Really Hard to Be Non-Biased
Part of working in libraries is that we want to provide information on and from all perspectives. As long as the information in question is accurate, up to date, and in demand by somebody, whether we'd personally read it or agree with it isn't really the point. Libraries provide information and resources for everyone.
The Cardigan Isn't Just a Fashion Statement, It's a Necessity
I loved cardigans well before I became a librarian because they're cute, cozy and versatile. But the reason you see a lot of librarians wearing them is because it gets really cold working in a library all day. Libraries are kept cool as a preservative measure for the books, so we library workers got smart and learned to keep a cardigan handy for extra chilly days.
We're Not That Into Shushing Anymore
The days of shushing librarians are over; we actually welcome a reasonable amount of noise. The library is more of a community space where all ages can come and spend time for free: collaborate on group projects, play games, or just hang out! We don't expect everyone to be quiet.
Don't worry — many libraries still have designated quiet areas if you're looking for a more peaceful ambiance.
Yes, Librarianship Requires a Master's Degree
A lot of skills and knowledge are necessary to be a librarian, and the position does require a Master's Degree. When people seem shocked or appalled that the role requires this level of education (or ask why we need a Master's to sit at a desk all day) it can be really hurtful.
If you're genuinely curious about what we study and how it applies to our job, we'll happily explain, but that level of shock tends to rub most librarians the wrong way.
Libraries Aren't Dying, They're Changing
Some people used to claim that libraries would become a thing of the past because of computers and the digitization of materials. The nature of librarianship and libraries has certainly shifted, but it's a natural progression and libraries do a lot to stay relevant.
It's a necessary resource for people who may not have access to technology in their homes or may not have a warm place to be during the day. Without libraries, a lot of people wouldn't be able to thrive in our now tech-centered world.
Being a Librarian Is Fun, but Hard Work!
Overall, librarianship is an enjoyable and rewarding career, and there are many different "kinds" of librarians in the world: school librarians, digital librarians, public or academic, acquisitions librarians, special collections, and much more. While I decided to pursue my love of writing, I'll always be fond of the 10+ years I spent working in libraries and the experiences it gave me.