11 Ways To Be A Better Library Patron

9. Do not use your phone while speaking to staff.


Library employees are people, too.

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on July 17, 2017. 

I’ve worked at a library for the past four years, and every time I think I’ve seen it all, some library patron comes out of the blue and proves me wrong. Libraries and their employees should not be taken for granted. We are here to help you, not serve you. Here are the top 10 ways to be a better and more respectful library patron.

1. Have your library card or identification on you.

Let us know that you are actually the person you say you are. Also, have it ready so that we can get you in and out.

2. Don’t be that person that comes in five minutes before closing.

Come in tomorrow and we’ll help you with a nicer tone and we will have more time to dedicate to you.

3. Know what you’re looking for.

Have a title or author, please. The description of the book is not enough information for us to locate it.

4. If there’s a problem with your account, don’t talk down to us.

You are more likely to rattle the employee and their nerves instead of resolving anything. Also, be willing to compromise.

5. Know the library policies.

Know when we fine you, where you can eat, and what areas of the library are off limits. Stop acting shocked when you get fined for an item that was extremely late and or lost.

6. Don’t compare the library you’re at to any other library.

You are where you are. Not all libraries operate the same. Different places have different regulations and you have to follow those regulations, whether the other library has them or not.

7. Parents: Computers aren’t babysitters.

Neither are library staff. Watch your children or take them with you.

8. If your child is throwing a tantrum, leave the premises.

Attempting to calm them down is giving everyone a headache, including the other patrons. You can let your child “feel emotions” outside.

9. Do not use your phone while speaking to staff.

This is common decency.

10. Clean up after yourself.

The library is a privilege, not a right. Many libraries don’t allow eating in certain areas, but if you’re going to break the rules, at least clean up after yourself. We have a million other things to do at closing time when we don’t have to clean up your mess.

11. What happens at the library, stays at the library.

Any problems you have with the library, don’t bring them up outside of the library. Library staff who are off duty want nothing to do with you.


Working At A Library As Described By ‘Parks And Recreation’

Libraries can seem like an escape from reality for patrons, but for employees? Well, let’s just say that sometimes we need to use the real world to escape from the reality of the library.

“Hogwarts is fictional. You do know that, don’t you? It’s important to me that you know that.” – Ben Wyatt

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on February 13, 2017.

Libraries are wonderful, magical places where you can escape the trials and tribulations of real life and be welcomed into a world filled with zero limitations. That is, if you attend the library to read. You can also use the computers, study or even attend events like book clubs and workshops. Libraries can seem like an escape from reality for patrons, but for employees? Well, let’s just say that sometimes we need to use the real world to escape from the reality of the library. Here’s what it’s like to work at a library told through ‘Parks and Recreation’.

1. When you have to open or close the library

Between the patrons waiting at the door for you to open at exactly 9 a.m. and the patrons who just won’t leave at 9 p.m., opening and closing are an adventure. Never mind the patrons, the amount of books left in the drop-box at open and close are also crazy.

2. Desk-ing by yourself

Employees have to take breaks, depending on how long their shift is. Sometimes, you have to hold down the fort at the desk alone for a bit when others take breaks. On a Tuesday night, this is a piece of cake. On a Saturday afternoon, however, you better brace yourself. Especially if you’re in the children’s room, and there’s a program going on.

3. Having to answer a phone call that requires a lot of patience

Sometimes when people call the library, they have several questions. Sometimes by several, I mean a few, and sometimes I mean hundreds. Though the reference department mostly answers these calls, sometimes the phone calls end up being dispersed throughout different departments. Lucky us!

4. That end-of-the-day adrenaline rush

No matter what day it is, no matter which department you’re in, you’ll feel the power when it comes near the end of your shift. Though working at a library can be fun, and is definitely rewarding, it can be extremely stressful as well. When it nears the end of your shift, you think about all the stuff you’ll do after getting off work, even though you’ll probably end up Netflix and chilling by yourself.

5. When patrons argue about paying fines

Look, I don’t make the rules, and even if I did, you yelling at me over a fine isn’t going to change the fact that you owe a fine. Let’s get one thing straight: the library is a privilege, not a right, and if you abuse that privilege, you don’t get to use it anymore. Pay your fines and you’ll get your privileges back.

6. When you find a book or fix a problem that no one else could

Not all of the library’s issues are easily fixable. If the book isn’t where it’s supposed to be, I can’t give it to you because I don’t know where it is. If the receipt printer isn’t working, and we’ve already troubleshooted in the ways we know, I can’t give you a receipt because I’m not the receipt printer genie. However, sometimes you find your way by trying the weirdest things, and when you save the day, oh wow, are you a hero.

7. Working in the children’s room like…

It never stops. In the summer, there are more children because parents don’t know where else to take them. During the school year, everyone and their mother need the same biography or the same Reading Olympics book. The screaming children, the bodily fluid stains, the crying, the meltdowns, the running, the injuries and the angry parents just keep on coming.

8. Busy days and quiet days

When it’s boring, time moves more slowly than a snail. The library is quiet and it’s as if the only sound we can hear is each other breathing. Alternatively, when it’s beyond hectic and busy…

I feel this on a spiritual level.

9. Shelf-Reading

We have to keep the library nice and orderly so that we can all locate books whenever we need to. However, when the letters and numbers start to blur together and all of a sudden it’s like you’re reading everything upside down, that’s where shelf-reading becomes the death of you.

10. Maneuvering staff dynamics

There’s often a lot of differently aged people who work at the library. Due to this, there is a lot of butting heads. Some people don’t know how to work technology, and sometimes pages have to teach them while working. There’s also a fair amount of gossip between workers, which doesn’t constitute a healthy work environment anywhere. We receive enough pettiness from the patrons, we don’t need it in staff-to-staff interaction too.


14 Struggles Every Library Employee Knows To Be True

Whether you are a librarian, library assistant or a page, you have experienced a few of these struggles at least once during a shift.

“A well-stocked, well-staffed library is like a gardener who plants books, knowledge, and dreams and grows readers, learners, and do-ers.” ~ Laura Purdie Salas

This article was originally posted on The Odyssey on June 6, 2016.

Contrary to popular belief, we actually do more than just “read books all day.” Library employees don’t read on the job at all, in fact. We are too busy shelving, checking your books in and out, and solving problems that the average patron just can’t seem to figure out. The next time you visit your favorite local library, make sure to thank an employee for helping you. While our struggles may seem odd or simple to you, every library employee can relate to these fourteen troubles, mostly because they occur pretty often.

1. Shifting shelves

If you’re a page, or someone who shelves frequently, this is a common struggle. When there is not enough room in a section, we are forced to shift books up, down, and around so that we can accommodate the location of (most of the time) one book. Depending on how packed your collection is, this can be either a simple or difficult feat.

2. Patrons who need a really specific type of book

I usually encounter this type of patron mostly on the weekends. They usually come in asking for a really specific type of book, like picture books about iguanas but also with facts that are acceptable for a preschool audience and at the same time have to do with the first day of kindergarten and mention potty-training. If you don’t already know a few off the top of your head, your fingers are crossed so that you are able to find some items that you own with that oddly-specific search online.

3. Slow nights

You would think that slow nights would be a dream come true, but most of the time, slow nights are a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, after a long, busy, day, peace and quiet is well-needed, especially in the junior room. However, when that peace and quiet continues on for six or seven hours, that’s when time takes the shape of a slug. If you are able to sit desk during this time, consider yourself lucky. If you’re a page well…I guess you’ll find yourself-

4. Shelf-reading

It has to be done. The books have to be in order so that you can find them later, if needed. Sometimes it can be therapeutic, but mostly, it’s a drag. Some sections are easy, not many items out of order, a simple time. Nonfiction, however… harrumph. Sometimes it seems easier to take the entire shelf off and place it on a cart instead of trying to organize on the shelf. That’s the real nightmare.

5. When patrons come in at close

No offense, but we actually have lives outside of the library. Yeah we might be heading home to drink some tea, and curl up in bed with a good book, but that still requires us to go home. Which we can’t do, if you insist on coming in five minutes before close with a large fine and a list of requests. It’s not only inconsiderate, but it’s also rude. You’re not just inconveniencing one person, you’re holding up an entire staff of people, including the people who have to lock the doors, which they cannot do, if you are still inside.

6. Looking for lost items

The minute a patron decides they need a certain item that is marked ‘lost’ in the system, you better be ready to engage in a wild goose chase. That item could be misshelved, on display, in someone else’s hands, or perhaps it wasn’t ever returned in the first place. You’ll never know because all that you do know is that it isn’t on the shelf. Sometimes we get lucky, and the item is nearby or actually on the shelf, but most of the time, it is a lost cause.

7. Patrons who swear they returned a book and it’s not on the shelf.

Similarly, patrons who think they are smarter than the computer. While the employees are not perfect, and we do make mistakes, the computer is more likely to accidentally scan your book in even when you do return it. The computer does not lie, pal. I’d say about eight times out of ten the computer is the truthful one. But sure, take my name and my supervisor’s number.

8. The summer reading frenzy

The two weeks preceding it, and the actual kickoff are a literal nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, summer reading is amazing for libraries; it increases circulation and attendance for programs. The actual business of the days, while the program is in process, is crazy though. The influx of people that come in asking to record their readings and claim prizes can be a little overwhelming and very exhausting. T-shirts that say, “I survived summer reading,” are definitely for library staff, not students.

9. When someone wants to request a book they can’t remember the name of.

While I mostly think this is a struggle in the children’s room, a patron who cannot remember the title of the book they are looking for will undoubtedly turn the library employees into detectives. The next question I usually ask is if they remember the author, and later perhaps, the color of the book, the characters, or any part of the plot. A child will tell you that the book is about ‘a white dog named Buddy’ and you pray to the Library Gods that Google will come up with something plausible. An adult patron will most likely remember something less intricate, like the author’s middle initial, and so you embark on the journey of the alphabet and similar authors to the one they last read. It is never boring.

10. Having a mind-fart when attempting to recall a title.

When a patron comes in asking for the newest Patterson title, or the newest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and you just can’t remember the title, even though you probably just saw it on display. Instead of looking it up, you stand there for several minutes staring blankly at the ceiling while the patron stares blankly at you, waiting. The important thing is that you know the author, and can point the patron in the right direction. It’s the little things.

11. Patrons who don’t know how to use the computers

Any library employee who has computers in their department knows this struggle all too well. While this issues is mostly focused around people who have no experience with computers and were forced by their grandchildren to make a Facebook account, it can still be struggle when you have to wait on other patrons. No ma’am, I’m not sure why the sound isn’t working, why your windows closed, or why “The Google” isn’t giving you what you want, but I’ll put on my thinking cap and see how I can help.

12. When books are returned in sticky condition

Again, something we find more often than not in the children’s room, but sometimes makes an appearance with Adult items. The disgust that is reflected on one’s face after handling a sticky or otherwise damaged book can be identified the moment it is expressed. While I’m sure that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was delightful, your library book did not require a taste test. Please don’t feed the library books.

13. When patrons don’t follow your directions to find a book and you have to find it yourself

See the bookshelf on your right? No, your right. Yes. Take that down all the way to the end, and your book should be on the bottom shelf. What do you mean you couldn’t find it? Oh, you know what, just let me show you where it is. Okay? Are you good now? What do you mean you still can’t find it? I’ll go get it okay. Found it! “Where was it?” On the shelf. You’re welcome. Have a nice day.

14. When patrons try to get out of paying their fines

Both exciting and terrifying, telling patrons they have fines is always an experience. While some patrons have no problem paying their fines, some patrons let their account pile up until it is blocked from being used. Here’s where they try to trick you. Sometimes patrons think that they can swindle their way out of their fines, and try to make a bargain as if the library is an old thrift store. They attempt to ‘make a deal’ with you, as if you can excuse some of their overdue fines. Good try buddy, now either pay your fines or you can’t use your library card, your choice.

Whether you are a librarian, library assistant or a page, you have experienced a few of these struggles at least once during a shift. It doesn’t really matter what department you work in, the work is the same and the patrons will act the same. Whatever messes you may encounter, whichever patrons may yell at you, and no matter how many lost items you fail to locate, remember you are not alone. Other libraries and library employees feel your pain and understand the struggles. We can only hope things will get better, or at the very least, the missing items will mysteriously reappear before we purchase new copies. We can dream, right?