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.
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.