Library Day in the Life, Round 5

I only have a few professional development gigs this summer, and the rest of my time has been spent delivering patron end programs – gaming sessions, video game design workshops, creative writing and altered book programs. Since the summer was slated to be so slow, when I heard that the public library I used to work for was really short-staffed, I offered to temp two days a week. In between working on the busy reference desk, I’ve been given a number of small projects. Here’s the run-down — my Library Day in the Life — from Wednesday July 28, the most recent day I worked.

Currently, I work in a public library, as a reference desk assistant.

12am – Can’t sleep (unusual). Toss and turn but finally get up and read, finishing The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake, by Aimee Bender, and post a review to Good Reads. Still can’t sleep, so compose and post a review of High Before Homeroom by Maya Sloan, which I finished on Tuesday.

2:45am – Try a cup of chamomile tea and respond to online course participants – Game Design for Librarians, offered as a professional development course through Simmons, ends this week, and students have turned in their final projects. I start reading Peep Show by Joshua Braff.

4:00am – Bed. Up at 7:15. Leave for library at 7:55. I eat 2 cold leftover pancakes from Monday’s “breakfast for dinner” meal.

8:25am – I arrive, drop my personal belongings in reference office, put on Staff badge. Computers all already turned on, as IT person got there first. Log in meebo and textalibrarian, two rarely-used services that could be marketed a little better).

8:30-9:00am – I haven’t been in since Friday, so I look at my email, check the communication notebook (note about change in policy on checking items out to the reserve shelf) and the behavior log (one new patron issue). The cash register is off, but someone finally figures out the key was turned to the wrong setting, so the cash is totaling as a weekly, instead of daily, accumulation.

9:00am – Doors open. Most patrons who are there at opening make a beeline for the 28 computers in the reference area. Sign up is automated, and users must have a library card or show an ID to get a temporary Internet pass. I give out passes, answer questions about the computer use policy (can my friend and I sit next to each other?), and send a fax for a patron. In between questions, I work on updating the Union List of periodicals (in linking to it here, I see I need to “publish” for the changes to take effect – I put in an alpha index with linked anchors, and added more “back to top” links).

9:30am – I have a weeding project. I didn’t know I was supposed to shift while I was weeding, so I need to finish moving 620-634 before starting on the 635’s. I move books for a half an hour before taking a morning break.

10:10am: Someone brought in doughnuts! I rarely eat them, outside of the library setting. Heavenly Donuts is a thousand times better than Honeydew or Dunkin’s – I enjoy half of a cakey old fashioned with chocolate icing with my first cup of tea of the day (Twinings Lady Jane – I bring in my own teabags).

10:30am – When I return with my cup of tea, it’s too busy to go back to the stacks. I answer the phone and direct calls to the appropriate department, and look up a lot of books. I go through the mail bin and put away the newspapers. Then, I check in a dozen new nonfiction books. Some are on hold or go into the delivery bin. I check in two dozen new magazines and take a quick sweep through the periodicals room, shelving current titles and scooping up materials left there that need to be re-shelved.

11:00am – Someone comes to get a biography, asking, “Where is the catalog?” I direct her to online catalog, and a few minutes later, hear, “Where are the call numbers?” I demonstrate how to get the online catalog to show a call number. Next, she wants to know, “Where is the biography section?” Happily, we find the book on the shelf. I place a number of reserve requests and find books for people (Lover Enshrined, Lover Awakened, The Shack, The Da Vinci Code — I suggest the illustrated edition –, Fifth Avenue, 5AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Dawn, Weight Loss Surgery for Dummies, Lucky Luciano, the Double Comfort Safari Club, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Goals, Black Like Me), many are for summer reading list titles. I try to remember to suggest teen patrons register for the summer reading program. This year, every title logged and review written earns a $1 donation to the Santa fund that provides gifts for needy families during the holidays.

12pm – While shifting, I found other materials to withdraw – old, dirty dated — or mend. I recommend several motorcycling books be moved from the bicycle section and recataloged to 629.2275 instead of 629.227.

12:30pm- Lunch! Fruit salad (going bad and string cheese, crackers. I skim through 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late, which is NOT a book about exotic or endangered food, but a guide to roadside eateries with the best hotdog, lobster roll, chicken pot pie, etc, divided by region. Ugh. Very few NH locations are listed, and I can’t believe Flo’s in ME got a nod – my personal take is that it’s unhygenic and smells terrible.

1:00pm – Back on the desk! I field reference questions. “Where are the books on babies?” asks a woman, about 6 months pregnant. I counter with, “Childbirth, parenting, or baby names?” I leave her browsing in the 618.4’s with instructions to let me know if she doesn’t find what she needs, and an apology that so many of the books have been shifted to the bottom shelf.

“Do you have a copy of that poster with the shoes hanging upstairs?” asks another patron, a man with four tots milling about him. We find a copy of the image online. He wants to download it, but our flash drives cost $10. I suggest he save it to the desktop and email it as an attachment. His kids want to rent two video games, which we store in the reference office. I have to clean them before checking them out and ringing in the rental fees. More questions follow, about faxing, video game rental, and temporary Internet passes.

2:00pm – More reserve requests. I show people how to place their own holds – I’m happy to do it, but also like to empower people (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, There’s a Bat in Bunk Five, Twisted, Stuck in Neutral, Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging, Early Autumn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). I show people how to log onto the Internet, and return a set of keys left behind at the PC Reservation station. It turns out the copier DOES do double-sided copying, and I get a lesson in how to scan, scan and print.

2:30pm – Our library has an atrium (thanks, Mr. Architect!) and I can hear every word of the conversation coming from thress teenaged girls who are sitting at a table just outside of the children’s room, at the top of the spiral staircase. I go upstairs, planning to do my “hi! see the big hole in the middle of the room? It’s an echo chamber” speech… they recognize me, because I asked them to keep it down, last week. “See! I told you we’d get in trouble!” says the ringleader. I smile. “I’m glad you are having such a good time here!” I say. “If you were sitting in the teen area or at a table at the back of the library, I wouldn’t be asking you to quiet down, but this location just makes the sound carry!” They tell me that this is “their” table — it’s empty. I remind them they need to have something to do in the library, while there are here, and offer to bring them some teen magazines. “I can’t read,” blurts out the ringleader. I laugh. “You can look at the pictures,” I shoot back. They grab books from the nearest shelf – they happen to be sitting next to the Spanish Language materials and ESL/Literacy collection. I thank them for keeping the noise down, and remind them it’s better for me to ask them to quiet down, than someone who is trying to write their resume and is pissed off at the noise level. As I turn to go, the ringleader tells her friends, “She’s cool!” They keep it down to a dull roar for the rest of the afternoon.

3:00pm – I cover breaks, and am alone at the reference desk for about 20 minutes.  I’m alone at a desk when a woman comes up looking for about ten titles recommended by a friend, all bestsellers with a long waiting list (Steig Larson’s series, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girl Who Could Fly, The Apothecary’s Daughter…). Patrons start to line up behind her. She really wants to leave with something in hand, today. I bring her to the new book display and pick out a few items and leave her to browse. The next person wants an audioCD and print copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, also on the summer reading list. I find a library that has both, on shelf, call them, and hand the phone over to her while the librarian at the other library looks for her materials. The next patron just needs to get on the Internet.

3:40pm – My feet are killing me. I’m hot, from running around. I’m hungry, since most of the fruit salad had turned, and I had to pitch it at lunch. I head for the break room, where I kick off my shoes and make a fresh cup of tea – with cold water, from the dispenser, instead of hot. I sigh and start over.

4:00pm – Things seem to have calmed down a bit. The girls from upstairs want to know if we have a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. “I thought you couldn’t read?” I can’t resist asking. “I learned,” she says. At 350+ pages, she says it’s too long, and declines to take it, but I’m amused that my disciplining also made them comfortable enough to ask a reference question.

I ask for a project that I can do between patrons, since it’s still too busy to leave the desk unattended. I am asked to update the “favorites” website, specifically, the cooking websites, since only 2 are listed. When the head of reference tells me that patrons love the page, it gets a ton of hits, and they email suggestions for sites to add, I ask why they aren’t just using delicious. Bingo – I have a new project, with plans to import the delicious tag clouds into the page. I don’t get as far as I’d like, because someone comes in to rent two games, with a bag full of pennies. Since I am so kind about counting out his money (he’s disabled and says he can’t do it), he asked me for music CDs as well. I clean several discs for him, and the machine emits a high pitched whine that means it needs to be cleaned. I get a lesson in how to do that, as well.

4:20pm – Someone calls to ask if we have a color copier. I tell her no, but we can do full color scanning for $2.00 a page, and that we are open until 5pm today.

4:45pm – “The Library is closing” announcement broadcasts. We begin to pick up and pack it in.

4:55pm – The second “Library is closing” announcement broadcasts. The computer area is empty, a few patrons are checking out, someone comes back to look for their sunglasses.

4:59:59pm – A woman comes in with a stack of tax forms and asks where the copier is. We direct her with a reminder that we close at 5. At 5:03, we ask her to please finish up. “Should I go?” she asks, with a pleading look on her face. “It’s after 5,” says my coworker, firmly. “If you have more than 1 page to do, you may need to come back tomorrow.”

5:05pm – She goes, we go, and it’s a top down night, speeding home to NH, where I shower, take aspirin, and beg my hubby to take me out for sushi, because I’m not in the mood to cook.  When we get home, I empty my email inbox. I can barely keep my eyes open through Top Chef, which we’ve recorded. I’m asleep by midnight, and dream about shelving books.

Published by Beth Schreiber

reader, writer, gamer, LEGO enthusiast. Avid romance reader.

One thought on “Library Day in the Life, Round 5

  1. Oh Goddess. I am imPRESSED. How and when did you get all of this detail down?

    Also, working as I do in a large urban library system, the differences are fascinating…

    Thanks for this peek into your library day.

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