Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Library day in the life ... (vintage)

So, in the interests of talking more about the profession, and our day-to-day tasks, I hereby publish something I wrote ages ago (in the winter, a few years ago) for a speech given to a bunch of library school students.

An average day in the life of a public librarian

(It should be noted that at this time, I worked in a small-ish branch and did both children’s and adult reference and RA work)

1. Read e-mail and news feeds. Browse book reviews, book awards, publisher’s websites and library blogs online (including, but not limited to, the Guardian, TLS, New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Penguin). I also keep an eye on the major library association’s websites. Consume large thermos of coffee while reading – attempt not to dribble on freshly ironed clothes.
2. Before the library opens…. Go on a roaming tour of the branch. Fix displays, clean up random garbage, straighten shelves. Put titles face-out on edges of Fiction shelves. Refresh the new books area.
3. Set up for class visits – one in the AM, one in the PM. Oops! Revise that! One class left a phone message cancelling because it’s -35° outside and school regulation state the kids aren’t allowed outside when it’s that cold. Set aside materials for class visit in the afternoon, assuming it will warm up by then (which it does). Set up involves getting out the feltboard, arranging stories/felts to present, reviewing songs and nursery rhymes. Some schools stay in the library for 15-20 mins after storytime to browse, so I often choose 10-20 extra books at their level for them to read later and arrange them in the room.
4. Send out an e-mail call for casuals/part-time staff to replace me for an upcoming meeting of all Children’s and Youth Services staff. There’s a whole procedure for filling the schedule, but suffice it to say that in this case, staff have 48 hours to respond. I also set up a reminder in Outlook to check who’s responded in 48 hours and assign the shift accordingly.
5. Due to ongoing construction at the branch, we have some items (especially in our non-fiction collection) in storage. One large bay of shelves is currently housing limited nonfic, and the rest is “in storage”. As that one shelving unit gets full, we have to pull some that haven’t circulated recently and send downstairs to storage. Today, it’s overflowing so I spent 20 mins pulling titles to send downstairs. Since it’s wintertime, I leave all the travel books about warm places, and pull some Europe travel books since European countries are not usually a popular destination during the winter.
6. Re-arrange the YA graphica collection. This area sees a lot of traffic – DVDs are shelved near here, too, so two popular collections in the same place! Often a source of messy re-shelving! Today I took some time to shift books to higher shelves and put some titles on display.
7. New books arrive! They are left on my desk so I can see the new items for our collection. I usually check them in to help out Circ and also so I can see what we have and where it’s going in the system. I then put them out on the new book shelves.
8. Put the finishing touches on an article for the community newspaper. I often send in articles – recommended reading by season/holiday, an annotated bibliography for all ages, or a note about branch programs and services. I usually end up in the paper under the heading SCAT (which is their catchy acronym for the Society for Creative Alternatives to Television).
9. Reference question – conflict with the online booking system for the computers. Resolved!
10. Swiftly followed by another (actual!) reference question – a child wanting books in the Geronimo Stilton series. As the books are assigned call #s by title, not author (the fictional Geronimo himself), I spend awhile with the girl explaining how to find them. [editorial note: the call #s have since been changed! Thanks, Collection Development!]
11. A page has put aside a book truck of titles I asked for – a list of books in the Children’s French Paperback collection that have not circulated in more than one year. I browse through the titles, putting aside damaged ones and choosing which ones to send to another branch. We have a procedure for sending items to another (designated) branch if the collection fits criteria, and we also have criteria for withdrawal/mending/binding.
12. Reference question: someone wants to join the Library’s morning book club! I put her in touch with the coordinator of the club.
13. Reference question for an item at another branch. I call the other branch, have the Info staff there put it aside for the patron, and he happily heads off to pick it up ASAP.
14. Pause for a quick chat with the branch manager, who is stopping by for an hour or so between meetings/appointments.
15. The new book display is looking sad again – refill time!
16. Phone seniors’ home next door and ask if it’s OK to use the sunroom there for class visit this afternoon. Our programming room is closed for construction. Put all books, felts, etc. on book truck and cart over before lunch to set up properly later.
17. During lunch: my new “lunchtime” library book is Chicken with plums by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a graphic novel, so I’m finished it by the end of lunch. Lunch is not especially delicious, but the book is!
18. In the afternoon, finish with the Children’s French Paperback weeding.
19. Read 2 Publisher’s Weekly e-alerts. Frankly, most of the time they’re boring but I like to know what people are up to…
20. Receive a list of items in “trace” – cannot be found. After a certain point, these get filed as lost, at which point I get the list so I can decide if I want to ask Collection Development to re-order. Alternatively, I can check other branches to see if someone has a spare copy to send to Rideau permanently.
21. Repair a damaged board book. Technically, this is Circ desk staff stuff, but I saw it on the shelf, pulled it, and administered first aid! It’s those years of circ training… it’s still ingrained in me…
22. Storytime time! I close the Info Desk for 45 mins and go over to the seniors’ home to meet my visiting class. 35 mins of stories, songs, felts, and rhymes… and then I stayed to chat with the kids and teacher. Sometimes the kids hug me, ask me questions about the books, tell me stories about their dog or cat if we’re reading about dogs and cats. Today our theme is wintertime so we read If you take a mouse to the movies, Snowmen at night, and Snow (a new storybook in the collection that discusses what happens in nature when the seasons change: the water freezes, bears hibernate, snow falls, etc.)
23. A patron complains about a book title (I honestly forget what it was, but it did have some kind of profanity in the title) and I tell him about the library’s “Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials” policy and give him the related form in case he wants to fill it out.
24. Reference question – volume 2 of a certain DVD is missing – can we order another copy?
25. Our morning book club is doing Penelopiad by Atwood next month so I order a few extra copies to have on hand, anticipating patron requests.
26. Computer problems and printer problems on the public Internet stations! I intervene!
27. Reference question: request for the new John Grisham.
28. I order in some non-fiction books for an upcoming holiday so I can do a display. Even if we have limited non-fiction on the shelves right now, it’s important to make sure patrons still get what they are looking for ASAP, especially during the holidays!
29. Reference question: A patron desperately needs a video through inter-library loan from a university in another city. She wants to use the video in an art exhibit she is planning for school. Most libraries do not send audiovisual materials through ILL, but I help her get in touch with the AV librarian at the university to arrange a loan through her school or get her contact info for the video’s publisher.
30. Quickly browse a few professional literature magazines that have come in for me (Library Journal, Horn Book, etc.) My favourite-of-the-moment is Canadian Children’s Literature: it’s like reading TLS, because you need lots of time and a clear head, but the articles are often amazingly good.
31. Prepare for a class visit tomorrow morning: put aside books, prepare notes for booktalk. I use an elaborate system of sticky notes: many are stuck on the back cover so I can hold the book up and have notes to remind me in case I get off topic while talking. Most of the time, I save the notes in my “class visits” binder. I also print out a one-page summary of each class visit and what I talked about, so I can save them for later. I also add any notes about the class: do they like mysteries, are they into Harry Potter… etc.


  1. i know.. when i started writing it down, i was like, holy crap!