Friday, January 28, 2011

Library day in the life, Round 6, Day 5


Today I had someone job shadowing me. She is a teacher considering a library degree. I thought a Friday would be a good day for her to shadow, since it is usually pretty busy. See, now that I said that, it was quiet. Sigh. Oh well, I am not complaining. She left at 4 pm, so I had some time to catch up and finish some work before closing at 6 pm.

In the morning, a technician from the city came to replace a defective floppy drive on one of the public PCs. I worked on another draft of my OLA presentation for awhile, and caught up with e-mail and newsfeeds, and other random tasks.

My job shadow and I went to a local playgroup for a French storytime (outreach) at 11 am. The group is a short walk from Rideau Branch, and I must say it was nice to get out. The kids in the group are 2-5, and they were adorable. They enjoyed the stories and songs, and the teachers seemed to get a kick out of the activity, especially when I screwed up "Le bonhomme de neige," which is set to the tune of "Alouette" (Of course, I sang "Alouette" once by accident). They also loved the stick story I brought, something I photocopied from Main Library's collection, entitled "Les chats d'Ottawa." Remind me, I'll tell you about the chats another time. As we were packing up, a little girl in the group called out to me something I thought was "Madame, votre sandale!" (and all of us were like, what?) which was actually "Madame, votre chandail!" - turns out I left my jacket on the chair. Cuteness overload. Also, I totally would have been halfway back to the library before I remembered.

On the walk back to the library, we stopped off at Maison communautaire du bon voisinage de la Basse-Ville to drop off a flyer for our next legal aid workshop. This group is on my e-mail distribution list for monthly program flyers. The staff there were very welcoming, introduced us to everyone, showed the monthly flyer prominently displayed on their bulletin board, and enthusiastically brainstormed with me about outreach and program possibilities. It was really worthwhile to drop in. These types of visits involve using the people skills and the outgoing-ness (sorry, that is so not a word) that aren't traditionally regarded as librarian traits. They are skills I really have to work hard to cultivate (it's scary to walk into a random building where you don't know anyone! Less so when you have a job shadow person with you, thankfully, and don't think that didn't cross my mind strategically...) but they are essential.

Since I was working with some full-time staff I don't usually work with (I swapped my Friday), we all went out to lunch at Culinary Conspiracy together, including my shadow and my boss! It was really fun. We ran into teachers from a local school, who have a PD Day, so it was getting pretty crowded in CC. I love that place.

On they way back to work, I picked up pastries from the bakery for our Coffee with a police officer. They kindly gave us much more than we expected, and I was touched and surprised.

Coffee with police officer went well; about 12-15 people showed up (so less than last time, probably because it was in the program room and not on the main floor like last time). A few seniors, some families, and a smattering of other regulars. The police officer also toured around the exterior of the branch and chatted with us about library security, which was great.

1-6: Info desk duty, with time for other related tasks such as polishing off the monthly report and statistics, endless e-mail, and program prep for next week. I also prepared some speaking notes for a talk I am giving at Ottawa U on Monday. We also discovered a budding philosopher (patron) in our midst has perhaps taken a page out of my book with the shelftalkers, and left a number of philosophical quotes on Post-its around the library. Thoughts included "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do," "If you have never failed, then you have never tried," "Being defeated is often temporary; giving up makes it more permanent." Today's Info questions / queries included but were not restricted to...
  • Patron requests for various titles and authors....
  • Subject search = dissent in the Arab world
  • Patron complained about barcodes on books covering summaries on the back cover. We make an effort to avoid covering text, but sometimes we have no choice, and the barcodes have to be in a standard place because of ergonomics and the high volume of material we scan and process in a given day. Did you know that in an average month, in material (books, DVDs, etc) OPL "moves" between branches the equivalent of the weight of a baby beluga whale ... and its mother? Ya, try having the barcodes on that material all over the place. Fun.
  • A woman from Coffee event came upstairs to say it was a great event and they should have it at Main. Also, she is retired and has some time to come to programs like this so thank you. I gave her bookmark and highlighted the art program...
  • Leftover coffee ... offered to girl sitting on stairs to staffroom. She was very grateful. Random act of kindness.
  • "Nora Roberts?"
  • "I put a book on hold, but it expired ... Is it still here?"
  • Patron complained the newspaper wasn't stapled.
  • "I'm looking for my holds, but they are not on the shelf..."
  • Chit-chat with local young boy who is a regular during the summer, but less so during the school year.


  1. And what an interesting day it was! Thanks for the opportunity! I especially enjoyed the outreach program at the daycare. The children were so cute and your stories and songs were wonderful. I will certainly read your blog from time to time to read about the day in the life of a librarian...

  2. I think it's odd to say public librarians are not people persons when the job involves teaching, making presentations, organizing events and engaging with the public. That's the job. The public are more interested in making a connection then getting another reading list or shelftalker.

    Perhaps being a public librarian is not for you. Maybe you should try government reference work. You're probably more suited to it.


  3. Dear Anonymous @ 11:12am,

    Thank you for noticing that the role of the librarian in 2011 includes engaging our users in various environments and using various activities and events. You may recall, however, that such was not always the case. In fact, for much of the history of libraries, librarians and the public did not connect once you were outside the children's department.

    Does the job of a librarian involve the activities you mention? You betcha! While you may prefer contact with library staff via teaching, etc., a good librarian knows that the job is more than just being a performer all day. Although you may not appreciate the value of shelftalkers and another reading list, others do. Believe it or not, those products are also effective to connect clients with the resources available through the library.

    Unlike Alex, I decided many years ago to avoid public libraries so I wouldn't have to deal with people like you. It has, however, been a pleasure to have this opportunity to highlight the shortcomings of your views.

    PS Government reference work? It's just like being in a public library, with being a performer and developing products to connect the variety of clients with information.