The best part of my job isn’t telling stories to preschoolers, surprisingly. It’s sitting at the information desk for people to ask me questions. As I see it my job is out on the desk, and anything that isn’t directly helping people find what they’re looking for is just killing time till the next question.
Helping people find books we have or placing holds on books that are at a different branch is the quick stuff. I also place Inter Library Loan requests when our branches don’t have items. That’s when people have specific books they’re looking for.
Sometimes people have questions about more specific things that we don’t have books about, like “How do I make a fire the way First Nations people used to?” or “What should I look for in an HDTV?” For those kinds of things I get to be a bit more of a librarian superhero and find a decent website or use our databases to find and print off an article from some magazine. Most of our patrons are not used to the modern research process so I get to do the balance between finding things for people and teaching them how to use resources a bit more efficiently. And after a few months in this job there are members who come by to chat because we’ve used the internet to figure out the bus schedules in Prince George and Powell River together.
Plus, the info desk is where I get to be the resident technology wizard. I spend 20 minutes helping members set up their Kobos to work with the library’s ebooks. I help people with the arcane ridiculous process to print documents and show people alternate ways to share NFL videos when the Email button stops working.
These are the tasks I missed the hell out of when I was in library school and not working a refdesk. And I’m glad I get to do them now, rather than being locked away in an office. Even now I spend about 20% of my work week in the office and it makes me itch. There’s a bit of a perception, in our branch at least, that when it’s quiet or you’re in the office you can get some work done. In my head that’s not the work I’m a librarian to do.
Now, I like doing programs, and programming is what employers want (in public libraries at least). If program planning (including storytimes) was cut out of my job I’d be disappointed. If my on-desk time was excised I’d have to find a new job. This is just too much of what being a librarian is to me. Eventually this may prove to be my undoing career-wise since it seems like on-desk time is the first thing you lose when you get promoted in libraryland.
But I’ll deal with that if it comes. For now I’ll be helping answer questions like I was born to do.
Not woes exactly, just recognitions of some limitations. I run the Teen Book Club and the Teen Manga Club at our branch. Traditionally there’s been a lot of crossover between the two groups, but since I’ve taken over I’ve had total attendance of one person at Manga club over two sessions (it’s probably going to be phased out after I leave this summer). Book Club has had five people in three sessions (including nobody at all this week). Needless to say, it’s not the most wonderful feeling.
The traditional thing to say at our branch is that it’s the area. In suburban wealthy neighbourhoods there’d be more people interested and attendance would be better. More of those kids’d be hustling for scholarships and volunteer hours so Advisory Council volunteering would be more attractive. That’s true to an extent, but there are teens out in our hood that want scholarships. I don’t think our neighbourhood is the sole reason we don’t get people.
The other easy place to lay blame is a lack of promotion. This I’m guilty of. It would be good to market our services more aggressively. I should be better about phoning up our book club members and encouraging them to come to our meetings. But I hate doing that kind of thing. I hate phones in general and the whole, “Please come! It’ll be fun!” kind of spiel sounds so desperate to my ears.
Ideally I’d do stuff that people would be fools not to come to, but I don’t know how to do that. Library school to the rescue? (I don’t think it works that way.)