Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What They Didn't Teach In Library School: Every Day is Different in Libraryland

'What They Didn't Teach In Library School' is a series of guest-authored posts,
written by YA Librarians from around the country, highlighting situations or skills
that were never addressed in formal Library School, but that are integral to librarianship.

No Do-Overs: Every Day is Different in Libraryland
by Katie Bradley

Like many librarians, I am a planner. An organizer. A list maker. I like having a schedule and a to-do list; I enjoy putting items in their place and being able to quickly evaluate the day's tasks. Lists and plans help me get through the day and stay on task in my non-library life and, when I became a librarian, I automatically applied those organizational tools to my library life. I've found, however, that in my library life it would sometimes be better if my schedule and to-do list were crumpled up and tossed in the recycling bin as soon as I got to work. I am a planner, but have come to realize that most of the time you cannot plan for working in a library.

I learned early on in my public library career that what you have to do can change rapidly, especially when dealing with children and teenagers. Things happen that make a day's planned activity impossible. There are a lot of things that I plan to do everyday, however, there are different things that occur that make me change my "plan" to better serve the patrons and the community.

What do you mean 'cat's aren't
allowed in the library'?!
There are no do-overs at the library. If you can’t find that perfect book for a patron, if you can't answer the reference question, that patron might not return to the library. Ever. Expectation is everything when serving the public, and the public expects to be able to find an answer to any question.  Patrons also expect you to be able to accommodate a multitude of situations without batting an eye. With that in mind, my day's "plan" does not seem as important - I've learned to expect the unexpected and approach librarianship with flexibility and resourcefulness. Whether it is a class of forty 3rd graders suddenly show up for a library visit,  or a performer (who has been scheduled for months) calls to cancel the day of performance, or an upset teen crying in front of me - I am the librarian. The "Keeper of All Knowledge".  And the one responsible for making each person's library experience worth repeating.

I know that even though I have deadlines to make, book lists to write and a whole pile of books to read, the customer service aspect of my job is the most important aspect of my job. Without patrons, there is no library. Therefore, I must do my best to answer questions, suggest titles, be a welcoming face and listen to every patron.  (Yes, even the annoying ones.)  I get sick of telling people where the superhero books are or where to find the next thrilling book in the new dystopian series.  Sometimes I wish for a button under the desk that would drop annoying patrons into a tank of alligators.  But even if I've answered the "where's the tax forms" question fifty times or explained to ten different customers that there is a wait list for the new Rick Riordan book, I still must be courteous, professional and answer every question to the best of my ability.  Getting the correct information, book, or print out can make or break a patron's day - and possibly their overall feelings toward the library. What I have learned over the years is that you cannot redo an experience you had with a patron. You got one shot to get those answers and books they crave. One shot to instill appreciation for the services and resources libraries provide. From that perspective, my perfectly lined to-do list isn't so important. It can always wait until tomorrow (or the day after that…or the day after that)!

About Katie
Katie is the Children’s Program Coordinator at a suburban Chicago library. Her days consist of running around like a crazy person, making a fool of herself in storytimes and telling people that even though she is running around that there really is no running in the library. Her friends and family think she sits and reads books all day. Ha! Wouldn't that be amazing?!

Want more posts on issues not covered in Library School?
Check out Teen Librarian Toolbox's series Behind the Scenes @ the Library.
What They Didn't Teach In Library School Post Schedule
January 1, 2013 - Overcoming the Pied Piper Syndrome
January 16, 2013 - Finding Balance - The Enforcer vs. The YA Librarian
January 23, 2013 - Dealing with Peeps Not Like Me
January 30, 2013 - Mousy & Mild Won't Cut It
February 6, 2013 - Community Service and the Library
February 13, 2013 - Dealing with the Angry Folk
February 20, 2013 - Mistakes as Opportunities
February 27, 2013 - Librarians as Social Workers
March 6, 2013 - Adapt or Perish
March 13, 2013 - No Do-Overs
March 20, 2013 - Promotion & Programming