01 May 2012

Things They Don't Teach You In Library School

I've worked in libraries for about 14 years. I have had the opportunity to work in a number of different capacities from work study student in college to paraprofessional...and I was always well aware that I wasn't actually a librarian until I got my master's degree. But I always felt that all those experiences pre-grad school prepared me well for being a librarian. I can honestly say I had worked in almost every area of a library. After grad school I figured that those extra studies, combined with all my experience, meant I knew a lot.

And I do know a lot. And those other positions did prepare me well to be a successful librarian. But those experiences weren't the end all and be all of what I could learn. [Sorry, fellow grad-school classmates if I was a bit cocky about all that previous experience...confidence is one thing, pride is another.] And this year has taught me a lot about more about how to be a successful librarian than anything else. You know, now that I'm an actual librarian. :) And many of these things are things we never talked about in grad school and I never learned as a paraprofessional. I guess there's obviously something to be said for hands-on learning! :)

So, in no particular order...

Things They Don't Teach You in Library School [But Are Helpful to Know]:

  • If your library is built next to a dirt road, your books, tables, chairs, computers, everything will get very, very, very dusty. In these cases, toilet paper works well for dusting.
  • Cataloging a library's entire collection of books takes a lot of patience and logistical planning.
  • You need to be extra creative if your library doesn't have a budget.
  • Making your acquisitions selections from piles of donated books is a lot different, harder, and takes more creativity than pouring over best-seller lists, catalogs, online bookstores, lists of recommendations, etc.
  • Learn to pay attention to your collection. Know what you have and where it belongs. Take mental notes of popular texts. If the power goes out and/or your collection isn't cataloged you can still answer reference questions if you know your collection. [Ok, this is obviously geared toward small collections and the power issue isn't a big one in the US but still...know what you have. It will make you a better librarian when you can quickly point to what a patron needs.]
  • Taking a mid-morning break to have tea is a lovely way to break up the work you're doing in the morning.
  • Be prepared for anything. Even chickens, bats, and snakes. You just never know.
  • Deciding between Dewey and LOC really is a big decision.
  • Have firm boundaries for any kids that come into the library. Let them have fun but don't let them take over in shared space. [Ok, you Children's Librarians might know this one but I learned this one on the job for sure!]
  • Learn as much as you can about technology. Yes, libraries are still a place for books but obviously the world is changing. And you seriously never know what kind of questions someone might ask about their laptop, the internet, email, or other technology. They might even ask you to: install antivirus, take their Facebook profile picture, or type their papers.
  • In moments of frustration just try to remember the goal of what you're doing: connecting people to information to build community.

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