02 July 2015

On How Libraries Are (Mostly) All the Same

At this point in my life, I have now worked in 9 different libraries. And over the course of the 16 years I have worked in said libraries, I've seen some library universals. Things that are the same, even across cultures and countries. It's pretty cool, I think. I spend time with librarians and in libraries halfway around the world and see that many things are the same. I love making the world smaller! :)

  • Printers and photocopiers are the bane of a library employee's existence. People are always asking about these machines. Paper jams, double sided copies, etc. I admit, sometimes my patience runs thin with these questions. But then I remind myself to not take myself too seriously.
  • Patrons rarely ask for what they actually need. In the US I once had a student ask for books on "identity". When I asked follow up questions, it turned out he actually needed books on second generation immigrants. The same kind of thing happens here. A student asks for a book on one thing but after asking a few questions, we find out he or she really needs something different. 
  • Uninvited critters can find their way into libraries. In the US, it might be mice or bugs. I've even heard of a squirrel sneaking in. Here? Who knows. Once, when I was at RTC, I had chickens wander in. And, of course, there are geckos everywhere.
  • Regular shelf reading is key. No offense to all you non-library folk out there, but sometimes you don't know where to put books back and books can get out of order. If they are out of order, they become hard (read: impossible) to find. Library employees have to shelf read regularly to make sure books are in the right place.
  • Be flexible. You never know what will come up: a meeting, a student with an in-depth question, etc. I try to make a daily to-do list but I've learned to hold that list loosely. That's in the US and in Uganda.
  • People are the most important. I've said it a thousand times: libraries exist for people. If we're not making our collections accessible, we are failing. It doesn't matter -- US or Uganda -- we want to help people gain access to information.

Librarians with students. :)

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