What’s It Like Working in a Library? We Wear Many Hats…

Occasionally I see the stereotypical depictions of what it is like to work in a library on TV or in movies. The idea that library staff sit around all day reading, occasionally checking a book in or out, or pushing carts around rows and rows of shelving is almost comically inaccurate. Staff at libraries do many different roles. We wear many different hats. We have to, particularly if you work for a smaller library like here in Dillsburg.

We currently have a staff of seven: director (me), tech services coordinator, youth services coordinator, and four library assistants. We all have different roles, but on any given day you may find any of us at the circulation desk: helping patrons, checking books in, assisting with computer usage or downloading audiobooks, troubleshooting technology, or any number of tasks. You might also find us changing lightbulbs, unjamming a copier, or evening shoveling snow.

The skill set that the typical library employee has to have is both wide and varied. We have staff who order and process materials for our shelves, handle finances, recruit and train volunteers, run our marketing and social media, and plan and conduct programs. We attend workshops and training to keep our skills sharp and learn new things, we attend meetings to collaborate with colleagues from other libraries and community groups, and we meet with stakeholders to advocate for our libraries. If I had a nickle for every time I have uttered the phrase “they didn’t teach me that in library school,” we would be a very well funded library.

In a typical day I might help some patrons out at the circulation desk, send an email to a summer reading presenter, thank a donor for a contribution, talk to a board member about a policy, order some new books for our shelves, prepare finances for our treasurer, “fix” a computer, or even do some blogging. On some of my untypical days I’ve chased a stray rooster around a parking lot, checked for leaks under a bookmobile, monitored a bounce house, assembled large a traveling science exhibit, and even directed traffic.

My point is that library staff are the jacks-of-all-trades types. This is one reason I love coming to work: you never what the day will bring!