Saturday, July 30, 2011

First things first...

Let me start off explaining why I'm writing a blog...

I've worked at my parish library for a year now, and in that time I've discovered some things that are both disgusting, and fascinating about the general public. I'll share some stories of experiences I've had. Some are funny, and some are gross, but I think they should be shared with more than just those who randomly ask me about my job.

Our system is a large one in a state-wide level. We have ten branches, including the Bookmobile. I understand not everyone is going to have the best customer service skills, and even I occasionally have a bad day. But we try our hardest to be nice and express to you how glad we are that you've come in to make use of our services. We really do enjoy helping people, and the library is a wonderful place to work.

As a third generation librarian, I have been raised in the library system. My mom and my great aunt were both library directors, and both gave me a special education in the running of libraries. I've been to libraries all over the state, and understand the ins and outs of how they work.

All libraries have basically the same hierarchy of employees. Some jobs are great, some not-so-great, but all are necessary for the everyday workings of the library.

A page is the lowest on the totem-pole, and is responsible for putting away the books and reading the shelves, to ensure that when we or a patron is looking for a book, it will be where it's supposed to be. Usually these are high school or college students who work part-time, and we appreciate them and know how underpaid and miserable their jobs are.

Administration positions are the highest of all the coveted positions. The Director is the Empress of the library world (usually it's a female in charge), and she or he oversees all those little people below them, and run reference between the Library Board of Control, and the Parish Police Jury, who basically control our rules and funds.

Next below the Director is the Assistant Director. This is the "Mama" of the staff, as opposed to the Director who should be the "Daddy." The AD will handle the majority of the staff issues, only taking the most important to the Director. The AD is normally the person a member of the staff would go to as a counselor or shoulder to cry on when the gossip queens say something nasty and hurt someones feelings. (It's a pretty common issue when you're dealing with a bunch of women).

Branch managers are very important people! Directors delegate to them, and they oversee the branches, and immediate personnel problems. They do programming, and problem-solve for upset patrons, as well as a million other things that I could never list in one sitting. In general, they are the go-to person for an answer to a question in any given branch, and oversee the everyday insanity of running each branch.

Next are the supervisors and heads of departments. Children's, Reference, Circulation, and Young Adult departments all have people in charge (depending on the size of your system, of course; this is how it works in my parish, so I'm going with what I know here). These people are the rulers of their domains. Children's does story times, and other fun programs to keep kids entertained and interested in reading from toddlers to tweens.

YA does fun programs for teenagers. They're at that difficult stage in life where it's normally "un-cool" to be seen at a library, so these kids are destined to be smart and successful later in life. We adore them completely! YA staff are basically big kids who love sci-fi genres, and video games just as much as the kids do.

Reference is the go-to place for questions. If you have a book question the ladies that sit at the reference desk are dying to aid you. They are the detectives of the library, and won't stop hunting your answer until they find it. They know nearly every book in our system, and exactly where it should be on the shelf.

Circulation is my home in the library. I work in circ, and could spend all day talking about everything I do, but I'll keep it short and sweet for your sake. Circ is where we check items in and out. We collect money for fines, and answer the phones. This is where you'll get the majority of your customer service. These people have to be quick witted and gifted in small talk. As a naturally shy, soft-spoken individual, this was a challenge for me, but I've learned how to animate myself in a very short amount of time to better entertain my patrons. We have to think quick, and try to ensure each patron leaves with a smile. This obviously isn't policy, but seeing as how these people pay property taxes, they do pay my salary, and I try to be nice so they won't mind voting to keep us around. Circ is also the place where a lot of weirdness happens. I'll get to that in later blog, but it's definitely a fascinating place to be.

Then there's Tech Services. This is were all the processing takes place for new items coming in to our system. The ordering of everyday supplies goes through TS, and they keep us going. They are very detail-oriented individuals, and I don't envy them their jobs in the slightest.

While it takes a staff to run a library, it's the patrons who use it, and ultimately the reason we are there. Some are rude, and some are as sweet as pie. Some I call friends, and some have made me want to launch myself across the desk at them with claws and teeth bared.

I've seen people so broke that they can't afford their water bill. I've seen baby boomers so bored with retirement and so set in their routines that I know what time they'll be in every day to pick up and drop off their items.

I get to know my regulars, and the good ones know me by name and voice when I answer the phone. I'm not ashamed to admit I have my favorites. I love the old men who flirt shamelessly when they come in alone, and hold their wife's hand and her books when she tags along.

There are some I wish I could avoid, too. The creepy guy that smells like cat pee, and the one who leans too far over the circulation desk to get a glimpse of my well-concealed cleavage. There's a woman who writes a letter to the editor every time she has the tiniest issue with the library, and so we take extra care to be on our toes in politeness with her.

We do our best, but sometimes our best isn't the best, and then it gets announced in the morning paper.