It’s been my contention that grad school prepares you for NOTHING you encounter as a public librarian. Academic librarian, sure. Archivist, without a doubt. But none of the “working in a public library” classes which I took could have steeled me for what I’ve experienced. (And, I wasn’t even planning to work in a public library. I had every intention of selling out and working in private industry. Sadly, Lehman Bros. decided to blow up the economy right as I graduated, so the kibosh was put on that grand plan.)
Most of my patrons are lovely, well-balanced people. Some are raving fruitcakes. And then some seem well-balanced and lovely, and then they do something which leaves you in slack-jawed stupefaction. In the first of a series I’ve helpfully entitled Annals in “WTH Were You Thinking??”, I present “Potty training.”
Before I became a librarian, I just assumed that people came into the library, got their materials, and went home. It wasn’t until I was on the job that I learned that for many people the library is where they hang out each and every day. They bring their laptops to take advantage of our wi-fi. They have their favorite chairs where they while away the day reading. They would be lost on the streets if the library weren’t here.
I’ve gotten to know most of my regulars. Some of them I know just by sight, and I wave when they come in. Some come seek me out when I’m on the reference desk for long conversations. As a librarian, I’m part counselor, part priest, part bartender. (I like the bartender part. I just wish we were allowed a wet bar.)
Yesterday I found out that one of my regulars passed away.
I began my library career as a government documents librarian. What is that, you ask? Well, our tax dollars are spent—very well, from what I could tell—publishing various government documents. It can be as mundane as the yearly budget. And it can be as awesome as a pictorial history of our national parks. Really, there were some very high quality books in my collection, all available to the library for free. That’s right; we didn’t have to pay for them as we do for all our other materials. Socialism!
But, all things change. My system decided to condense its repositories, and mine was on the chopping block. Don’t worry, LL, they said, we’ll find you another position.
When I first interviewed, I was told that I wouldn’t have to be a children’s librarian if I didn’t want to. “You won’t be any good at it if you don’t have a passion for it, and the kids and parents will be able to tell.” So, what was this great new position they had for me? Yes! Children’s librarian!