I was going through my Google Reader (yes, I still use Google reader, whatever) and getting rid of old blogs and finding new ones when I stumbled upon Screwy Decimal. This is a great blog with lots of insight, funny/frustrating interactions with patrons, and responses to library issues in general. As I was reading back through some of her older posts I came across this post: 5 Reasons Being a Librarian is Stressful. This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. As I mentioned a little bit ago, due to personal life situations, it’s been a stressful few weeks for me. The stress can tend to bleed over into professional life as well, but a lot of times stress at the library is due to . . . being at the library.
“Surely, not!” You say. “Librarians have only to shush, read, and demurely shelve books all day!” Nope, and hopefully not too many people actually think that about librarians. There are TONS of tasks to do throughout the day which include book buying, budget balancing, creating and stocking displays, making booklists, doing event promotion and events, reaching out to other departments within the library and the community, visiting schools, weeding books, going to meeting, answering emails, and oh yes, helping patrons. I think that providing good service to patrons is our number one job. But it can be hard when you’re trying to do all these other things, too, which are technically for your patrons. I know sometimes the patron in front of you can feel like a distraction from the job you’re trying to do. (Also notice that I didn’t mention reading. Librarians do not get paid to read; we don’t have time at work to read unless you count lunch. The rest of it is done on our own!)
Patrons can also be hard to understand, they can not know what they want, they can be overly chatty (a coworker talked to a lonely woman for about an hour an a half the other day!), they can be rude or weird, they can be inappropriate or abusive, they have demands and requests, they can be super nice, or they can just be. But we have to serve them.
Serving them can be stressful and I’m glad that Screwy Decimal wrote her post about how much librarians do and how do deserve respect. We work really hard and it’s all for you! I don’t expect to be showered with praise and flowers everyday because of what I do, but a simple and sincere, “Thank you,” goes a long way. So does voting for your library (if you’re in a community that has library millages) or advocating for it. Demand library services from your community. It’s a right and it’s necessary.
Ok, now that I’ve stepped down from my soapbox, I have two final things, one is this tumblr that shows some librarian frustrations: Librarian Problems. Spend some time there to laugh at some of the crazy things that happen in librarians and start to understand why sometimes, we’re just trying really hard not to laugh at you when you call the library to ask if it’s open.
Finally, lest you think that I’m just a big complainer and that no one appreciates what I do, yesterday I had a great interaction with a teen. I was helping her find some books and first she wanted historical fiction about the Salem Witch trials, then any historical fiction, then books about ghosts, and then in a small, quiet voice that was surprising for a 6 feet tall 7th grade girl, she said, “And just one more thing. I went to both of your Hunger Games programs last year. Are you going to do another one this year? It was really amazing. I love The Hunger Games! I really hope you do another program.”
I told her thanks, and yes, I was planning on doing another program this fall before Catching Fire comes out in theaters. I mentioned giving out some movie passes and having a costume contest. Her eyes lit up. Working in a library can be just as stressful as any other job, but I get to have awesome conversations like that and make people’s days. So at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.