Trials and Tribulations of a Hometown Librarian: Part 1

By Shannon Kazmierczak

In a series of posts beginning with this one, I’m going to offer up a few examples of the amazing things about living in the community where you work, as well as some of the challenges.

Part 1 – The Concierge Librarian

So, no one ever told me that becoming a librarian meant also automatically becoming your friends’ and families’ personal librarian. Add this to living in the town where you work, and there’s a whole new level to providing exemplary customer service. I have decided to now refer to myself as a “concierge librarian.” It sounds so fancy!

The role started out small, simple–empowering, even.

“Hey! What are you reading right now?” or “What should I read next?”: These are flattering requests when coming from patrons, but mean so much more from loved ones. These people value your opinions! In their minds, since you are apparently involved in this secret cult of people who “know” books, you, of course, have the inside scoop. Share your knowledge; sprinkle that stuff around! I even took this as an opportunity to teach them some library lingo. I would introduce them to NovelList or Goodreads. I would tell them the next book I was reading for book club was fantastic, hoping to garner some interest in attending the club! (It’s at a wine bar, I hear people like wine!)

Then the expectations increased a bit:

“Are you heading into work this evening, could you possibly drop off my books?”

Sure, of course, why should they have to go out of their way to do that?

Then there would be the occasional request to pick up their hold, or place something on hold:

Easily done, I had to pick up my own hold! Place a hold? Sheesh, I do that a dozen times a day–what’s one more?

Then I realized that people may think that librarians really are superheroes:

“Hey can you grab me a copy of (insert name of book with 1000 holds on it at the time here).”

Oh jeez I wish I could, but I placed a hold for that one myself when I saw it listed in Publisher’s Weekly. I’m still waiting for it!

Then things got a little out of hand:

I (over) volunteer for my kids’ schools. The principal of the grade school (who is amazing) had the great idea to begin book clubs during the months with inclement weather twice a year during lunch and lunch recess. She had parents, teachers, administrators and support staff heading the discussions for the groups. They loved the opportunity they were given. The kids loved this idea, too. They loved it so much, in fact , that 214 third through fifth graders signed up for the book clubs.

How do I know that number, you ask?

Well, since I work at the public library in the town where I live, and obviously have a library card there (and was the PTA president), the principal asked me to check out all 214 books out on my card.

(Sidenote: this is also how I found out how many items you could check out on one library card, because the circulation manager had to override the checkout process fourteen times. So, the next time someone asked me how many books they could check out, I gave them an emphatic “200!” They sort of just looked at me, bewildered at my enthusiasm.)

Yikes.

Okay, we can do this! We will make a plan!

We worked with the youth services outreach librarian. She placed the holds for 7 copies each of the 30 or so different titles, and as they came in, they started accumulating on my “items checked out” list, as did my anxiety.

It’s okay, we have a plan!

Each book has its own barcode, right? So, I printed out a list of my checkouts and gave them to the secretary at the school office who would write down the student ID and barcode on a sticky note on the inside of each book and next to the checked out item. This ensured that each student received the correct book and that all books were accounted for! Success!

We planned for everything!

Except for when all 214 books had to somehow get from the library to the school, and then from the school back to the library.

I knew at that moment that all the bags that my husband makes fun of me for holding onto would come in handy, and that purchasing an SUV was truly a good idea!

The books were hauled bag by bag across the street and up the very long walkway to the entrance to the school. I took as many as I could carry at once. It was a success! The kids got the books, the books were read, the kids loved them, and by some miracle every single book was returned and removed from my library card at the end of the 6 weeks of the program!

We did this all over again the next year too. Then one day, I found out that a certain discount department store’s bag that is sold at the checkout aisle was not meant to hold 25 copies of Raina Telgemeier’s series of graphic novels. Nor was it meant to sustain the weight of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, or neither for that matter the large quantities of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown. There those treasures were: all over that very long walkway, the curb, and maybe even a few in the street.

Long story short: I now ask the maintenance man to deliver the books, and my concierge librarian duties are held to the aforementioned roles established prior to the Great Book Club Debacle of winter 2018.



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