or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library Day In The Life – 7/26/10

   July 26th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I'm participating in today's Library Day In The Life - it could be a good (interesting) day, but it also means I've been here for an hour and a half already and this is the first chance I've gotten to post anything - busy day.

11:00 am

  • Arrive at work, go right to Reference Desk. Morning person is on vacation, so our Assistant Director was covering. Talk to her about how busy the morning was, problems from the weekend, and pending reference questions

11:15 - 12:30

  • Field a flurry of reference question, even having to press our "emergency" button (wireless doorbell) to get someone from the backroom to come out and help. These vary from looking up book titles, reserving museum passes, finding books for patrons (on dream symbols, mythology, New York travel, books for middle school summer reading), check in newspapers, give newspapers to patrons, find parking map for local bike trail, and retrieve a lost cell phone for a patron
  • We're also doing interviews today for our Head of Circulation opening - however, interviews were scheduled after I approved vacation time for this week, so I spent some time scrambling to find someone to cover the desk while I'm in the interviews

12:30 - 1pm

  • Transfer call from Nashua (NH) Public Library to our ILL department
  • Talk to maintenance guy about the huge mouse he caught in the library's garage ("it was black and this big," holding his hands about eight inches apart - I think that qualifies as a rat)
  • Finally get a chance to post this
  • A patron wanted travel books for Italy and Greece, and holy smokes, the Fodor's and Frommer's 2010 books for both countries were on the shelf. Usually they're checked out and patron needs to settle for past years, but this time we rocked it
  • Help patron connect her Windows 7 laptop to our wireless network - I've had to do that a lot lately, so Windows 7 must be a little wonkier than XP
  • Try to reread the resume of the candidate for a 1pm phone interview
  • Reply to email message from someone who confuses us with the library in Chelmsford, Essex, England (it happens about every other month)

1pm - 1:30

  • Phone interview. I'm sure the candidate is far more nervous to be interviewed than we are to interview them, but the whole hiring process seems just unpleasant all around - especially on a day when we're short-staffed and I just realized there is no one to cover my lunch break

1:30 - 2:30

  • Back at the reference desk, check email and reread resume of 2pm interviewee
  • Catch up with coworker who was on vacation in Vermont last week - although, being the only adult on vacation with three daughters + one friend each may not actually qualify as a vacation
  • Take cordless phone and start pulling books from the shelves that were requested by patrons over the weekend (also eat a handful of almonds because of this lunch thing)
  • Compile a list of staff on our email staff list, to see who hasn't been getting our all-staff announcements
  • Explain to patron how to book one of our meeting rooms
  • Holy smokes: apparently we haven't had a page in awhile, because we have about five fullc arts of adult non-fiction that needs to be shelved - ah, something else to worry about

2:30 - 3:45

  • Interview

3:45 - 4pm

  • Check in at Reference Desk to see how things are going (busy)
  • Sneak away for a banana lunch before 4pm interview

4:00 - 5:20

  • Interview

5:20 - 6:00

  • Back at the Reference Desk for the rest of my shift, still haven't eaten that banana
  • "Patrol" the floor, restarting computers, picking up abandoned books and scrap paper, and pushing in chairs
  • Catching up on emails from the day. One email reference question has me puzzled - is it a real question or spam: "how can i download googled images;my photos 2 my facebook?"
  • Checking out Glogster.com, which one of today's interviewees mentioned. I'd never heard of it, and after a quick look at the website, am not sure I get - sigh, I'm so 2009

6:00 - 6:30

  • Reviewing notes I took during the interviews, both about the candidates and ideas they suggested (see Glogster.com above)
  • This position is very much a readers advisory job, so all candidates are ask about their experience and the tools they use. Humorously, almost every person so far as named Amazon.com as one of their top readers advisory tools, and most have said it a bit sheepishly. It's okay, really
  • But more on readers advisory: one of my notes on resumes was to not apply for jobs for which you are not qualified. This is the definition of not being qualified for a job: the job ad specifically includes readers advisory, and during the interview you're asked about your readers advisory experience - if your response is, "readers... what did you call it?" you are not qualified for the job
  • I'm going to steal a candidate's idea for next tax season: hang a "federal and state tax forms are available at the library" sign in the post office, which usually only has federal forms (and never enough)

6:30 - 7:00

  • Wow, everyone just must have finished dinner and came to the library to get middle school summer reading books
  • Showed a group of three 12(ish) year old girls how to use our old-fashion-style crank pencil sharpener - they were not impressed
  • Bring in the bookbox from the parking lot for the Circulation Desk
  • Write a quick (and ugly) post about a new museum pass we're offering


  • Time to go home, feeling like I hardly accomplished anything today (at least it's only Monday) - happy Library Day in the Life to everyone

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