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

Library Day in the Life, Round 7

   July 25th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Today starts Round 7 of the Library Day in the Life project, chronicalling what librarians do on a daily basis. I'm going to try to live-blog my day like before, and other people are contributing to #libday7. Thanks as always to Bobbi Newman for providing the push and the forum for this.

11:00 AM

  • Get to work, talk with coworkers about the heat from the weekend.
  • Check my mailbox: purchase suggestions from staff, reference question from patron (I still get reference questions via USPS about once every couple months), and letter from former coworker who still has the library street address memorized, so he sends me things here instead of to my house.
  • Check staff email: one message from a patron asking how to do something in our catalog, and then another twenty minutes later from the same patrons saying nevermind, her husband showed her how

11:15 AM

  • Look up and request summer reading books for patron
  • Tell two different patrons they have to go to the main circ desk to check out their books
  • Explain to a girl how to print, and then make change for her a few minutes later
  • Take a call from circ staff because they're not able to move a patron higher up in a hold queue - have to submit that as a help desk ticket to developers because even though Evergreen has the menu options to do this, it doesn't work for me either
  • Notice that this week is also our quarterly stats recording day - mark down six tick marks because I forgot to count as I went


  • Try to confirm for a girl that our copy of The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde really is the full version of the story, even though there are other stories in the book as well. She has to read it for summer reading and doesn't want to read the wrong book - she leaves skeptical.
  • Try to help a patron connect his iPad to our wifi network. We have more trouble that we should, so make a note to let our IT person know. Also, this isn't the first time iPad patrons have trouble connecting
  • Talk to one of our pages about her weekend, summer sports schedule, her new haircut, and the list of tasks her mother has assigned her to finish by the end of the summer - she is not amused
  • Give one of our teen volunteers a quick rundown on how to shelf read in the teen room, then set her loose to help keep things organized - thank you!
  • Patron with a study room reservation comes in late, and someone else has already snuck into his room - try to make everyone happy, and manage in this case


  • Research the Evergreen problem (moving patron to the top of a hold queue, because she said she never got the notification it was ready and staff needed to rerequest the item, which of course moved the patron to the bottom of the list) and found there is already an open ticket on this same problem - submitting a follow-up to see if there is a workaround
  • Log into my email for the first time today to submit the followup - see I have 21 new messages since yesterday. Not too bad, considering 6 I could deleted without opening, and 3 others are messages I sent myself as reminders
  • Help patron find a pair of headphones to use
  • Help a patron log into our computers (logins not necessary, which is why it's so difficult)

12:00 noon

  • Help another patron log in (which really means restarting Windows and letting the computer auto-logon). I think this happened because all our computers are full which kicks off anyone who has been on longer than one hour - since no one else is waiting, I just log back on anyone who needs it
  • While walking back to the desk, pick up some religious flier - we have one patron (a.k.a. "God's litterbug") who constantly leaves religious propgranda and printouts all over the library
  • Download the free ebook of Machine of Death story collection a friend told me about - neat
  • Update our mobile site with the new hours of our branch library (which should have been done July 9th, but didn't occur to me until just now - oops)
  • Replying to emails
  • Still can't get in to add myself to the Library Day in the Life pbwiki to add myself - it is constantly locked by other users

1:00 PM

  • Finally get to add myself to the pbwiki page (#161)
  • More trouble with the wireless network - this is frustrating
  • Doing a little bit of selection in between helping patrons
  • Get resolution on moving a patron up in the queue - it's not something staff can do for the time being, but network staff can, so I'll just email them whenever we need to do it
  • Have been busy, hence less frequent updates
  • Explain to someone how to use the library's Fax24 fax machine
  • Heard this phrase, which makes sense in context, but is still funny:

    Do you have direct contact information for someone in the historical society? They're only open by appointment only which means no one is ever there, but since everyone is on vacation in the summer, right now they're even more never there than usual.

  • More email - seemed to have hit a lull with patrons
  • Spoke too soon - phone patron wanting me to reverse-lookup a phone number. I was able to find that it's a Haverhill number, but not who owns it, and we don't have a print directory for Haverhill so I gave her the number for the Haverhill library

1:30 PM

  • Teen shelf reader checked in to say she needs to leave, and that she got up to the L's
  • Finally send an email about our Evergreen Steering committee that I've been on-and-off type for the past hour and a half
  • Talk to the maintenance guy and find out the reason the building was so hot on Friday and Saturday is that one of our AC units blew a fuse - but on the unit itself, and not in the fusebox, which is why we didn't see it when we started looking for the problem on Friday)

2:00 PM

  • Check my personal email, and try to find a link from WordCamp from this weekend. Couldn't find it, but found great summary of the day
  • Talk to coworker who just got back from a week in Florida - she was woken up one morning by the sonic boom from the space shuttle as it was landing
  • Summer reading, summer reading, summer reading - I'm sorry, they're all checked out
  • Start documenting a list of issues with Evergreen, from both staff and patrons, that I've been scribbling on scrap paper

3:00 PM

  • Help patron find travel books for Vermont - yay, VT
  • Time for lunch, I think
  • Talk with my cataloger about issues we're facing with Evergreen

4:00 PM

  • Continue compiling the list of Evergreen issues
  • Helped two phone patrons right in a row who were each asking if we had different books - amazingly, both of them were on the shelf. That never happens twice in a row. I put them on hold and they both said they'd be right down to get them.

5:00 PM

  • Yay for the day slowing down - it's dinnertime, so people are going home - there are actually public computers available
  • Had a discussion with the IT director about what to do with a laptop that has been in our lost-and-found for almost a year - the easiest course is to just erase the hard drive and get rid of it, but I feel guilty doing that
  • Talk with the author of a soon-to-be-published local history book about the permanence of library and chelmsfordhistory.org webpages - my best answer was "we have no plans to remove them, but whether the web will even be around 20-30 years from now, I can't say
  • Update the library's homepage with this week's upcoming events

6:00 PM

  • Prepare for an Evergreen priority meeting tomorrow - we're still going through the list of discovered bugs and desired features putting them into some kind of development priority order. The current list is four pages long, and more are being added daily
  • Remove the Elibrary database from our website, as state funding for that database stopped
  • Try to find out when John Barrasso (R, WY) said, "If this is such a good bill, why do they want out?" It looks like he said it to reporters on Feb 1st, 2011
  • For the same patron, find a news article saying that Planned Parenthood did indeed file a lawsuit against the state of Kansas about defunding clinics - found multiple
  • Figure out why a pdf file is printing every other page upside-down, and how to fix it - turns out, changing the double-sided print orientation fixes it, thank goodness
  • Showed patron how to use http://zamzar.com to download "filmstrips" from the internet
  • Spend time weeding my email inbox, trying to get it down to one page - success! I might not reach "inbox zero," but at least "inbox 25" is doable

7:00 PM

  • Print out a few last resources for a patron to pick up later, tell the person coming out to relieve me what's going on at the desk, and go home for the night. Good night, libday7

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,