Monday, July 26, 2010

Time For A Quiz

Question: So what makes for a busy day at the Library?

Answer: People.

On last Friday we had 159 persons pass through the front doors in the first two hours of operation. As I’m sure you all realize that makes for over one person per minute. Now, to be fair, not every one of these folks needed immediate help from the person behind the circ desk. But I’m sure every person who walked in appreciated the smile and hello that they got. And if I recognized them and was not overly busy they also got my “How the heck are ya, (fill in your name here)?” greeting.

As the person at the Circ Desk my primary responsibility is to help each patron as they enter our domain. This may mean just checking books out as they are about to leave. Or it might mean directing someone to the rest rooms: “Right through the archway on your right, there are additional rest rooms downstairs.” Or to the children’s area: “The doorway, just past the public computers. Please remember that if your child is under five they need to be supervised at all times.” Or the Dickert Museum: “Through the archway and down the stairs. At the bottom the stairs go straight ahead. Please remember to turn off the lights when you leave.” Or the Adirondack Room: “Through the archway and down the stairs at the landing turn left go down another set of stairs and you’ll see the doorway on your left.” In addition I also get to help people straighten out there library account, enroll new library card holders, answer the phone, renew items via the phone and direct people to adult fiction and non-fiction: “Through the archway and straight ahead.” Educate patrons in using the public computers: “Please sign up here. If you have not used our computers before, please be sure to read over our policy statement and sign on the bottom. The user name is “All” there is no password and there is a forty-five minute time limit.” And when I’m not doing any of those things I’m checking-in books or cataloging periodicals and generally tiring to be helpful. I’ve been asked where to find a cup of coffee in town, where the cheapest motel is to be found and “Is this the right road to be on if I’m driving from Montreal to Philadelphia, PA? Yikes!

All of those things are fun to do and all of those things are useful in helping people make the most of their time spent in the library. But none of those things is my absolute favorite thing to do. My favorite thing is to help someone find what they are looking for. It is usually a book. They may know the title, or not. They may know the author, or not. They usually remember what the book was/is about, but sometimes they are a little sketchy on that too. Now, all of these bits of information help in the search. But for me, if some of these components are missing that makes the search all the more intriguing. I am not alone in this viewpoint. In library school and when librarians get together they talk about some of their all-time favorite searches. It’s true. I’ve also heard librarians refer to this activity as “The Hunt”. They get pretty excited about it. Actually, in my experience, it is probably the closest thing to a single attribute that all professional librarians share. They don’t care what the search is for they just relish the seeking. And the more difficult the search the more pumped they get. So, the next time you meet a librarian and can’t think of anything to say, just ask them to tell you about some of their favorite item searches. Be sure to use that term: item search. But before you do, find a comfortable seat, or get a tall drink. You’re going to be there a while. And don’t be concerned about that funny look you see in their eyes. It’s not directed at you.

See you at the Library,

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