So What Do You Do (All Day)?

I’m a librarian.

When I share that a lot of people are like, “Wow! I would love to just sit in the peace and quiet and read all day!” Well hell, I would too! But guess what – that has zero bearing on what I actually do. Just like when I posted earlier about answering the question “So what do you do?” as a writer, I often fend off misconceptions about my 40/wk, usually posed in the slightly offensive, “So what do you do… all day?” I thought I’d share a little bit more of BBCLand and let you in on what I do – all day. And please bear in mind, I’m not complaining. I love my job, and I thrive on chaos.

Technically, we’re not librarians anymore – we’re Media Specialists (but I much prefer librarian, even if the term is misleading). Why is it misleading? Because we’re not just in charge of books. I also have four mobile labs full of laptops (roughly 60 iBooks and 50 Macbooks) and an adjoining physical computer lab (25 eMacs) that the District Librarian and myself are in charge of. Also cameras, projectors, SMARTboards, overheads… anything technology related for the classroom is under our umbrella.

Earlier I showed you my desk. Now I need to process those books, i.e. turn them into library books, which means they need to be stamped, barcoded, date due slipped, spine call stickered, spine genre stickered (if appropriate) covered (dustjackets for hardcovers, Contac paper for paperbacks) and entered into our circulation system. Also, because of the vast age difference between our patrons we have some books that are totally appropriate for 18 year olds that the parents of 7th graders might not want their wee ones reading. So I do a visual check on all our new books for sex, drugs and language, and let the DL (District Librarian) in on what titles we need to be cautious with and which ones are cool across the board.

Yes. I spend my days searching for sex and drugs.

This is supposed to be my whole morning – getting the new books into the hands of the kids who keep peeking their heads into my office because they spotted the big shiny stacks of new books and they want them, they want them NOW! And that’s awesome. I’ll get those done fast as I can so that I can fulfill what I believe to be my primary duty as a librarian – giving books to children.

The class schedule shows that we don’t have any full classes scheduled to come down so I should be able to get that done, right? First, I’ve got to get technology into the hands of the teachers who have signed up for it in their classrooms for the day. Check.

Now I’ve got a few kids who have wandered in to do some work and apparently someone thought it would be really, really funny to take Microsoft Word off of one of the Macbooks. So I need to address that. Another student is having a Word issue (there’s no cursor), so I need to put Word on the first laptop and reinstall on the second. OK – create pile of Macbooks that need assistance, give new computers that are hopefully issue free to kids who are desperately trying to get their work done.

Phone rings. I can’t find it behind my pile of to-be-processed books and I accidentally knock about 30 hardcovers onto the floor. It makes a loud noise. Everyone in the library comes over to see what BBC did this time. I find the phone and a teacher needs some tech assistance. I put on my tech-cape and let the DL know I’m leaving to fix a problem. Before I leave, I start the reinstall on Word so that it’s working while I’m gone. A kid stops me on the way out the door because someone has saved their typed paper as the template on Word so that when a different user wants to open a new blank document, they get someone else’s paper. Very funny. Fix that.

Almost out the door and another student stops me because someone changed the color scheme on a laptop to White on Black instead of Black on White. Very funny. Fix that.

Address classroom issue, get back to library and have a kid who needs help because they wrote their paper at home on a PC and we only have Macs here. I show them the NeoOffice program on the laptop that can read it anyway. Check back in on the reinstalled Word and… nope, still no cursor. Put it on pile to go to IT guy.

Phone rings. I narrowly avoid knocking over second pile of hardcovers (have yet to pick up the 30 still on the floor). The office needs my list of library fines for the grading period. I’ll get to that.

Set down to check work email before printing those fines, turns out we had some kids slip out of the library early in order to get to lunch first yesterday. Doesn’t help that our library is built so that the circ desk is not in direct visual line with either of our two entrances and exits. Also, circ desk is bolted to the floor, just FYI. Check – let the DL know that we need to be more vigilant with our hungrier patrons.

Pick hardcovers up off floor of office, hoping to process at least one of them sometime soon. A kid calling for “Hey Miss Liberry Lady” apparently needs me. He’s looking for a specific series that he read a few years ago and wants to get back into but can’t remember the name, author, or even what the cover looks like. I sympathize, so he gives me a 60 second plot overview and I pull out THE LAST APPRENTICE series. Kid gets excited and makes exclamations.

This is why I do my job.

Back to office, attempt to process books. Make a call sticker for EVERY BONE TELLS A STORY, put down the Dewey number and last three letters of the primary author’s last name (930 Rub), then look at the cover and say under my breath, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Yell out to DL at circ desk, “Hey I just made a Shakespeare joke!”

Phone rings. DL gets it (note – she knocks nothing over). A class needs to use a specific online program in our adjoining lab that can only be run using Firefox. Of course, the lab doesn’t have Firefox. Make note: download Firebox to the entire lab. Will do that… sometime. Reminder to self – still need to print fines and fees list for office. Also need to get non-functioning laptops to IT guy.

Suddenly it’s the daily free period time and we have 55 students in the library. Yes, I counted. There are three different projects due today and everyone is panicked, because of course, they aren’t finished. Fending off questions in a flurry while both the DL and I are moving around the room attempting to help people:

Q: This won’t read my file! A: Try using NeoOffice
Q: This laptop won’t print! A: Turn on the airport.
Q: Do you have the sign out sheets from last Wednesday? I don’t know which laptop I used. A: Yes, here you go.
Q: What’s the next title in this series? A: (Insert title answer here).
Q: Has the sequel to this come out yet? A: No, it comes out (insert release date here)
Q: Has your book been published yet? A: No. Very funny.
Q: What’s for lunch today? A: I’m Miss Liberry Lady, not Miss Cafeteria Person.
Q: Do I have a fine? A: Ask the office – no WAIT! I didn’t do that yet…..
Q: The printer’s out of paper. A: OK. Check.
Q: The printer’s out of toner. A: Well, crap.
Q: *lots of jumping from five different people* OMG! What’re we gonna do!?? What’re we gonna do?!?! My paper is due like NEXT PERIOD!!! A: I will go get toner, everyone chill.

Walking past a table full of boys who suddenly exclaim, “Dude!! OMG!!” I say, “When guys do that either someone farted or you’re looking at porn, so do I need to come over there or not?” T-shirts go up over noses but there’s also blushing involved so I’m unclear on which it is and need to go get the toner anyway. Get the toner. Returning to library, walk in the door, gaggle of kids still jumping up and down next to the printer. I’m almost to them when a sweet kid asks:

Q: Can you recommend a good book?”
A: I’d love to. In fact, I think that’s my primary job, but I just can’t right now. I’ll be with you like ASAP, k?

Attend to toner, quick visual check – all 55 people seem to be working. Assist nice kid finding good book, help the DL manage stream of check in / check out traffic, noise level is rising, glances up at clock see that the bell is about to ring for lunch. I tear myself away from circ desk and hear the door creaking, so I scream, “Don’t leave yet! HEY! The bell didn’t RING!!”

Doors opens and closes. Bell rings. Very funny.

50 or so people mass exit, still have a handful wanting books, book recommendations, needing checked out. I have to pee, but that doesn’t matter.

I eat in my office for lunch, check email. No, my book is not published yet. Very funny.

DL leaves the library for the day to fulfill her other duties – teaching English classes. I am now cemented at the circ desk to manage traffic and won’t be back in my office until the next morning to process books. Phone rings. A teacher needs good books about Egyptian history pulled. Check.

Student comes in with note from teacher who needs career assessment materials. Check.

Print fees and fines list. Check.

Attempt to download Firefox on 24 computers in lab but am constantly interrupted by circulation desk traffic flow. Quite alright, I like giving books to people.

Begin shelving some of the nearly 100 books on the cart. Find note left on fiction stack (H – Mc) that informs me “Reading Boks is Gay.” Very funny. No idea what a “bok” is or how it can compel you to become a homosexual.

Save note for entertainment value, tape it to my wall above my desk, wistfully touching stack of yet unprocessed books as I walk back out to circ desk.

Go through the 25 Macbooks in the cart that is open to make sure they’re 1) turned off 2) in the right slot 3) plugged in. Approximately five of them are all three. Very funny. Attend to that.

Afternoon announcements come on. The day is pretty much over. I check our stats on the circ computer and we had 369 individual transactions today. That’s pure library traffic – check ins/outs, renewals and hold requests. Keep in mind that traffic was continually in and out while everything else that I enumerated was going on. Also realize that throughout this entire day the DL was distributing her time between the circ desk and her own office while she attempted to place a huge new book order, attend to the individual needs of kids I never got to, plus communicate with and manage the other two libraries in our district.

I did a lot of different things today – but you’ll notice there’s one thing I didn’t do:

Sit in the peace and quiet and read.

Oh, I never did pee, either.


10 thoughts on “So What Do You Do (All Day)?

  1. OK. I'm tired after reading that.

    I still like the term librarian.

    And I like the idea of being surrounded by books, but not the censoring part. I know, I know…. What troubles me (because I'm a nerd) is when I go to the library and see all the computers full but nobody sitting at any of the reading tables or nestled in a nook with a book. That troubles me.

    But I still envy you your job because I x-ray bags at the airport and operate scanners that screen people using radio wave technology, and they tell us this is safe and not to worry about radiation. Everybody is safe but still fearful.


  2. I love you, Library-Cat. 😀

    My days are semi-sorta like that, except most of the chaos is much more localized. I'm mostly parked in my classroom, except when I'm popping next door to get something copied/printed, or running to someone else's classroom to help them with a technical difficulty. (Hey, we both do that! Except in my case, it's not in my job description.) 😛


  3. You should know, you're my new hero. The librarians at my school are the reason I got through school at all.

    ::thinks wistfully about actually sending a thank you note to them::

    Hopefully, you'll get to read those books soon.


  4. LOL- what a great post!
    How frustrating it must be to work as a librarian and still have to wait for your free time to read, just like the rest of us. It must be hard when you hear their calls of “read me – read ME!”. Unless, of course, the chaos just drowns them out. Hey ! I've just had an idea for the title of your sequel – “not a page to read”

    BTW, my sister works as a university librarian and the thing is that her day sounds a lot like yours (high school?) particularly the part about being flooded by panicky students who have papers due and no clue about how to search for references.


  5. Dean – glad you enjoyed it. My world is a place of chaos, and as I said, I revel in it.

    Yvonne – Yes, the censoring is something that doesn't set well with us as librarians, but at the same time, sex and drugs usually doesn't set well with 7th grade parents. And I like having gainful employment 🙂

    Derrick – Ah well, see, the whole math thing would trip me up.

    Cherie – Goddess is a good, but I usually respond to “Hey Liberry Lady.”

    RC – definitely! And after having said all that, I'll add that I *do not* have the patience to teach. Be a librarian, absolutely. Teach? No way.

    Rena – thanks! Send the note, for sure. I can tell you librarians usually aren't in it for the money or the respect, we tend to just love our jobs. A little respect is nice every now and then.

    Susan – that's the thing I actually love about my job. Even when there aren't patrons in the library at the moment, there's always something to do. Boredom is not an option!

    Jo-Ann – Glad you liked it 🙂 I've often wondered if college librarians have it any easier, then I remember myself as a college student….

    Thanks for reading, everyone!


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