Last week I went to the library after I dropped off Annalyn at preschool. I’d finished reading the first book of a series and wanted to check out the second installment. According to the library’s website, the second book was available at the library branch not far from the school.
I looked for the book but couldn’t find it. I’m no stranger to the library or its shelving systems, but I just didn’t see it. So I grabbed the third book, which was easy to find, and walked up to the counter. I pointed to the book and said to the librarian, “I’m looking for the second book in this series. Can you help me find it?”
She squinted at the book, then turned it around to face her. As she started to click on her computer, she mumbled the name of the author and then asked me, “Do you know the title?”
She didn’t know anything about this series of books.
I told her, and she did find the book for me. (It was shelved in a special section for award-winners.) She was friendly and even walked over to the section with me instead of doing the discount store point and wave. But I was shocked – and, yes, a little appalled – that she didn’t know the book I was looking for.
It reminded me of a scene in “You’ve Got Mail,” where Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) has closed her children’s bookstore and visits the box store that put her out of business. As she sits, sadly, in the children’s section, she hears a customer ask a sales associate: “Do you have the “Shoe” books?”
The salesperson has no clue what she’s talking about, so Kathleen pipes up with the author’s name (and spelling) and a recommendation for which book in the series to read first.
As she walks away, she says to herself, “They know nothing, they know absolutely nothing.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a librarian should know about every book on the shelves! But I do think they should be familiar with the most popular books or series in the most popular genres. And the book I was looking for? It is a popular one.
Even worse? It’s a KIDS’ series. What if I’d been a 10-year-old kid asking for help? Imagine the difference it would make if the librarian responded with, “Oh yeah, that’s a great series! Who’s your favorite character?” or even, “Oh, right. My nephew read these books and loved them!”
I know I’m asking a lot here. And maybe it’s too much. But I don’t think it should be. After all, I’ve never watched an episode of True Blood, but I know that the show is based on a series of books. And I can tell you the name of that series and the author’s name, even though I’ve never read one of the books either.
Later that day I went to a different library while Annalyn was at Awana. While I was sitting at the computer, I heard a young person ask a question. The librarian’s response simultaneously made me want to throw up my hands in disgust and enroll myself in a library science master’s program: “Oh, I don’t know that section very well. But you can look up young adult books online.”
Online?! Online. Of course he can look it up online. But he was asking YOU, Mr. Librarian.
See, I think kids should read. A lot. But I know that’s not always the case. So if a child is asking for help? For the love of the Dewey decimal system, that child should get some help! He shouldn’t be told, “Oh, look online,” or “I don’t know anything about those books.”
I could go on. I really could. But I realize this is the second ranting post I’ve written this week, so perhaps I should focus on my own revelation from that day: I think maybe I should be a librarian.
Why I Would Make a Great Librarian:
- I love to read.
- I love books – actual books. I love the feel of them and even the smell of them. Sure, I’m a blogger and I love technology. But even more than that? I love books.
- I love reading lots of different types of books. Right now I’m on a big paranormal YA kick, but I also read tons of gritty mysteries, spy novels and political thrillers, Christian mystery novels, romance and Christian romance. I also read some historical fiction, some Christian historical fiction and the occasional classic. And while I don’t love them as much as novels, I read non-fiction books, too. (Just a lot more slowly than the novels I inhale.)
- My first job was in a library.
- Sometimes I still find myself straightening books on the shelves, and I never put books down or back out of order.
- I am a huge proponent of the library, because it’s dumb to buy a book I’m only going to read once. I even check out movies, CDs and TV shows from the library.
- Goodreads.com is one of my favorite websites.
- I really like things/people to be quiet, so I’ve got that librarian <i>Ssshhh!</i> down pat.
- One of my favorite books from last year was all about libraries and librarians. It was not even a novel. It was a non-fiction book about librarians, and I found it fascinating.
- See above story. I was in two different libraries in one day. If that’s not a sign I should be a librarian, I don’t know what is.
I’ve actually done some research on this idea of mine. Becoming a librarian would require another degree. I’m not opposed to that idea, because I love school, but it seems higher education is still not free. So until I win the get-your-master’s-degree lottery, I suppose I’ll have to make do with reading every book I can get my hands on and straightening my own bookshelves.
Although the next time I hear a clueless librarian talking with a kid, I might have to pull a Kathleen Kelly and help out.
Have you ever thought you’d make a great [fill in the blank]? What would you be, if education or training were free?
This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda. And it has a few affiliate links.
I SO hear you. And, I will say that when I taught school and was really up on the current books, I did pop in and give advice in the library. In fact, I’m still known to do it in a bookstore in the children’s section. They just don’t make it easy to find the classics anymore.
I think you’d make a GREAT librarian. So, now you need to find someone to sponsor your education. :)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the goodreads website! Amazon used to do well with being able to rate books that you’ve read, but now you can only rate them if they’re recommended. I just signed up with the goodreads website and I think it looks great! I can rate any book I’ve read (easily) and it will recommend more like it. So excited (can you tell I’m an avid reader??)!
“For the love of the Dewey decimal system”–you make me laugh.
I completely agree with you–although, I must say that I can’t remember my favorite books off the top of my head when they are in a series–I just remember the series name–even if I’ve read the series several times, so I understand the Librarian not knowing. That being said, I’m hoping that if a child had come to ask, she would have looked it up rather than trying to take the easy way out.
I love my librarians. They know everything. Granted, I am not one for reading “new” stuff–it’s not hard for a true librarian to know exactly where The Chronicles of Narnia is for example–but the few times I have asked for what I considered an unknown book, they knew exactly where it should be. We are in there often. My kids are definitely learning how to love the library like their Mommy! :-D
OH BABY! You have just described almost any run in I have with the librarians at our library. In most libraries, I’ve come to find. We do have one really awesome children’s librarian. The reference librarian is a joke. Seriously, I just don’t get it.
Yes, I have often dreamed of working at the library. Not of being a librarian, though. No more school for me thankyouverymuch. Once my youngest hits 1st grade, I’d really like to work there.
Mary, I agree with you that it would be valuable to get advice when you are in the library from qualified employees. One thought I have is that the library can sometimes be like the hospital in that you do not always know to whom you are speaking. Was the person you were speaking with a libarian or the person hired at minimum wage to check books out at the computer? (Not trying to put down the others working there). I venture to guess that most libraries have only a few librarians- mostly at the supervisory level- and that the persons we are most likely interfacing with are not educated at the master’s level. I love the library- worked there for 4 years in college. You would make a fabulous librarian- I hope the grad school money fairy visits you!
Chris, you’re right. I’m sure the person I talked with was a close-to-minimum wage worker. But I’ve seen her there before, so I know she’s worked at the library for a while. She was very nice, though, and DID find the book for me. Clearly I’m torn about whether I’m validated in ranting about her! :) Anyway, I think you’re right that most of the MCPL branches only have one or two actual librarians on staff.
I love books and the thought of going to school, rather back to school, to get my degree in library science has been running through my head for the last couple of years. I’ve even looked into some programs and thought I would share some of the info I’ve run across. Now, at least in California, half of the degree programs from Associates to Masters are in computer science. You have know how to build and maintain a website. It was also recommended that you have a minor in business or like us book nerds, in a specific English genre. The only downfall is that A LOT of libraries are no longer replenishing paper books in preference for e-books. I was advised to look for positions with a public school library, they are in great need of book loving people. I wish you the best of luck if you do decide to pursue this venture.
I love this post because my oldest daughter works in the children’s section of our local library (which is a Top Ten library in the NATION!) and she could have helped you out. She knows so much about books, it’s crazy! People ask her for recommendations all the time. I’m so proud of her! :)
And also? This will make you jealous, but my BFF just started a master’s degree in . . . get this! . . . library science. She wants to be a school librarian. Isn’t that great?!
And one more thing, I think being a librarian would be just about the most fun job ever. After being an English professor, of course. ;)
Shelly, I didn’t remember/know your daughter works at WPL! That is so awesome.
Ha! Yes, Leigh, she does! She’s in her third year, I think, and is the best WPL “page” (is that how it’s spelled?) down there. :)
I’ve totally thought about becoming a librarian! I think any true book lover has probably considered it at least once. And if not that, they’ve thought about working at or owning a bookstore. I still have tons of books and authors memorized from my years working at a Christian bookstore, although I will say that I grew into that. The longer you work anywhere, the more you know and remember. So I have hope that the library workers you interacted with will do the same.
Leigh, do you remember the Toad Hall Bookstore in downtown Wtn (or is that before your time)? It was SOOO tiny and just crammed with books. I used to go there on study breaks when I was a student in the early ’80s. I always dream of owning a place like that. We need one here–all of our bookstores have closed. :(
Was that the one that was in the old train station or the one next to the theater? I remember both bookstores well. The train station one is where I got to meet Madeline L’engle and have my copy of A Wrinkle in Time signed. One of the highlights of my life!
At least there’s still Barbara’s Books in Naperville. Does Glen Ellyn still have its indie bookstore?
Actually, Toad Hall was across the street from the old train station, kind of near the popcorn shop (and almost as small!). And, yes, I think GE does still have a bookstore, but I never go there (bad me!). I like Anderson’s in Naperville, too.
Sorry, Mary, to hijack your post! :)
Haha! I wondered what was going on when I opened my inbox and saw so many new comments! :)
Okay – I love this post. Because, I feel the same way! I help put on the book fair at my kid’s school and every year, I think: I should have become a children’s librarian. I love the be in the public library too. I have no plans to go back to school, but I have seriously considered becoming a volunteer at the public library. Maybe once Annalyn is in school all day, that is something you could do too.
I love goodreads too!
I was also going to suggest seeing if there were volunteer opportunities. My best friend got her MLS online from a great local university (a real one I mean). I would love to teach high school government. And I could actually pursue alternative certification and do it, but I don’t want to do it that way. I feel like it is a little disrespectful to the teachers who got education degrees. Also, I just think I would be a lot better at it if I took coursework in education and additional course work in the other subjects I would have to teach.
Great idea about volunteering. And I hope you get to follow your dream of teaching someday!
Awesome post, Mary! And you WOULD make a great librarian! :) It’s crossed my mind too. I signed up for goodreads.com after reading this post and am already overwhelmed by the number of recommendations it gave me. If only I had time for THAT many books!!
Aww, thanks, Erin! Goodreads is so fun – I love listing all the books I’ve read! (Okay, yes, so it’s a time waster, but such a fun one!)
I have SO pulled a “Kathleen Kelly” at the LifeWay store. Every single time I am in there I end up finding something for a customer. And I’ve never even worked in the retail outlet! I think it would do the employees some good to take a walk around the store and observe every once in awhile. I’m sure that’s the case with ANY retail store.
P.S. Dear Google ads, to show me the exact thing I just lusted over at Gymboree.com is REALLY NOT NICE.
I hear you. After working at Archiver’s (scrapbooking store), where customer service is awesome, I get really frustrated at stores whose salespeople don’t know their own product!
Can I just say that I adore the “Kathleen Kelly” reference! Also, I just finished my MLIS in 2010, and did it all online. It wasn’t what I’d call cheap, but it was less expensive than traditional classes. (just something to keep in mind) :o)
Emily, do mind if I ask what school you did your program through?
Yes, I’d love to know as well. Have been looking into programs.
Hey girls, so sorry this response is nearly a year late! I didn’t have notifications turned on and had no idea you’d asked me a question. I got my MLS through Florida State University.
Thanks, Emily! :)
As a libriarian it is true we may not always know all the books but I would like to say especially in my library we try to be very helpful to all of our patrons. We look items up for them on our computer, we order items from other libraries for them, we actually get off our duff and show them where a book is, etc. It is unfortunate it is not like that in all libraries or other establishments as well and I try my darndest to be nice and pleasant back to people who seem disgrundled because I never know what others are facing in their life. It helps to know that Jesus is with me so when I face people who are not joyful at the very least through him I can be pleasant :) Is that true 100% of the time definately NOT! But with Jesus his mercies are new everyday and I can move on and try better the next!!
Hi Janet! I really do love librarians and the woman I wrote about WAS very helpful and kind. And honestly, that’s the best example of great customer service – if an employee doesn’t know the answer, they look it up and help anyway.
As I was reading this, I thought, “Wow! Two libraries in one day.” Then, I got to the list. That is definitely a sign!
Ok, so I’m catching up and read your current post and then had to reread this one too. I too have often thought that I should be a librarian. And… I just HAVE to know what book you were looking for. It’s killing me that you didn’t mention it. I HAVE to know if I would have known the book!!! Please tell me, pretty please, with a cherry on top. :-)
I didn’t mean “reread” b/c I don’t think I ever read it in the first place, hince the catching up comment, just had to clarify since I was confusing!
I’m with you on liking a quiet library. I’ve taken my computer to work in ours every now and then and it is so loud. People make a lot of irritating noises.
I love Goodreads! And I love to read! I’m an English and History teacher, so I guess that kind of makes sense. I also worked as a library page in the summers when I was in college. Sounds like you would make a great librarian. For the record, I have two librarian friends, one a children’s librarian and the other a research librarian and both are so well versed in their libraries. My children’s librarian friend is always recommending books to me for my little girl and she’s read pretty much any children’s book under the sun.
Well said. I love quiet things/people, too. You would make a great librarian. Don’t let tuition keep you from getting there… there’s always a way. A library needs you!
A woman who speaks directly to my book lovin’ heart! I have had a love affair with book since I was a young girl and to hold a book in my hands? Sheer joy. I love old books, too. Have several old Bronte ones. I agree that a librarian should be very aware of the popular books and series that are being read today. I also love Shelfari!!
What a great post. Nothing would be cooler than working in a library. Loved the Kathleen Kelly references – that was just on TV a few days ago. Love it! Here from Mama Kat’s. :)