This Is What Librarians Do

I've talked before about being a librarian, and how misunderstood the job is. No, we don't sit around and read all day. And I want to say right now that I've never shushed anyone. Being a librarian is a pretty unique job because it's like retail, stocking shelves and being a data analyst all at the same time.

Oh, and some of us are pretty muscular too, because being a librarian sometimes requires heavy lifting.

What? Yeah, it's true.

This past spring and summer I undertook one of the hardest tasks of my life - and yes, I count being published in that estimation. I reconfigured a K-4 library all by myself. It took over 200 hours, some of them unpaid. And I'm not posting about this so you'll tell me how awesome I am - I guarantee you there are many librarians that have done - and would do - exactly this many times over.

Without going into the sad, sad business of public school funding too far, I'll simply say that because of money issues our district lost the full time library position in the elementary building two years ago. The lady whose job this had formerly been was still in the library when classes were in there, but that was the only time. The solution to actually maintaining the library - shelving in particular - was to have high school students do it.

I know anyone reading this who is a librarian is probably cringing right now.

Cringe harder.

At the end of one year of having teenagers manage the shelving the elementary library looked like this.


 I'm guessing I don't need to tell you that Dewey had pretty much gone out the window.

The district librarian and I are located in a different building, so when I went over to this library to do my end of the year report, I ended up saying some very bad words. I said them alone, because that's the proper thing to do, but I said them loudly. 

And then I proceeded to fix it.

First - discarding. This library hadn't been properly weeded in years. I ended up getting rid of about 3000 books that were beyond salvaging. Torn books, books whose spines were completely broken, and some books that were actually growing mold. Don't worry - these weren't dumpster fodder. These 3000 books went home with the children who picked them off the free book table. Even if they only had one more read left in them, they got the chance to prove it.

Second - re-cataloging. Hundreds of books were quite simply, nowhere near the places they needed to be. For example Attack of the Alien Fire Ants was in non-fiction. No idea what happened there.

Third - genre labeling. As many picture books as possible were put into categories - dinosaurs, dogs, holidays, etc - so that the little kids could actually find books that interested them, rather than rummaging through a colossal mess and hoping they hit something good in their allotted library time.

Fourth - putting all that crap back. Yep. This place was such a wreck that the best solution was to empty every single shelf and start from scratch. Obviously this was done one section at a time, but I made a HUGE mess before things got better. 

And lastly - I showed administration these pictures and explained that a library needs to be maintained, not just manned. And they listened. Even though we don't have a librarian in that building full time, we do have a staff member assigned there specifically for shelving and item maintenance, and teachers are handling the checkout process for their own classes -- which is a lot easier now that they can find books on their own. Ahem.


A lot of people have no idea the amount of work that librarians put in on a daily basis just because we want to make sure that people (especially kids) have the books that they want in their hands when they walk out the door.

During the summer when I was working the a/c in this building was turned off. So I'd spend hours covered in sweat and filth, come home sore from moving so many pounds of books around, and still have someone say to me at a party, "Shhhh!!!" when I told them I was a librarian.

And I'm like, "You know what? I think I'm going to punch you in the face."