For the last two, almost three, years I’ve worked in a public library. I started at the bottom as what we call a clerk—i.e. someone who shelves books—and have been working my way up.
I’ve been very lucky so far in my library career. I started at a small branch in a kind, tight-knit community. The staff emulate this. They have always been so friendly, welcoming, and eager to teach. Through their guidance and support, I’ve been able to learn a ton.
Here at the library, you have to join the union. This brings its own baggage with it. Sometimes it works very well for you, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get a chance. But because of the support I received at the small branch, I was able to gain the experience necessary to apply for library assistant positions. And, eventually, I was able to get those positions.
Now I am back at that small branch working as a part-time Library Assistant. I am an information and reader’s advisory service provider. This means that I work at the information desk and help people with whatever they need. You need help with the computer? I’m your girl. Working on a research project and don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. Looking for a good book and need a recommendation? I’m all over it.
As with anything, there are always quirks and challenges. But I love my job. Now that I’m spending more time here at this location, I’ve been getting to know the regular customers better, and they’ve been getting to know me. I can’t believe how amazing that relationship is. They come in and they trust me to able to help them, to give them a safe community space, to lend an ear. I look forward to what each day will bring.
That may sound hella cheesy, but it’s true. I may not always want to drag my sorry ass out of bed, but I’m always glad I do. Even on the not-so-great days. My job is challenging, but that’s what makes it rewarding.
There are even more exciting elements of this new job. Before this position, I was working in a similar one at a larger branch. Some might say working in a bigger place is more challenging, but I’d say it’s just different. Here at the smaller branch, I’m given much more opportunity to learn and experiment. Not everything is so strictly regimented. Because of that, I’m able to challenge myself in creative and professional ways that I simply wasn’t able to before. It’s awesome.
One of my favourite things to do is plan and prepare displays. This is so much fun. I spend time on Pinterest here and there getting ideas, but it’s so great to get to pull from my love of books and make certain titles shine. It also lets me draw on my creative side as I put together other display elements, like posters and other little touches. Helping other people get excited about books is just the best.
Although I am in love with my job, I gotta say, it can be super tedious sometimes. We got a new print system almost a year ago, and I’m sick to death of having to explain how to use it every day with a smile on my face.
No matter the tedium though, nothing has been able to sway me from my love of the public library. I could gush about its merit and value all day. Not only that, but I could gush about my library all day. It’s got its problems, sure. But nothing’s perfect. I’m just so proud of the work we do here and what we are able to do for the community.
Libraries are amazing places.
Beth O’Brien is a library assistant and book blogger. Born and raised in Atlantic Canada, she lives in picturesque Nova Scotia with her cat Edith. You can often find her rocking double denim with her nose in a book and a craft beer in her hand. Follow her on Twitter @fuelldbyfiction.