Why Libraries are Awesome

Welcome to my entry for the Louisville Free Public Library Blogathon on Why Libraries Kick Ass. The Louisville Library suffered after a flood left 4 feet of water in their building. For more information about the blogathon, check out the wiki. Please be sure to donate the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation by visiting http://www.lfplfoundation.org/.

Today's Blogathon is supposed to be about why libraries kick ass. But, before I go on and on about how great libraries are, I have a confession: I was not the biggest fan of libraries for a long time. In fact, before getting a job at a library and enrolling in library school, I hadn't set foot in a library in years! It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I lived 3 houses down from the local library and spent many days begging my mom to let me go there alone.

The summer before I started 4th grade, I saw the Disney movie Pocahontas. I became convinced that my first assignment in 4th grade would be to write a report on Pocahontas and thus set myself up in the library to get a head start (I'm sure this is how 10 year olds across the country spent that summer). I researched tirelessly, learning about Pocahontas' tribe and the conditions of sea travel during that time. I filled a purple binder with notes and photocopies of pictures from encyclopedias (remember those?) of Pocahontas and John Smith. My research became so intense that I started using the private study rooms. Who could focus in the childrens' reading room?

The "real" Pocahontas

One afternoon, I was working on a chart that compared the movie and the real-life Pocahontas. There were other people in the quiet study room and one older gentleman asked me what I was working on. I showed him my binder and we talked for a bit. About 5 minutes later, a librarian came into the study room and asked me to leave. I asked why, and she said that people had complained that I was talking and making too much noise. No one had entered or left the room. I said that the other patron had asked me questions, and he agreed that if anyone was talking, it was him. She then said that I was too young to be in the study room, "it was not a play room" and I had to leave the library. Leave the library? Could you imagine? This was the ultimate tragedy for a nerdy kid like me. She didn't ban me from the library entirely but I assumed a voluntary exile. I never went back. In fact, I avoided libraries as a whole (thank goodness for electronic resources!) until I actually started working at one. No matter how wide a librarian's smile was, I was always nervous that I'd soon be pushed out the door.

The point to all this is: not all libraries kick ass. The reputation of libraries, like all public establishments, are at the mercy of their staff. For all intents and purposes, librarians are libraries. Get a good group together, and you can do something special. But with just one bad egg - you will lose patronage. It doesn't matter if you're having a bad day, no patron should ever be treated with anything but kindness and respect. Library staff need to know that they don't just represent themselves or their individual library, but that they can turn people off to the idea of libraries entirely. There is a reason that librarians have a reputation for being stiff and curmudgeonly: a lot of them are. My recommendation to any staff member at a library is to recognize the stereotypes associated with our profession, and work daily to dispel them. Be friendly, be helpful, be understanding and be curious! Learn something new everyday that you can pass on to your patrons. That is the kind of thing that makes patrons love their librarians and in turn, libraries.

I love this! Librarian of the future now!

So, if you want to be married to your dusty books and rules, go for it. But it's the libraries with staff who are open (to the public, to new ideas and technology) that will and do kick ass.

And because I don't want my post to be too preachy and downtrodden on the library lot, I will share 10 reasons why my library kicks ass:

  1. We saw that our patrons were lining up at the door before opening (even though we have an area open 24 hours), and changed our operating hours to serve them better.
  2. We know what students mean when they ask for "Med Surg" and rush to get Medical-surgical nursing : patient-centered collaborative care off reserve (WY 161 I24m!!) so that they can get to studying. And that book is heeeavy. But we don't complain!
  3. We talk with our patrons and help find the books they're looking for, even if all they know is that "it's blue and on biochemistry."
  4. We let the students sleep.
  5. We hold students' hands throughout the thesis process, letting them cry, yell and jump for joy once it is finally done (That's all you, Diane!).
  6. We greet our patrons every day with a smile.
  7. We ask, is there anything I can help you with? But more importantly, we really want to help.
  8. We don't judge when students come to the circulation desk with a tub of ice cream and a chick flick to take out during finals week.
  9. We know the students are tired and late for class and try to make every transaction pleasant but quick.
  10. We get really dorky about electronic resources and citation tools. We learn all we can and give each other tips so that we can serve the students better.

Thank you to the librarians who kick ass and make this a fun and exciting profession to be a part of.
Let's all help the group at the Louisville Free Public Library!


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