Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why I'm A Librarian

I am currently a part time librarian looking for a full time job. I graduated about a year ago with my MLS and have had an extremely difficult time finding a full time position doing adult reference in the Chicago area. I got straight A's in school and was always one of the "leaders" in my classes it seemed. My resume is full of a lifetime of experience in IT, and while I was in school my classmates and teachers told me I should have no problem finding a job once I graduated given my previous skills and experience.

I keep telling myself it's the economy. Chicago Public Libraries has had a hiring freeze for over a year now with no end in sight. When the largest employer of public librarians in the Chicago area isn't hiring it makes it that much harder to find a full time job in ANY library in the Chicago area. The competition is intense.

In the meantime I consider myself very lucky that I at least have a part time job working the adult reference desk at a public library.

I've been working at this library for almost two years now and the patrons have gotten to know me well. Many of them greet me by name and I know their names as well. Maybe I'm easy to talk to? Maybe I listen well? Maybe there are just a lot of lonely people out there that need a friend? But I'm amazed at how many patrons seem to go out of their way to spend the time to come in and talk to me. Many of them tell me that I'm the "nice" librarian at the library. It seems like almost once a week a get a comment like, "Wow, you really helped me out! The other librarians aren't as helpful as you."

I recently read the book "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian" by Scott Douglas. I enjoyed the book, I found it a funny insider look at working in a library. But I couldn't identify with the writer of the book in the sense that he always seemed to be questioning why he was working in a library. He often doesn't seem very enthusiastic about it all. I on the other hand am only questioning why I can't get a full time job so I can contribute in an even more meaningful way to a library. I am extremely enthusiastic about the profession.

A few days ago I had an experience that put it all in perspective for me. One of our regular patrons came in like usual. He greeted each other by name as we know each other by this point. After he was on the computer for an hour or so he came up to my desk.

He told me that he was in serious trouble and was hoping I could help. He told me that he had a serious gambling addiction and was in bad straights. He called in sick to work and lost everything he had earlier that day and wasn't sure how he was even going to eat for the week. He was curious if I knew of a hypnotist in the area that could "cure" him. He was also curious if I knew anything about using a hypnotist for gambling addiction. I told him I would see what I could do, he asked me if I could send him an email with the information I found, and he walked out of the library with his head held down.

I think some people in a situation like this might be judgmental. The first thought that went through my mind was, "gee wiz, he was really brave to ask me that question. I could never do that." I can be stubborn. I like to figure things out myself. I can't imagine going into a public library and revealing my problems like that to the librarian.

I also did my best to help. I found several books about gambling addiction and passed on several recommendations. I also found information about using hypnosis to cure gambling addictions and pointed him to information that both supported the practice but also an article from a medical journal that said that hypnosis doesn't work. I then found information about state sponsored programs to help people with this problem that are free.

I saw the patron today like usual. He came up to me and thanked me so much for actually caring and finding him the information. He told me he had already called some of the numbers and had an appointment to see a counselor next week. I told him, "no problem, it's all part of the job" with a smile on my face.

This is why I became a librarian. To help people. I like to think that in small ways I can help people make their lives a little better by providing them the information they need.

Now, if I could only do this on a full time basis instead of just part time, life would be great!

1 comment:

Scott Douglas said...

Unfortunately, librarians are hidden heroes that people never really appreciate until their gone. You're obviously a committed public servant, so keep at it--there's a job waiting for you somewhere with a diverse group of patrons waiting to come to you for help.