Sunday, January 31, 2010

Library Day in the Life: Weekend Edition

One of the things I didn't necessarily realize when I made the decision to go to library school was that my concept of "weekend" was about to suffer a radical change. I know there are special libraries that are only open Monday-Friday, and that there are academic and small public librarians who may not work weekends. Heck, if I was a school librarian, I'd (presumably) not have to show up to school on a Saturday or Sunday (at least not that often). However, as a reference librarian at a large public library, I work Saturdays. Every other Saturday, to be precise. Sometimes I even work on Sunday after working a Saturday, which makes for a very long week when I have to show up Monday-Friday, let me tell you. So, with this in mind, I chose a Saturday to record my activities (in excruciating detail!) for Library Day in the Life.

It is really hard for me to get up and leave the house on a Saturday morning at 8:00, especially when the weather outside is disgusting. Thank goodness I had Wham! to listen to on the radio. At 8:30 I arrive at work and clock in, discovering that I have to complete a two-hour, mandatory ethics training sometime in the next month. Awesome. Saturdays here can either be a little quieter than a weekday, or completely hectic, depending on the mood of the public. I'm not on desk until 10:00, which gives me a little time to figure out what I'm going to try to accomplish today. I catch up on my Google Reader and, of course, Twitter, and realize that my nonfiction book order is due by the end of the month. Since it is January 30th, that gives me a definite goal for the day. I know that I should also spend some time preparing for the Excel class I have to teach next week, but it's still not quite late enough in the game for me to be really worried.

My library has three different reference desks, which are staffed in rotation by my department in one-, two-, or three-hour shifts whenever we are open to the public. I really enjoy this arrangement, because it offers variety and allows for scheduled off-desk time, something that wasn't really a priority at my last library (which was also much smaller). This day I am actually scheduled to work all three desks before I leave, which makes it even more imperative that I have my flash drive so I can take my work with me wherever I am assigned. Luckily, it's currently hooked to my name tag, where it belongs.

At 10:00 I face the public at the desk in the nonfiction/young adult area, answering a few questions while reading my pile of Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly magazines. Usually I read these in a big chunk and make my collection development decisions based on reviews as well as what I am hearing about through the various blogs and newspapers I follow. I keep track of all this in a handy Excel spreadsheet. Some of the collection areas I am responsible for, such as the 400s or the 840s, aren't often reviewed, so I order based on usage, patron requests, or to fill holes in the collection. All of this "deep librarian thinking" is going on while I'm helping patrons find books on the history of Antwerp, telling them what time it is and where the bathroom is, hoping the twelve-year old girl rooted to the spot in front of the tax forms isn't really going to need them, and so on. Reading Publisher's Weekly often ends up with me putting things on hold for myself, and today was no exception. On this desk, I am wearing a scarf because the room is frigid, and I also make a circuit of the room and pick up stacks of books for internal statistics, because it helps keep me warm.

At 11:00, I switch desks and head to our main reference area, where the 32 public computers, reference material, and microfilm are located. At times I have counted over 70 people packed in here, but today the weather is so crappy that only half of the computers are occupied, which is almost unheard of. I check the Reference Department's email and send off a message letting a patron in California know that our volunteer was unable to find the obituary that she had asked us to look for in the Springfield newspapers. This process involves tedious and sometimes dizzying microfilm searches, and it's always disappointing when I have to report "no luck." Since it is so quiet, I continue catching up on Google Reader and working with Baker & Taylor and Ingram. Baker & Taylor for the nonfiction order, and Ingram for the paperbacks I come across in my review sources, and sometimes both at the same time. Patrons are always asking for paper, and pencils, and staplers, and kleenex, but in this case the young man who asked for paper returned to the desk to show me the cool paper sword he had constructed.

I spend my lunch eating and writing up my review of Feed, which I had finished a few days previously. After lunch, I spend two productive (but very quiet, in terms of patrons) hours on the Fiction & Media desk. The only noteworthy occurrence was that two people came in looking for Robert Jordan's The Great Hunt within about one minute of each other. They were both disappointed, as the book said "Check Shelves" but was not in evidence. This usually happens more often at my library with CDs and DVDs, which tend to "walk out" under their own power, but #shelfcheckfail with paperbacks is, sadly, not uncommon. It is up in the air as to whether the computer at this desk is slower than the one in the YA area, but they are both running Windows 2000 . . . While on this desk I also have one frequent flier, a woman who without fail will ask you to print something for her (in this case listings from craigslist, even though she doesn't really have a concept of what craigslist is). I hold her to a strict three-page minimum.

After an hour off desk in my cozy cubicle, I return for my final hour of work with the public, back in the YA area. I wrap up my nonfiction order, knowing that I probably have a little wiggle room if I see something next week that I simply must have. I check Google Reader, enjoy my next encounter with Always Wants Something Printed Lady (she knows I am not going to budge, so quickly moves on to her next victim), and pick up my audio book (An Abundance of Katherines) for the ride home. I stuff my Excel class handouts in my bag, in case I want to think about preparing for my class over the one day of my weekend that remains. Or not.

See my previous Day in the Life post here.


Amanda said...

One of the things I do enjoy about working in a special library is the regular Monday through Friday hours. I don't envy you your Saturdays.

Why is your nonfiction with your ya? That seems kind of odd to me. A space issue?

We also have a prolific printer. I call her The Tree Killer. Only, in a medical library, prolific printing usually means printing literally hundreds of pages at a go.

Helgagrace said...

As I think has happened at many public libraries, one day the administration figured out that they really ought to have a section just for Young Adults. But they hadn't planned for that when they built the building (in the early 1900s in this case), so they carved out whatever space seemed most likely. It isn't actually a bad placement in my library, as the YA nonfiction is shelved with adult nonfiction, which means if teens are doing research papers, etc. they don't have to go elsewhere. However, there aren't any computers in that area of the library, and that's probably an issue that needs to be resolved. Come visit and I will give you the whole tour. :)