Library Work

My first job in a library began with a lie.

It was the end of summer, and I needed a part time job to get me through my final year of college. I remembered a professor mentioning at the end of the previous semester that the library at school was looking for student workers interested in pursuing library science as a career. A graduate degree wasn’t in my plans, but I did love libraries.

No harm in faking an interest in library science for a couple semesters, right?

Long story short, I got the job. And so effectively faked my interest in libraries that I fooled even myself. Before the year was over, I applied to two library science graduate programs. “Librarian” had moved to the top of my career list. I have passed on both of those programs for the time being, but libraries are still the target for which I am aiming.

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Through a serendipitous string of events, I recently landed my second library job: a summer-long communication internship at a local university library. While my undergrad stint at a library was service-oriented and had me interacting directly with patrons, this internship puts me behind the scenes. What I didn’t realize for the first twenty years of frequenting libraries is that they are political sites. Now, I am learning how library staff must prioritize values and needs to make decisions, how so many groups must move together to create an empowering environment for constituents.

I came across the Library Bill of Rights on the American Library Association’s website at work one day and fell in love with its words. It reads in part (emphasis mine),

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Libraries are places for revolution. Libraries are radical.

At a time when our society is painfully divided, and I feel a desire to work toward peace and reconciliation, I hope this library will do some small good. I hope that my coworkers and I are creating a place for enlightenment, a haven of information, a refuge of curiosity, for all members of our community. I hope we are shaping an environment that will promote a full, rich education for people of all abilities and colors. That is the good work libraries can do.

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Be careful what you pretend to love. Your fake interests may be more real and revolutionary than you intend.

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8 thoughts on “Library Work

  1. Nice! My first job (other than babysitting) was at the old Carnegie library in Broken Bow. I got 50-cents an hour to shelve books, pick up after the kids, and be the librarian’s assistant (do the little jobs she assigned me.) I loved it! Mrs. Thompson was so kind and encouraged me to read when I had finished my duties or when the day was slow. She introduced me to many classics like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and the Count of Monte Cristo. She challenged me to read Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (I struggled through the Russian books just to prove that I could read them.)

    I grew up in a house full of books so libraries were an extension of my home.

    Dennis and I have shelves of books in practically every room in the house. Our boys grew up surrounded by books. Frequent trips to the library, especially during the summer, were common in our household.

    Librarians are heroes, often unsung. They influence lives and encourage thought. In this time of electronic media. libraries seem to be alive and well (despite the naysayers of a few years back.) I hope there are always people who want to become librarians and foster the love of reading in future generations.

    1. I am so grateful for the teachers and librarians and parents who encouraged me to read when I was young. The work that libraries do is so important. I am happy to see them adapting to this age of technology.

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