Behind the Scenes with Annie
Nearly always when I meet new people, I’m asked, “So, as a librarian, you just get to sit around and read all day, right?” While we’d like - love - to sit around and read the newest books or old favorites, this job keeps most of us quite busy with community and branch programming, outreach, or processing new books.
One quick thing to clear up - we’re not always in the branch all the time. Many staff are on system-wide committees. I’ve been appointed to two in the six years I’ve been with DC Public Library: one focusing on planning the Summer Challenge, and one on reviewing rules and regulations for the children’s departments. We’ve worked together to attack topics relevant to our group: should we change the existing children’s computer policy? Which summer performers should we hire? How can we better engage with schools and school librarians? Does anyone have any ideas for new summertime swag? Is it worth reconsidering the minimum age for children to come unaccompanied to the library? It’s fun to meet up with staff from different branches once a month, and to share programming ideas or to borrow each others’ supplies, but most importantly, to effect change within the library system.
Speaking of which, I’m out of the branch myself at least three times a month to visit independent, governmental, or parochial early childhood centers, partner with elementary schools for storytime or to share books. My adult colleagues visit local hospitals to play music, visit residents and share short stories. If there’s a literacy night at a school, a meet-and-greet with parents, or an event to share the library’s available resources, you’ll see us there too. (That doesn’t even include representing the Library at yearly events like EdFEST, the Capital Pride Parade, or the 17th Street or Barracks Row Festival.)
But when we’re not out of the branch, we’re here doing the heavy lifting, sometimes literally. Lots of behind-the-scenes business happens right under customers’ noses. For instance, we’re always wondering how can we best manage shelf space. In the three-plus years I’ve worked at Northeast, our section for books on hold has expanded at least twice - which is great! We love that this service is useful for our neighbors. Shift those books, down the row! Move “mystery” to “science fiction” and the holds shelf over! Will everything fit on these shelves? Time will tell.
Processing books that come through the library is a task all staff members take on, hauling books from big blue bins and scanning them to figure out where they’re going (Holds? Returns? Off to other branches?) If I’m pushing a cart stuffed to the gills with materials to a desk and zapping them with the barcode thingamajig one-by-one, I’m a happy camper, sending them all to their destinations. A teacher may have reserved books for a unit on trees; parents may be searching for audio CDs for a long car ride; grandparents may be finding old favorites to share with their visiting grandchildren. Each cart is full of plans.
So the next time you see a staff member sitting at a desk, typing away on the computer, we may look quiet, but our brains are probably on overdrive: writing up committee notes, printing out a list of grubby books, or organizing the next week’s desk schedule, and our time facing out toward the patrons may be the calmest of the whole day.