ASSOCIATES (2010, July, v. 17, no. 1)


Every library provides similar services, circulation, interlibrary loans and handling reference enquiries, just to name a few. However, sometimes it is the organisation we work for or the specific tasks we do that makes working in the library very interesting.

Why is the library you work in or the tasks you do in the library make it very interesting?


Working in the Circulation Dep’t at a public library in a heavily immigrant town, I find the most interesting library tasks are:

Interacting with new immigrants who come in, sometimes with a young relative, who translates for them to facilitate their obtaining a library card, and checking out to them books and media on learning English.

Since I work on Sundays, and Sundays are one of the only times this extremely hard working population can make it to the library, I get to help many of these prospective “American” patrons to be launched on their way to becoming part of our uniquely vast and diverse nation!

Helen Chuckrow

Having worked in a public library for 20 years as a paralibrarian, I realized early on that every job is essential – from the page who puts the books back on the shelf to the Head of the Reference Department and Library Director, and every job in between. The pyramid starts at the narrow top with degreed librarians, and broadens to a wide support base of paralibrarians. Library jobs range from fast moving administrative jobs involved in town and state budget processes, building issues, setting philosophy of customer service and collection development to quiet, solitary work shelf reading and pushing a book cart from genre to genre, nonfiction to children’s. The key is in the teamwork. The joy of the job is in Library Directors filtering down a belief in staff development, tapping into each staffer’s unique talents, keeping an open mind about what can be accomplished and contributed by each member of the library team.

In my library career I have checked books in and out, registered new patrons, set up displays, reader’s advisory and book talks, pasted and taped labels, stamped cards and book spines, printed labels, mailed bills and paid bills, searched the www for obscure titles on interlibrary loan, developed the Science Fiction collection, ordered audio books, built relationships with vendors, worked on state wide committees, trained and been trained, presented programs at conferences, and earned awards and certifications. Some of it has been exciting and interesting; some of it has been routine and boring. All of it has been worthwhile because of the exceptional team of librarians and paralibrarians who have been part of the team I work with. The mentors, the peers, the trainees. That’s what makes a library job interesting.

Allison Sloan
Reading Public Library

I’ve worked 17 of my 19 years in the Circulation Department and have been the supervisor for almost 11 years. I still find work stimulating and I look forward to being at the library. My current director, here for less than 2 years is a font of ideas and action. He’s changed the look and feel of the library, introduced self checkouts and self service holds. He created a YA Room and is planning other changes. Self checkouts give me the opportunity to greet and speak with our customers without a desk between us and it is a whole different approach top customer service.

Gail Seidenfrau
New City Library

I work in the library of an engineering & environmental consulting firm in Vancouver, Canada. I find my position interesting because of the type of library. It’s a small one, with two and a half people, which means I perform a variety of duties. The firm has an international scope in both branch offices and projects, so I interact with people all over the world. For example, last year I phoned the Philippines to buy a building code. And finally, I like hearing about the projects we do and learning more about the field. It’s quite a departure from my previous workplaces and the learning curve was steep at first but I’m enjoying it now. Proof that library people don’t need to know everything, just where to find everything!

Heather Duff

Every day there is a patron that just “makes my day”. It can be an irate patron that finally “sees the other side of the story”. I’ve come to realize that no matter what the situation is, if you try to empathize with the patron, it makes for a much calmer and quicker resolution. Often the patron who started as irate may become your ally if you just “walk in their shoes” for a couple of seconds. Helping a patron to understand the why’s of any given situation is the key to resolving the issue.

Then on the flip side you have the patrons who do nothing but praise you and the services that are provided. Just a smile or an acknowledgement that you know their name, is often the key to an uplifting experience with an individual.

Never knowing what to expect from moment to moment from any patron makes life interesting to say the least. As I would call it, a continual life challenge, but also rewarding experiences.

As volunteer coordinator, I also work with all age groups from young teens to senior citizens. I’ve learned over the years the greatest tool in working with such a diverse group is listening. Listening to why they want to volunteer, why they chose the library, what events in their life encouraged a volunteer mindset, etc. all plays into the type of position I place them in and also gives me a better sense of who they are as an individual vs. just being another volunteer. I have made many lasting friendships through this experience that has enriched my life as well as the life of the person who volunteers.

Kathy Clevenger
Culpeper County Library

The library I work in is interesting to me as we hold information which covers various subjects and disciplines and service two departments with researchers, scientists and field staff. We have information regarding breeding cows and bulls, the life cycle of ants and other creatures, sustainable plants, conservation, water and I should mention the various historic items in our reading room.

It is a Government Library in Central Australia and there are two staff members, the Library Manager and myself (library technician). The outworking of this means that our tasks cross over and we can cover for each other when the other staff member is away due to sickness or holidays.

There is never a dull moment and although we don’t have a lot of external visitors our clients are predominately either in remote locations or working in the field for long periods. We receive much of our work via emails and phone calls. We have a lolly jar stocked up to entice visitors and researchers to linger longer and chat or browse.

Although my tasks are the similar to all libraries worldwide I find I am always interested in both the material I handle, the requests that the researchers make and the projects I undertake. I enjoy the hunt in locating items that our clients have difficulty in locating.

As well as the above I enjoy working on a property outside town with a fairly scenic drive to work. We have farm staff whose tasks are to care for: date palms, citrus trees, cows, bulls, horses and other interesting features and projects.

A walk at lunchtime is always interesting, but not so the unwelcome visitors that slither into our building from time to time! A recent diversion was during a particularly wet week we had to be ferried over a creek on the property by 4×4’s as our smaller cars could not pass through the water.

Margaret Ellis
Arid Zone Research Institute
Alice Springs

Several of us work as library technicians in a health science library in a large medical system. Most of our day is taken up by circulation, ILL, and technical assistance. What makes our tasks interesting are the interactions with our fellow librarians, doctors, nurses, other healthcare staff members, and members of the public. We go home every day feeling that we made a difference in something that matters to someone.

Andrew Crow

Our medical library provides many services in the area of medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and nursing. Many jobs have been blended into mine over the years, so I am responsible for acquisitions, serials and cataloging, and the only person in technical services. Also, I spend time on the circulation desk.

The library has a history of medicine collection which has increased about three fold since I’ve been here and includes artifacts or books physicians or pharmacists used that range from about circa 1820 to 1970. As someone who has a strong interest or curiosity in history this really doesn’t seem like a job to me. I occasionally give tours of the museum to whoever drops by on Wednesday afternoons (other times/days as needed) or a group tour, and the expressions of the participants who see our exhibits amazes me each time. In addition to the regular duties of serials, cataloging or whatever is needed, I am currently working on designing/creating a major exhibit for the museum. I also do book repairs on a regular basis, as well as recently completing the repair of a four foot tall tri-fold display board, since there were no funds available for a new one. I enjoy the creativity part of this job the most and although it has been 21 years of service, cross trained for all jobs in our library, I can still say today without reservation that I learn something new each day and continue to enjoy all aspects of this position.

Sue Knoche
Medical Library Assistant
ETSU Quillen College of Medicine Library, Johnson City, TN

I drive the Outreach Library van around the municipalities of Whittlesea, Nillumbik and Banyule, visiting nursing homes, retirement villages and special accommodation residences. The Outreach van provides a library service to people who, due to age or disability are unable to access their local library.

What makes this so interesting?

The answer is, of course, the people. The library staff, the nursing staff but especially the borrowers. It’s a particularly intimate job. I get to know the borrowers much more than in a normal library. Everyone has their own story, their own way of dealing with life and all its ups and downs. It’s very satisfying to be part of a service that connects these people with the wider community and contributes positively to their quality of life. My job is varied, challenging, rewarding and yes, very interesting.

Mary Gregor,
Yarra Plenty Regional Library, Victoria, Australia
Outreach Library Service.