I Work At A Library!? A Day In The Life Of An Actual Library Worker

by 
Library Worker

There’s nothing better than a job around books. Many of us dream of quitting our day job, getting lost in the stacks, and starting our own bookstore or becoming a library worker.

What if I told you—I actually work at a library!?

Yup, you read that right. I’m a paid employee at a local public library and it’s not everything that book lovers dream it might be. While I don’t often get to read on the job, there’s many other aspects to what I do every day that book lovers wouldn’t expect.

For those of you who might be interested in a job around books, I’d like to share some of the things that are essential to my job description, and a few of the things I do every day as well.

I Start My Day Fighting For A Parking Spot

Working at the library can be a joy, but parking certainly isn’t. My local library is along a busy street downtown. While, for most towns, this wouldn’t cause an issue, our town is known for tourism. What does this mean? It’s impossibly difficult to park some days.

At the library, we don’t have our own personal parking lot, nor we do have designated parking spots. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to even get parking passes from the town. We have two designated parking passes (so we don’t have to pay for street parking) and we have five employees. We often have more than two people working each day, which means that at least one of us often has to arrive early, find a spot on the free block, or pay for parking at a kiosk, if need be.

Most days, parking is easy enough. Yet, as the sun starts to shine and tourism picks up for the summer months, parking can be absolute nightmare. Luckily, all of my co-workers understand the dilemma and we try to be as accommodating as possible if someone is a little late in the morning due to the parking situation.

Some Mornings We Have Patrons Waiting At The Door

One of my favorite days to work is Monday. Patrons are often so excited to check out new books that they are waiting for us when we open the door! While most jobs would probably find this a bother, it’s one of my favorite parts at working at the library.

While most people think libraries are all about books, they are really all about the patrons—our job is to serve the community. As library workers, we provide information. Sometimes, that’s in the form of books. Other times, it’s helping someone print something out. Either way, we often start to recognize faces and names in the community and there’s really nothing better than feeling like you’re a part of something bigger than you—especially when I can make a difference in someone’s day.

My Favorite Part Of The Day: Checking In and The Holds Pull List

Once we unlock the door and get any patrons settled, we have to check in books. While many of our patrons drop off their books at the front desk when they check out new books, there are also many library goers that drop off their books in the drop off box outside the library. This box has to be checked every morning, as drop offs are often made after hours.

Once the books are brought inside, we scan them into our computer system and then reshelve them. This is probably one of my favorite parts of my day, as I love seeing what our patrons are checking out. Library workers are tasked with learning about popular culture, what books our patrons are reading, and what information we don’t have enough of (i.e. books and materials we should order).

Our hold system works the same way. Once books are checked in, one of our team members will check the holds list to see what books patrons are checking out. These books need to be pulled in the morning, as library patrons will often come in the same day to officially check out the book. This entire process is kind of like a giant book scavenger hunt…and it’s so much fun!

Social Media’s A Breeze…Or Is It?

Each of the employees at our library have a different focus beyond our circulation desk duties. One of our employees does all of the kid’s activities. Another is a genealogy specialist. What’s my job? I run the social media.

While social media sounds like it’s all fun and games (it kind of is!), there’s also a lot to it—it takes skill to make sure that our patrons are engaging in posts, which helps encourage visibility in our community.

My day often consists of checking our Facebook messages, scheduling future Facebook posts, creating online events, making TikToks, and sending out email newsletters. I often create the templates for these posts on sites like Canva, using their free elements to jazz things up. This can take up a lot of time, but it’s always worthwhile when I see our patrons commenting and liking our posts.

What’s A Workday Without Co-Workers?

As I mentioned earlier, I have several different co-workers that all have unique focuses at the library. Each of my co-workers have become specialists in their tasks and it’s so inspiring watching them do what they love.

As a library worker, we have a community of our own: our staff. I love being able to turn around and ask a co-worker about a library related question that I don’t know the answer to. Having different areas of expertise helps us all learn more and become more knowledgeable in areas that we don’t already know about. Plus, our team is incredibly gifted and fun, which makes every day something new and exciting.

We Know More About Technology Than You Think!

Though I’ve said a few times that books aren’t the libraries only priority, I have to take a minute to talk about computers. Most people don’t realize that libraries are a resource for technology. We have up-to-date machines and our patrons use them daily. Some patrons come in for help figuring out an email system, others are coming in to use the printer/scanner, and some even come in for research if they don’t have a computer at home. Many of these patrons have questions about using technology and it’s up to us, as library workers, to answer them.

While we aren’t certified experts, we do our best to stay current on new information. This means how to use programs like Gmail, Microsoft, and Internet Explorer. Though, we often learn how to use many other programs, too.

Computers aren’t the only thing we need to know, though. At our library, we recently installed a 3D printer (that we are all slowly figuring out). We also have a complex scanner/fax machine, and we have craft devices like a laminator as well. All of these different machines take a bit to learn, and more importantly, problem solve. Yet, it’s all just another part of the job.  

Covid, Who? We’re Cleaners, Too!

While our library has a designated cleaner that comes in once a week, it’s not enough with Covid in the air. We don’t typically perform duties like vacuuming or dusting, but it is our job to wipe down surfaces every day at closing time. What does this entail? We often need to wipe down the computers, keyboards, chairs, counters, and tactile items.

While our bathrooms are also cleaned by our staff cleaner, many libraries don’t have designated workers to do this job—it becomes something that circulation employees need to perform, as well. Thankfully, our library’s cleaner is amazing at her job and we’re able to work in a clean, fresh environment every week.

Weekly Events Are No Chore

Beyond all of the regular daily responsibilities we have, as library workers, we also have weekly events. While these events change from week to week, there’s always something going on. These events are created with the community in mind and give our patrons a place to go to converse, make new friends, and get involved in a project. Besides just a routine book club, we also have a meeting for crafters, kids story times, and a volunteer group. Then we also have special events like author book signings.

While some people might dread these types of events, library workers love them! It helps us to connect with our community and our patrons. It also engages us in ways that can help us learn more about what our community is talking (or reading) about. This inspires us when we’re searching for new materials to add to the library, as well. Plus, we’re always happy to lend a helping hand when our patrons need it.

Things Our Patrons Might Not Know

Library worker hands man a book

While you might have already known some of these things, I bet there’s a few tidbits that you don’t! While visiting your local library, you might not be aware of all the hats your library workers wear to service the community. Yet, we’re always trying to be a peaceful place for those that need it.

Here’s a few more things you might not know about libraries:

  • You don’t have to leave your bed to use the library. Sick at home? Need extra assistance? Many libraries have online resources like Libby, an app made specifically for online eBooks and audiobooks. These programs help the bedridden, elderly, sick, or overworked, as you can access library services right from your own home. Need to speak with someone or need help? We’re always just a phone call away.
  • We don’t use the Dewey Decimal System anymore. That’s right, no more giant boxes or apothecary cabinets, our entire system is online. This means that library workers need to know the ins and outs of the entire system and catalogue for their library. This can be tricky and requires quite a bit of training.
  • We’ll never shush you in the library. While many tourists come in talking in whispers, our regular patrons know that our library is a community hub—we don’t expect silence, and we actually kind of hate it! We would much rather prefer you strike up a conversation with us—instead, tell us about the last book you read!
  • No more fines?! That’s right—we don’t fine our patrons. While some libraries still do, most libraries don’t. We still hope you’ll return everything on time, but we find most patrons never miss their due date. The ten cent fee isn’t going to make or break us and we’d prefer not to shame you if you just so happen to be returning something late. We want you to come back and keep visiting!
  • We’re CPR trained and we’re Mandated Reporters. As library workers, we watch everyone that comes in and out and we’re often skilled at seeing things other people wouldn’t. We’re trained to report anything that doesn’t look right, and we’re also trained to help others in the case of emergency (though we hope it never comes to this).
  • We don’t get paid a lot (at least at public libraries). While many library workers have at least one degree, and multiple daily tasks, we don’t get paid as much as you think. In fact, most library workers get paid minimum wage and even librarians (who usually have a master’s degree) get paid a lot less than they should. In other words, we do the job because we love it!

As you might have already guessed, public libraries can be quite a bit of work for library workers, though most of us thoroughly enjoy the job (myself included!)

If you enjoyed this article, let us know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on your own local library. Do you enjoy the services that your public library has to offer?

Want to learn more? Check out this Buzzfeed article about things Librarians Want You To Know.

Not sure what to read next? Check out our book reviews page for book recommendations.

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