10 Things I’ve Learned Working In A Library

10 Things I’ve Learned Working In A Library

This September, I’m once again working in the library at my old secondary school. Imagine that: a whole month of gainful employment, the first job I’ve ever had in my life. It seems somewhat miraculous, despite the sad circumstances of me having this job. The new librarian isn’t due to start until the same week I go back to uni, so I’m filling in the gap.

This term is a little different to the brief stint I did in July because students are actually allowed to borrow books — before, it was too close to the holidays. So I’m teaching year sevens how to use the library, checking out books, overseeing library lessons when teachers are late / occupied, and generally taking a much more active role in the school.

Okay, this is from last term. Whatever.
Okay, this is from last term. Whatever.

I’m very much enjoying meeting the super keen year sevens who have already borrowed three books: they remind me of myself at that age, and I look forward to getting to know them better so that I recommend them books! All the book reviewing I’ve done recently also means I have some ideas for books we should buy for the library, and all in all, I feel like I’m not bad at this job.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned working in a secondary school library.

#1 – Some students recognise me, not for the reasons I expected.

I used to go to this school, so when a sixth-former did a double-take on seeing me and then said, “I’ve seen you before,” I thought it would be that we’d crossed paths at some point while I was there. But when he asked me if I made YouTube videos and went to Cambridge, I realised actually it was my internet presence that he’d encountered. “Well,” I said, “that’s a bit awkward.” Although actually I was delighted, since he’s the exact target audience for my Cambridge videos. Yay.

#2 – Some students are frustrating, but others are lovely.

There are always some students who won’t stop talking, or who print out what seem like entire reams of paper (single-sided, whyyyy) so that I’m up and down refilling the printer. But some offer to shelve a book that I’m holding to save me time, because they know where it goes, and a great many of them are very polite and say hello to me when they come in.

#3 – Having bright red highlights didn’t stop one of the caretakers thinking I was a student.

Mind you, the other one assumed I was the new full-time librarian, so you win some, you lose some. Eventually that one clocked that I used to go to the school, but had changed my hair since then.

I mean, how young do I really look? (Don't answer that.)
I mean, how young do I really look? (Don’t answer that.)

#4 – Derek Landy, Robert Muchamore and Michael Grant are pretty much the most popular authors for the students to borrow.

Though they’ve all written a large number of books, so that helps — there are more books for the students to borrow. Even so, the Skulduggery Pleasant series is getting checked out every other day, and I’ve lost track of how many Muchamores I’ve had on my desk. There are some other popular authors, none of them particularly unexpected; we get people looking for John Green books here and there. But these three stand out.

#5 – You don’t need a gym membership when you work in a library.

The library is on the third floor (fourth if you’re American and include the ground floor). That is a lot of stairs. Reorganising shelves is a combination of weight-lifting and squats — going from high shelves to low ones and back again, shifting huge stacks around… I mean, I carried the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series down to the other end of the library, and we have duplicates of some of the books. HEAVY. After my five-hour day on Thursday where I mostly just reorganised stuff, I was aching like mad. My quads were killing me on Friday. TOO MANY SQUATS.

#6 – I end up talking to the printer as much as to other people.

The library is a silent working area and, as it’s populated only by the librarian and a couple of teachers in offices at either end who spend most of their time elsewhere teaching, can get quite lonely. The printer, however, constantly demands attention. Every time it started beeping, I’d end up talking to it. “Come on, beastie. You know how paper works. Take the paper. Come on.” At this rate, I’m going to need to name it.

#7 – Being a librarian gives you magic cat powers.

Or maybe that’s just me. While walking home on Friday I stopped to stroke a cat. Normally cats don’t put up with me for long, but this one wouldn’t let me leave, rubbing its head all over my black trousers (thanks, pale-coloured cat, for your contribution to my outfit). Then, when I started to walk away, it started following me. Eventually I had to make a break for it while the cat was looking the other way, and when I glanced back I saw it sitting in the middle of the pavement, looking reproachfully at me. I think I gave that cat abandonment issues.

Why do I get the impression this cat is judging my life choices?
Why do I get the impression this cat is judging my life choices?

#8 – This ‘having a job’ lark is exhausting.

On Thursday I came home and made myself a cup of tea, then lay down on the sofa while I waited for it to cool down. Two and a half hours later I woke up to a completely cold cup of tea, a waste of a lovely Whittard’s teabag. It was absolutely tragic. The nap was totally unintentional, but absolutely necessary.

#9 – As a librarian, I’m perfectly positioned to nab all the books I’ve been meaning to read.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, for example, or Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I read both of those yesterday-today, having borrowed them at the end of my work day. Next week I’ll borrow Inheritance, the sequel to Adaptation, and maybe I’ll try out a few other well-known YA novels I haven’t got around to. After all, if I don’t like them I can always take them back. Libraries are great.

#10 – It is possible to take selfies while working, just make sure there are no students around.

I like to take pictures when I finish reorganising a section. Not only to immortalise the neatness of the shelves before the students are unleashed on them, but also so I can put them on Instagram (#librarygram). This is a lot easier when there are no students in the library; otherwise I have to time it very carefully so they don’t catch me. Because they’d probably think that was weird.

So, it’s already proving to be a very educational experience, and I’ve only been there for … two days, so far, if you don’t count the stuff last term. Who knows what I’ll have learned by the time I head back to uni…

8 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned Working In A Library

  1. Being a librarian sounds so cool! I would love to be a part time librarian (people make jokes about me becoming a celebrity librarian with a reality TV show, but thats a niche audience) I use the library at my school a lot and I also have a digital public library membership which is sort of the best thing ever. But then I have to decide which book to read next….. I talk to my laptop lots (don’t judge) and I was once mistaken for a social worker while at a meeting with my mum :)

    1. I talk to literally everything I own (and everything has names) so no judgement here. Everything becomes ‘beastie’ to me, and I talk to them as though they’re a wayward cat or perhaps a small child. “Come on, beastie. It’s okay. You can do this. NO, beastie. Stop that.”

    1. I tend to talk to my computer more than my printer but then, that’s largely because I ignore my printer and pretend it doesn’t exist until I need it. Which is why it’s been low on ink for several months and I haven’t yet got around to buying replacement cartridges.

  2. I worked in a book warehouse this summer, so I totally get the carrying heavy books thing! It’s funny because at the start of summer, before my job, I was like “I need to workout more!” and planned to do so, but then didn’t when I got the job, but it’s okay because I, like you, was going up and down stairs, carrying books and boxes and ended up getting a good workout in the summer!

    1. It’s definitely a tough one. And when there aren’t books to be shelved, they need repairing, or new books need to be added to the system, or the cupboard where supplies are kept needs tidying… As someone whose own room is a disaster area I’ve certainly done a lot of tidying lately.

        1. UNRELIABLE INTERNET IS THE WORST. Because our library system is web-based (we use Eclipse), whenever it goes down I can’t actually check anything out, or return anything. The students can still borrow things because we have a dual system, but it’s a real pain, and obviously I can’t get anything else done while I’m sitting there trying to get Google to load. Thankfully, it hasn’t gone down for more than 5 minutes while I’ve been working there, but it’s still a pain. (Also, sorry for the late reply to this comment; WP tried to put it in spam, for no reason that I can see.)

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