A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Chris Burns Author Archive


Email: chris_s_burns@yahoo.com   Website: LinkedIn  

Chris Burns is an Adjunct Faculty Librarian for Canada College, a Librarian I for San Mateo Public Library, and has prior experience with the San Mateo County Libraries and SFO Aviation Library and Museum. He lives in San Francisco and is a lover of museums and art galleries, live music, the opera, traveling, fencing, and of course reading and writing.


new york public library and skyscrapers in background

Living in the Library

Does living at the library sound like a dream come true?

The Tiniest Libraries for the Most Remote Patrons

Highly specialized libraries are usually small, very well curated, and often noncirculating. They serve a variety of research and niche needs in a gorgeous setting.

table open to a job and career website, cup of coffee, and notebook

Remember When This Was Full-Time? Your Newest Coworkers Don’t.

If you’ve recently graduated from an MLIS program, what I’m about to say isn’t a shock: You are not full-time. If you are an established full-time librarian, you’ve probably noticed that more of your coworkers are part-time than in the past. These new librarians have their own class of titles that imply part-time. Instead of librarian I, they’re librarian on call, per diem, or the euphemistic library specialist.

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We Are Here, and We Are Generally Pleasant

It’s no secret to librarians that many patrons come to the library for more than our collections. Most people can find books and DVDs online. They can use our research databases without getting out of bed. For reference questions they can call, email, text, or instant message. We have reference resources that don’t circulate, and anyone who’s worked in a children’s room knows that parents don’t want to buy the thirty-five books their child wants that day, so coming to the library can be a life (and pocketbook) saver. Still, many patrons who come in the door don’t, strictly speaking, need our services. Many come for another free service we provide, albeit indirectly: human contact.

Snark, Sarcasm, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarians

Librarians are very fond of pointing out that we are not our stereotypes. We’re not all shrill older ladies in horn rimmed glasses with a wicked “Shhh!” We’re not all meek or mild-mannered men in V-neck sweaters. We like relaxed dress codes, and we’re very comfortable with tattoos and bright blue hair. When we’re not getting people books, we’re putting on pub trivia nights or showing off 3D printers. These are not our stereotypes.

Another thing about us is that we’re far more snarky than most people realize. Truth is, a sense of humor is a prerequisite. Like so many other service jobs, sometimes we need sarcasm to relieve tension and get through the day. I suspect we’ve always been this way. But while librarians in Alexandria were presumably just as snarky as we are, the modern world has given us a new place to express it: Twitter.

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Policies for Library Inclusion of Self-Published Works

Interest in self-published books is on the rise. Libraries should consider including these new materials in their collections, but should be very careful how they go about it.

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(Still) Justifying Wikipedia

English Wikipedia has grown to five million pages, and isn’t stopping. Here’s a great way to use it as legitimate reference.

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Collaboration vs Programming in Libraries

Public libraries are increasingly transitioning away from our traditional model to less specifically defined public spaces, such as the “community center” library. While many librarians are excited to try out nontraditional items, programs, and spaces, we often have problems convincing patrons and stakeholders to be involved in such departures from the norm. One way around this is through more open and increased collaboration.