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Who Knew? What They Don’t Teach You in Library School

by on September 18, 2014

A few days ago, another librarian and I spent an agonizing forty minutes trying to follow the impossible directions for assembling a desk chair. We had both approached the topic thinking it would be a quick and easy task and we’d soon be back to our ‘normal’ work. We ultimately assembled the chair, but with no thanks to the instructions.

Along the way, we repeated our standard jokes on how we didn’t learn about this in library school and that this wasn’t really in our job description. The whole process got me thinking: particularly if you are a librarian in a small and /or rural public library, ‘other duties as assigned’ can take on a vast degree of meaning.

In addition to the recent chair, we’ve also assembled tables, desks, bookcases, speaker stands, a lawn bench, signage, and storage containers. I’ve chased bugs and chipmunks out of the library and snakes off our outside walk ways. I’ve cleaned bathrooms, weeded gardens, mopped up leaks, and trimmed hedges. I’ve driven across town to deliver materials and chicken soup to a patron recovering from surgery. We’ve helped our neighbors catch their runaway pet. We’ve cajoled the difficult and ejected the angry. We’ve disengaged as the babysitter, gracefully letting our patrons know that we are not their babysitters. We offered tissues to the distraught.

One might think these duties came about because I work in a fairly small and rural library, but I know that’s not the case. I have also worked in a large urban library, and the (mis)adventures were much the same. It wasn’t chipmunks I chased around the stacks with a trash can, but baby mice. Snakes were not sunning themselves on the walk way, but stray cats. I didn’t weed the garden; instead, I picked up trash from the lawn. But these things were in kind.

I don’t really mind these ‘other duties’ most of the time. They make the day interesting. So now, curiosity prompts me to ask – what has been the oddest thing you’d needed to do that was not mentioned in library school?

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