One of the reasons that I love being a librarian is that every day is different and has its own challenges and rewards. Libraries used to be a building where people came to read or do research quietly, and while we still rather not have chaos, they are no longer places where silence is an absolute must. The ever-changing library is something that invariably comes up from time to time.
A patron, who definitely has not been in a library in many years, may come in and be surprised at how libraries have changed. Yes, we still have books and lots of them, but there’s also music and movies, available at the library or through digital media, plus so much more.
One of the most important services we now offer is connecting people to the internet. Think of all the technological advances that you have at your fingertips. Many of us have smartphones and tablets, laptops and powerful PCs at home, but there is still a major digital divide in this country where a significant portion of the population does not have access to high-speed internet for a variety of reasons. They may not have the technology available to them or cannot afford it, but libraries have become a place where anyone can have access to it. Some library systems are even lending out tablets and portable wi-fi devices that people can take with them. If you are not familiar with this technology, we can help you figure it out too through the many classes that we offer on basic computer skills and even on topics like making resumes or creating presentations.
Information can be disseminated in many different ways, not just through books, and our programs have become even more important than circulation. It’s easy for someone to check out a book, but the library becomes a vital asset when it actively engages with those in the community and we do that through outreach and programming. At the several libraries I've worked at, we've had many different types of creative classes like drawing, knitting, and crocheting, as well as exercise programs like yoga and zumba. We've had classes about emergency preparedness, health insurance, and job training. Today, there’ll be a class about cooking Korean food, just a few hours after we've had story time. Next week, we’ll have a rock band performing.
One particularly important part of programming for libraries, especially for places like New York City, is reaching the many immigrant populations that live here. At my library, we have English classes three times a week and also a class on immigration. We also have classes that teach Korean and about Korean culture. We provide students help with their homework daily. As talented as the library staff is, we aren’t necessarily experts in these areas or available to help everyone at once, but through our outreach to other organizations, we are able to set up these programs for those in our community.
Not every day working as a librarian is easy. There are times when it is overwhelming because of lack of staff and resources due to budget cuts. Some people lose their patience because the computer isn't working for them or they don’t want to pay a 10 cent fine.
In the end, however, being a librarian is very rewarding because you know you are making a difference.
You are helping people find jobs or learn a new language or skill.
You are providing them with information and entertainment.
You are helping to make their lives better.