Listen to the post
Which book lover has never dreamt of working at their local library? But what is it really like? How much work is it? Let me take you with me in a “typical” (do such things exist?) day in my life at the library!
I have been an intern for 2 months and a part-time worker at the library for 4 months, so I think I have a pretty clear view of a librarian’s daily missions. However, please keep in mind that every library is unique, that public libraries are very different from, for instance, school libraries and that I do live and work in France, which can change quite a lot of things. With that being said, let’s get into my typical day!
8:30-9:30 a.m. : Put returned books back on shelves & prepare orders.
Due to the pandemic, the books returned need to spend 3 days in a dedicated room in order for them to get “clean” before being put back on the shelves. Thus, three days a week, my colleagues and I take these “uncontaminated” books and scan them before putting them back on their initial shelves. On a normal day – in “non-Covid” times –, books are scanned and back on shelves right after they are returned by readers. However, the fact that books need to spend 3 days in quarantine means that we need to spend a bunch of time to scan them all in a row and reorder the shelves accordingly.
Thus, we spend around one hour three times a week doing so. When it is a “no-returned-books-day”, we do enjoy a slower pace. We directly head towards the “orders”. Basically, readers are allowed to place orders on the books they want us to find for them. Thus, when they arrive at the library, they just have to give their names and do not need to rummage through the shelves in order to find the book they want. Looking for orders in the library can take 5 minutes, but sometimes, it takes an hour, so you’d better be ready. On days there are 5 books ordered, each of them being in its place on the right shelf, 5 minutes are enough. However, when there are 30 books ordered, some of them being misplaced, let me tell you it feels like looking for a needle in a haystack!
9:30-10 a.m. : Enjoy a cup of coffee while covering books or entering books in the database.
When returned books are back on shelves and orders are ready, it is usually around 9:30. It lets us the time to enjoy a cup of coffee – because, why not? – and cover books. Some libraries pay for firms to cover the books for them but in our small one, we do cover books ourselves. In the beginning, I was sooooo(ooo) bad at it but now, it takes me less than 2 minutes to cover a book. We also use these 30-40 minutes to enter books in the database.
When we order a book and receive it, we still need to enter it in a database. Just like for orders, it can take 5 minutes as well as 1 hour so you’d better be prepared (again). We use the international Marc format, which means that we enter several informations in different sections on a special document (title, author, date of publication, illustrations &c.). It is important that we do it in order to make ordering easier for readers, their satisfaction being a librarian’s number one priority.
10-12 p.m. / 2-6 p.m. : Different options for different days –
If the activities mentioned above could vary depending on the days of the week and other factors, the ones that follow vary even more.
Opening the library and getting ready at the desk
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the library opens at 10 a.m., so we basically get totally dedicated to readers for the remaining hours of the day. We give them advice regarding their choices and tastes, we rearrange bookshelves and, sometimes, we keep covering those books. Nonetheless, you must keep in mind that whenever the library is open, no activity gets more important than being available for readers.
Staff meetings & activity time
On Thursday and Friday mornings, the library is closed. Thus, we have two possibilities: we can either have a meeting or lead an activity. We usually have meetings on Thursdays at it is extremely important to have a look at the planning and see in which ways we can improve the library. We do have a “library plan”, which basically consists of the direction we want the library to take. Thus, Thursday mornings are for planning the future of the library, brainstorming and giving lots of ideas for activities to come. On Fridays, we tend to organize a little activity, either with children or adults. For adults, we do run a book club once a month, which is so much fun – and readers love it. Once or twice a week (on Fridays and, sometimes, on Wednesdays as well), we organize activities with children. We can read regular stories to children, but we prefer mixing these stories with music and physical activities. For instance, a book about meditation can lead to listening soothing music and trying yoga with them. We can also end a story with the matching board game (There are lots of games featuring Little Riding Hood but also P’tit Loup and many more characters!)
I sincerely hope you loved that post and it gave you an idea of what the life of a librarian can look like. I would be so happy if fellow librarians could share their daily lives with us as what I do in France may differ quite a lot from what gets done in other countries. I think it could be super interesting to compare it all together, and it would also be helpful to those of you who may be considering that job.
Once more, I wish you the best of all days,