What I didn’t learn in library school

There are lots of things I didn’t learn in library school, but as we approach the end of another school year, I’d like to focus on one.

But first I need to give some history.  When I decided to go to library school, it was not because I had great librarian role models.  I had the same school librarian (this was pre-media specialist days) for 1st through 8th grade.  My friends and I always disliked library class because we were forced to learn things we thought were dumb.  I liked learning library related things like the Dewey Decimal system, but it seemed we covered lots of other topics that I didn’t enjoy.  I realize now that many of these topics were things the librarian probably didn’t want to teach either, but it was her job.  My mom volunteered in the school library and they became very good friends.  This added another layer of strange to the relationship.

The most negative librarian experience I had was with my high school librarians.  In my sophomore year, my high school library reopened after a complete renovation.  It was a lovely facility.  But I only went a handful of times because the RULES were more important than the people.  The most onerous rule was a ban on talking at any time.  If you merely whispered to your neighbor, you had a warning and the next offense, you were out.  It was such an unpleasant place that I abandoned it completely and used the very fine Phoenix Public Library System.  My mom taught me how to use the Reader’s Guide and other library resources.   While I loved my public library system, I didn’t have a relationship with any of the staff.

I spent a lot of time in my college library.  It was also a lovely facility and in contrast to my high school, a much more welcoming environment.  I knew many of the library staff.  Someone was always posted by the door as we entered and exited, clicking a counter, checking to see if we had found what we needed.  One librarian in particular always exchanged a few words with us, including the same Bible jokes that we had heard from previous encounters.  But I never considered the librarians friends or mentors.  Now I can conjure up fuzzy images, but I can’t remember names like I can of the professors I loved.

So I was surprised in my first job as a librarian to find out that I quickly began to recognize the library regulars (or as I like to call them the library groupies).  First we made eye contact. Later we would exchange greetings.  After a while many would start stopping by to chat on their way to and from studying.  Often I found the best part of my day was talking with the regulars and often our conversations would lead to ways that I could help them with their academic questions, but also a wide variety of other issues.

So it is May again, I’m finishing up my second year as the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Milligan College.  A job that I love.  This year there is a long list of library groupies and some great student workers, who will be graduating.  I’ve very excited for them.  I think they are well prepared to face the challenges of this life, but I will miss them.  My daily interactions with them are just one of the reasons that it is a joy to come to work.  They have made me think. They have made me laugh. Fortunately, many groupies will be back next semester and a new batch of potential groupies will come in August.

In library school they did not teach me that I would have life changing relationships with my patrons, but it is the reason that I will continue to be a librarian and love it.