Archive for November, 2006

Going Back to the Beginning…My First Library Job

November 5, 2006

Today I was engaging in the continuous process of updating my CV in order to prepare for the quickly-approaching kickoff of my beginning to apply for my first job as a law librarian.  At the end of my Experience section is the first job of any kind that I ever held in a library – Library Page at the Ewell Free Library in Alden, New York.  That library is one of the smaller branches within the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system – when it was fully staffed, there was one librarian, one clerk, and one page on duty.  I started working there when I was sixteen, and stayed in the position for two years.  When I began my job, the library still used “date due” cards instead of printing receipts for the patrons, we had a physical card catalog instead of an OPAC, and the books didn’t have barcodes on them until just before I stopped working there.  Oh, how things have changed!

The library’s small size was actually a great asset for me, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  Because of the limited number of staff available to assist the patrons, I was able to spend a lot of time at the front desk interacting with all types of people about all kinds of issues.  Looking back, I can see how much I really learned that is also applicable to being an effective librarian: patience (having to explain to young children that I would let them have their books back, but I needed to check them out first…anything dealing with children taught me patience, actually 🙂 ), resolving problems ranging from the amount of fines a patron had (it still amazes me how irate people can get over a quarter) to helping them understand how the card catalog was organized, dealing with “difficult” patrons (the “tween” generation comes to mind here…no concept of volume control…but there were also patrons with mental impairments that I was able to help effectively), and an informal introduction to the art of the reference interview.

Another great general perk of being a page is the strong knowledge you get of the scope of the library’s collection through shelving materials and doing shelf-reading.  I can remember several instances of patrons being sent to ask me if we had item X, Y, or Z because the other staff knew that I had probably shelved it, or that I might have at least seen it while I was in the stacks.  I was able to put my knowledge to use whenever I was assigned a project in school – I knew right away if the library had anything that would be useful, and if not, I was able to request materials quickly enough so that they would arrive in plenty of time for me to complete the assignment.  (I was also able to store the names of many authors and their works in my brain in preparation for hopefully appearing on Jeopardy! at some time in the future.)

My first library job was one more push for me to choose librarianship as my career.  From early childhood, I had always loved libraries, but I only knew them from a patron’s point of view.  Working as a page gave me a taste of what it was like on the other side of the desk, and made me want to learn more.  I hope that the people who are currently working as pages at the Ewell Free Library are enjoying the experience as much as I did.