Do I Remember What it is Like to Go to the Library?

This coming fall (specifically September) will mark my sixth consecutive year holding some sort of employment in a library. In September 2003 I got a work study job at Lamson Library, at Plymouth State University, as a circulation employee.  I kept that job for all four of my undergraduate years.   Then, less then four months after my college graduation, I landed a job working for the Greenville County Library System, of whom I am still an employee.

Now, for some, six years isn’t a very long time (for example there are a few employees here at GCLS who have been working for the system for longer than I have been alive – it’s crazy), but for me, to have put in that long a period of loyalty to library work, strikes me as impressive.  Don’t get me wrong, I love libraries and in general most of the work I have done with them,  I just don’t think I ever imagined that I would devout such a chunk of my life to them.

And that is what has got me thinking.

You see, ever since I was a small child, I’ve always had a fascination and respect for libraries.  Growing up I used to love to get to go to the library and browse through the shelves, gathering arms full of books that had caught my interest.  At a couple of the local libraries that I used to go to regularly I could find my favorite books in seconds flat just by sheer memory and excessive repeated checkouts of the material.  In high school my love of libraries led me to volunteering several hours a month at our town library, specifically helping out in programs with kids (back in high school I worked for a number of children’s day camps and a YMCA Live Y’ers program).  So when I got my library job in college I was ecstatic.

But I think something has changed over the last six years.

What that change is is that I no longer think of myself as a library patron but instead as a library employee.  I don’t see my local library as a place to go to relax and find leisure nearly as much as I see it as a place of work and responsibility.  It isn’t that I have stopped using the library for leisure (as in checking out books and DVDs) or a place to get needed information, truth be told I take out a ton of books and look up information on the databases or ask reference questions to the Info Services staff all the time.  But I don’t think I think like a patron anymore; I think like a library employee.

When I checkout books or DVDs, I check them out to myself.  When I ask a reference question I am more than aware that I can probably find the answer myself without bothering some other staff (usually the only reason I go ask questions at the reference desk is because I am bored and like talking to the reference staff – just bein’ honest here).  I understand the inner workings of the library; why there are due dates and overdue fines, why you need a library card to get on the computers, why it is rude to talk loudly on a cell phone in the stacks, etc.

But I don’t think I remember that well what it is like to go to the library as just a patron, because I go to the library five days a week as an employee.

As such I find great enjoyment in visiting other libraries.  It has been one of the nice aspects of visiting the branch libraries, even if I am still working when I do so.  I’ve had the opportunity to go throughout the Clemson library a couple of times, though I’d love to spend a bit more time there.  In a few weeks I am going to be visiting some friends in Boston and hope to maybe get a chance to visit a library or two (my pal and former roommate Nate is finishing his Masters at BU, so I am hoping to convince him to show me some of the school’s libraries). 

In going to libraries outside of GCLS I can recall part of the wonder and excitement that can be found in a library visit.  I think of it as almost a choose your own adventure like opportunity.  So many wonderful books and pieces of information just waiting to be looked into.  Wondrous I tell you!

Okay, now I want to go wander the stacks for a bit.

~ by Nathaniel on April 17, 2009.

2 Responses to “Do I Remember What it is Like to Go to the Library?”

  1. If you’re ever in London, feel free to come to mine.

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