Friday, June 29, 2012

Working at a Library Is Not Always Fun and Games

In my first semester of library school, a professor warned me not to work at a public library. I assume it was because of the lack of political and economic support that public libraries have been getting and the fallout from that: the closing of libraries, the cutting of library hours, and the firing (and not rehiring) of librarians. The professor may have also been thinking of the social ills that are increasingly finding their way inside library walls - such as homelessness, mental illness, physical and sexual abuse, and vandalism - and the stress that comes from dealing with such issues on a daily basis if you're a public librarian.

If only all public library patrons were as cute and well behaved as this young reader. 
One public librarian recently confided to BuzzFeed that "there's nothing library school could truly do to prepare you for all the surprises that happen during a normal day at the library." She then recounted some of her run-ins with the "creeps, crazies, and husband beaters" during her four years at the library. For instance, she sometimes had "to ask people to leave the library. One night it was getting really close to closing time, and this woman who had been hanging around for a long time not doing anything suddenly turned to me, pointed at a man, and said, 'He hit me.' It was obvious that he hadn't actually hit her. She was being aggressive, and I had to call the police. It probably took them seven or eight minutes to get there, but it felt like an eternity." 

I sympathize with her, but you will encounter disturbed and difficult people in any position where you deal with the public, whether it's at the grocery store, the ticket counter, or the public library. Having worked with the public, I admit that it can be challenging and even upsetting at times. However, each surreal incident makes you better equipped to deal the next time, and it makes for a great story to tell later. Still, when you're in the midst of things, it's definitely not fun.

"Ultimately," the anonymous librarian told BuzzFeed, "I stopped working at the library because I wasn't happy there. I didn't like being on edge all the time, not knowing if someone who causes problems was going to come in, or if someone was going to have some kind of outburst. I still think libraries are fantastic and librarians are amazing." I think libraries are fantastic and librarians are amazing, too - after all, I'm working toward becoming one. Still, I might heed my professor's warning to steer clear of the public library.

To read the BuzzFeed article "Career Confidential: A Librarian Deals with Creeps, Crazies, and Husband-Beaters," go HERE.

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