When my local library installed the self-check-out machines, one person said to a librarian, “I guess you’ll be out of a job” which involves a line of thought akin to “We don’t need farms, because we just go to the grocery store and buy what we want.” Do people think these items magically appear on the shelves and in the computer lists of available merchandise? Or don’t they think about how anything gets to the library or supermarket by first being made (grown), then shipped, and then placed on display?
Most people do realize our libraries fall into the “It takes a village” category. There are librarians, library technicians, library aides, library clerks, library directors, and library assistants. Others within these walls with an abundance of books, newspapers, magazines, DVDs, audiobooks, and so many other resources include janitors, volunteers, archivists, and media specialists.
The traditional concept of a library consisting of books and other paper records has been redefined to include advanced electronic resources (e.g., the internet and a large selection of other items including online databases, online journals, Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs), and other computer-based electronic networks). Librarians are adept at finding information from a wide range of sources for both business and personal patrons. To achieve this, they possess knowledge of a wide range of scholarly and public information sources while following the upcoming trends to equip the library with appropriate materials.
Library technicians have duties that will vary depending on the size of their library; smaller libraries require more of their technicians than larger facilities. Generally, they order and organize materials, assist in the lending process, oversee the reshelving of returned items, and often teach patrons how to use resources. Library assistants who may also be known as library clerks, technical assistants, and circulation assistants, are supervised by librarians and library technicians. Their duties involve checking in and checking out library materials along with returning objects to the appropriate locations (often shelves). Assistants will also be expected to answer phones, organize files, and provide other clerical assistance.
Many libraries also employ Public Relations Specialists who publicize the speakers, reading sessions, new enhancements, and other projects of interest to the community. They can create in-house promotional materials like flyers and newsletters while also issuing press releases to local newspapers and broadcasters. They may also interact with community organizations and schools to promote joint efforts.
Often libraries will employ an Administrative Services Manager to oversee the mail, plan budgets, and take care of the employee’s necessary supplies. Computer Support Specialists provide computer support to the staff and help to solve problems, install software and hardware, and maintain the library’s computer equipment.
Janitors and cleaning personnel keep the premises looking well maintained and clean so everyone can enjoy a sparkling setting when working or spending leisure time at the library.
I will confess I secured a part-time job working in the school library when I was in high school, and it was fun. Mainly I loved it because as soon as I finished shelving the books, I would grab anything that interested me and sit in the back of the stacks and read. I doubt any of the professionals do that, but I’m sure they see a book and look it over to decide if they want to read it.
Remember, libraries are more than books, and it takes a talented staff of many workers to keep it running efficiently. I always say “thank you” to whomever I see working when I visit the library and I hope you do, too!
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