You’re in the library nervously twirling your pencil around while crunching for that big math test you have first thing tomorrow morning. Suddenly it slips out of your clammy fingers. The pencil falls to the table making a slight thud as it comes to contact with the hard surface. You gasp at the air around you. Heart skips several beats. A harsh hiss rips through your ear drums like a hot needle through cheese. You shift your gaze to the front counter where you find the elderly librarian staring you down through her thick rimmed glasses. Her right index finger is pressed her against her lips. You had just committed the ultimate sin.
We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the bitter old librarian. The men reading this may also be familiar with the sexy and horny one, too.
Outside of those two stereotypes most people don’t really have a firm grasp of what librarians actually do. They know that they work around books and that’s about it. Librarians are curious little creatures and that’s to say the least.
Over the course of my life as both a writer, a reader, a school student, and an employee for a major library books and services company, I’ve gotten to become familiar with the fascinating breed of human that is the librarian. In fact, I was a cataloging librarian for a bit, so I guess you could say that I fit into that breed as well. I like to think of myself as being slightly cooler, though.
Many of the librarians I’ve known do fit the bill of the traditional stereotype. I’ve known the grumpy ones that want their peace and quiet and I’ve also known the low key sexy ones. I’ve also gotten to know ones that will talk your ear off about the strangest subjects. Some have a college education and others don’t. There are those that are laid back, easy going and then there’s ones that walk around like they’ve got a stack of overdue library books shoved up their ass. Despite the varying shapes, sizes, and levels of attractiveness, they all had one thing in common: organization. Librarians thrive on organization.
As you may have guessed, it takes a special type of person to want to organize books for a living. There’s more to it than simply placing books on the shelves and telling people to quiet down. Many librarians have masters degrees. Yes, that’s a thing: Master of Library Science. There’s two years’ of schooling where they teach you nothing but how to organize books. These curious creatures take classes in the art and science of organizing literature. They learn about subject headings, the Dewey decimal system (yes, that’s still used in some remote areas of the world), call numbers, alternative titles, pagination, and numerous other subjects that are all compiled into a what’s called a machine readable record (MARC record).
Creating MARC records was what I did as a cataloging librarian. It’s essentially low level coding to create metadata of a book to be uploaded into a libraries database. Why is that important? Well, when you access a libraries database to try and locate that new James Patterson novel, those little files of data are what makes that possible.
When they aren’t organizing the shit out books, they’re busy figuring out what books to buy next. It’s not as simple as flipping through Amazon.com. They need to make sure that they are filling their shelves with books that will be read and not sit on the shelf collecting dust. There’s a very meticulous process to deciding what books to buy and what not to buy. Some books may fly off the shelves requiring that they buy 30 or more copies just to keep up with supply and demand and others that just a copy or 2 will do. They aren’t profiting from this either. They’re literally putting as much effort into selecting their merchandise as any of the major bookstore chains, only to just let people borrow the books for free. Now that’s what I call service.
Keeping with the theme of book chains, a library requires the same kind of management as any other business. We’re talking about budgeting, event planning, fundraising, and all that boring stuff that goes on behind the scenes that only a few curious minds get to see. Running a library or library department requires a ton of work, and guess what, the pay isn’t that great. On top of all that, they need to deal with a bunch of loud college students ignoring their pleas for silence.
Let us not forget the fact that libraries are very active with their community. In my experience, they’re naturally socialist beings that want to help the community through various programs. Most libraries hold adult literacy classes, book clubs, events for local authors, and numerous other programs each worthy of their own blog article. Most of these programs are free or cost very little and are worthy of looking into. Libraries typically have a calendar of programs on their website or Facebook page. Just make sure it’s their official website and not a sexy librarian fetish site.
Yes, librarians are awkward little introverted creatures and may ask us to keep our voices down from time to time, but they fulfill a service that many of us take for granted. The next time you go into a library, thank them for the hard work they put in day in and day out. Who knows, you may even find yourself immersed in conversation. Or they’ll hiss at you and tell you to quiet down.