It was my job…

Until a few weeks ago, it was my job to help anyone who walked up to this desk.

circulation desk with view of "Enduring Prairie" by Dale Merrill

“Enduring Prairie” (Dale Merrill)

It was my job to put new books on top of this shelf if someone checked out one of the display books and left an empty space…

picture books displayed on top of shelves…to put together these puzzles every Tuesday night during my closing shift…

wooden puzzles…to keep a close eye on tweens who thought this was for parkour when really it’s for preschoolers…

pre-k playscape…to lead them to this room when they wanted materials we didn’t keep in the children’s room…

teen room…and to run to these stacks to find books that were still checked out to patrons even though they’d returned them. (Check-in staff, get with the program!)

mystery, fiction, nonfiction stacksIt was my job to be in this gorgeous building early in the day, before the throng of students, authors, genealogists, job hunters, researchers, and leisure readers burst through the door the second it automatically unlocked.

view from circ to referenceIt was my job to contribute to the causes of early literacy, lifelong learning, and equal access to information for all our patrons. It was not my job to love it, but I did anyway. This was the only job I’ve ever had that I never dreaded. They paid me to do this…

2011 Make a Splash--READ

water pump with brick well & water drops for “Make a Splash–READ” 2011

…and this…

6.17.12 Dream Big READ

“night” scene (we had blue but not black) for “Dream Big–READ” 2012

…and this. The scene will be “filled in” over the course of the summer; see notes below.

garden scene

garden scene for “Dig Into Reading” 2013

For now it’s populated only with a bunny, a garden gnome, and some critters sleeping in burrows in honor of this year’s theme: Dig Into Reading.sleeping foxThose days are over for me now. Even though I sometimes felt like this I know I will miss even my most mundane duties in the library.


*The parkour video gives you a sort-of tour of where we’ve been living the past few years. All of the shots are on and around the University of Iowa campus.

*For the last three summers, I’ve created a paper mural for each Summer Reading Program. When kids in grades K-6 complete half of their reading activities for the summer, they get to put their name on a theme-appropriate shape (e.g. bricks & water drops for Make a Splash), then tape it into the scene anywhere they want. It was our way of reinforcing their work by rewarding them with “their name in lights” halfway through, and also a chance to check in, ask what they’re reading, and possibly get them excited about something new if they’re losing steam. SRP completion has been an issue in recent years.

*Librarian Problems is a website to which I’m sure all library staff can relate, but its sense of humor is hostile sometimes so I chose a safe one to show you. If you really want to know how be a good patron, though, explore some more to learn how to annoy librarians–so you can avoid annoying them, obviously.

$tuFf patrons say

You might be surprised to hear some of the things library employees deal with on a daily basis.  For example:

-The mom who wishes her son’s fine for a damaged book were $20 instead of $6.99 so he’d learn to keep his library materials away from the chihuahua.

-The patron who can’t return his lost book…because he’s in jail.

-The guardian who insists that her child be allowed to put his name on a full sign-up sheet for a program because “this is his last day here; he leaves for vacation tomorrow.”  (Well, maybe you should have come a few minutes early to sign up at the top of the list, yes?  Because I, who could desperately use a vacation about now, don’t feel a whole lot of sympathy for his plight.  Especially later.  The presenter never showed up so I had to tell all the signed up kids I was so sorry the program was canceled–and I really was sorry.  The would-be line-cutter gloated that he was pleased that if he couldn’t participate, at least now they couldn’t either.  Whaa…?  And you want special treatment?  Wow.)

-I could go on.  (And on…)

paper mural of tree and animals

Dream Big–READ! is 2012’s summer reading theme. When kids finish half of their activities they get to hang an owl, bat, or moth on the mural. Gradually I’m adding other shapes and animals for them to find and changing the “Night Spy” challenge: easy questions on one side (“Do you see a circle?”), harder questions on the other side (“Do you see an omnivore? What does it eat?”).

But sometimes patrons are just hilarious.  Especially the kids.  Take for example what happened the evening I had to “babysit” a young boy with limited computer experience.  He wanted to create an account to play an online game.

patrons at computers

The account set-up required basic personal information, all of which he labored to type.  Finally we got to the field requesting his birth date.  “Oh, that’s easy!” he exclaimed, while I leaned back a little and dropped my shoulders in relief because here, at last, was a step he seemed confident to complete unaided.

He entered the month and the day, then stared blankly.  “What year were you born?” I asked.

I dunno.”

“How old are you?”


“Okay, well, it’s 2012, so seven years ago when you were born it was 2005.”

He’d been pretty easygoing but at that point he turned defensive.  With a tone I don’t think I imagined was scolding, he declared, “Well, I was just a baby. I didn’t know.”  Touche, little man.

shiny silver star

Then there was the extremely eager ten-year-old volunteer who, given the prompt “Hobbies or Interests” on her volunteer application, circled the word “hobbies. ”

Storytime Room mural

{part of the gorgeous mural a local artist painted for the library}

And the six-year-old who didn’t want to sign up for summer reading because he had to sign up as a first grader (which he’ll be this fall) but still wants to identify as a kindergartener.  Finally he came back from his fit in the stacks (yes, really), sweetly saying to his mother, “Okay; I’ll try, Mama.”

I helped them complete the form.  Everything seemed even-keel.  But as they walked away I overheard the boy sternly proclaim, “But, Mom, this doesn’t mean I’m gonna read anything or do any study books!”

Just in case she was getting ideas….

Man, oh, man: the patrons.  They can drive me crazy, and yet….

invention diagram

Look above the “Young Woman” on the left. See the word “majic?” 
I love it that she included that in the diagram.