February is Library Lovers Month and it is a time “for everyone, especially library support groups, to recognize the value of libraries and to work to assure that the Nation’s libraries will continue to serve.”
Being a librarian is not what makes me love libraries, loving libraries and all they offer is what made me become a librarian. Since my first library card as preschooler to present, I have been hooked on libraries!
No, many libraries are not the quiet places of yesteryear, we are the community’s living room. We are full of your neighbors talking on their phones, kids gathering after school, toddlers babbling, tutoring, laptop users utilizing the wi-fi and people just hanging out!
Every day, we issue new library cards and if we are lucky have one minute of a patron’s attention to rattle through library services and features. Libraries are so much more than a collection books, CDs, DVDs or software to checkout, a source of answers or computers to use.
We introduce patrons to the library catalog, which we know for older people is not the card catalog and for younger ones, it is not Google. The catalog is its own awesome thing that can accessed both in the library and from any Internet-enabled computer. From within most catalogs, one can request materials from other locations in the library system, renew materials and check fine amounts.
We teach patrons that whether it is Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress, a call number is the key to finding an item [love this Party Girl clip].
We instruct patrons on how to use databases so they can access Consumer Reports, journal articles, literary criticisms and auto repair manuals. Some times, we even provide the password so you can access them from home (and if we slip you our phone number, don’t get too excited, it is just because we know you are going to call us to walk you through your search strategy).
Systems like the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County produce RSS feeds for news, employment and new items. At the same time I am catching up on blogs, I am placing new items on hold/request for pick at my favorite branch. It is like shopping online, without the payment.
Public libraries are using Twitter to share news and events information. Almost all public libraries offer book group, programs and events from baby to older adult. At least four of the five libraries in the Cincinnati area and Northern Kentucky offer Wii for Seniors.
With people experiencing job loss, we have not only seen an uptick in circulation but computer usage. Though we offer scheduled computer classes, every day there is demand for librarians to provide one-on-one computer assistance. All we take for granted because we know how to ctrl+alt+delete, find a web site, write an email or post on Twitter is foreign to many of the patrons we meet each day. We introduce them to Word because last time they typed a resume, it was on a typewriter. We walk them through signing up for a free, web-based email account and remind it is their responsibility to remember their password (not ours nor do we want to know it!). We help retirees understand that even for a job as a cashier or bagger, they will have to fill out an online application.
So while we may let a machine checkout your materials, it is so we can focus on doing so much more. As a library user turned Librarian, libraries are worth every penny just use Value of Library Service Calculator developed by Massachusetts Library Association to see.
If you are a library employee, toot your horn in the comments about what your library offers that makes it unique and part of your community. If you are a library user, leave me a comment about what you love about your library or how much value are you getting from your library. If you are not a library user, make plans to visit yours soon and find out what you have been missing!
Visit Hooked on Houses to see what others are hooked on.