I’m an almost-librarian (one semester to go!) and for the past 8 months I’ve been working as a student librarian—aka librarian-in-training—at a public library. It’s my first time working in a library and it’s been a really great learning experience. Like any customer or public service job, you never know what people are going to do. I have to say, though, that 99% of my work at the library so far has worked only to restore my faith in humanity. Here are some heart-warming and funny stories.
- One day I was helping a woman print and the machine was being grumpy (it wouldn’t accept her credit card, she went to get cash, then it wouldn’t accept her twenty dollar bill and she had to go get change). Near the end she was obviously quite frustrated and was rude to me. A while later, she came up to the desk and sincerely apologized, explaining that she was really stressed because she had just lost her job. It was such a good reminder to be generous with people because you never know what is going on for them.
- That time I had to replace the copy of Lumberjanes on display in the kids section four times over the course of a 5 hour shift because kids kept checking them out. Feminist books for the win!
- I was helping a kid about seven find the book he was looking for, and we walked down an aisle where someone had left a bunch of books on the floor. He saw them and said, very seriously, “Ugh. Some people just don’t respect the library like they should,” and proceeded to help me pick them all up.
- I answered the phone one day to a frantic person who had just found out their exam the next day was open book and needed an older copy of the local building code. Because the book wasn’t the most recent, it took me a while to track it down in storage. The person was ecstatic and so grateful when I called back and said we would let them check out the book even though it was normally only a reference book that didn’t leave the library.
- The look of pure joy on a kid’s face when I emerged from the back room with the copy of the latest Raina Telgemeier graphic novel that had just been returned.
- One afternoon in the kids section, a kid about six came right behind the desk, and looked me in the eye, asking “What are you doing here?” I responded with “I work here. What are you doing here?” The kid’s response was a big smile. When I asked if I could help them find something, they said “No thank you” and walked away.
- The dad reading Sherman Alexie’s picture book Thunder Boy Jr so loudly and enthusiastically to his son that other kids started to gravitate towards them.
- I once spent about a half an hour with an elderly woman with impaired vision. She came right behind the desk and sat in the empty chair for the other librarian and presented me with her iPad, saying she needed help getting some audiobooks. So I read through descriptions of ones I thought might appeal to her after she told about other ones that she’d enjoyed and downloaded a bunch for her. She enthusiastically thanked me for helping her prepare to be snowed in over the weekend. The few times someone else came to ask for help while she was sitting there, she always graciously told me to go ahead and help them because she didn’t mind waiting.
- I was walking a young guy through the process of printing some forms he needed in order re-take an entry exam to a trades program. He ended up telling me all about not passing the test the first time and how frustrating it was and why he really wanted to do this program, etc. He then seemed to realize he had just basically started venting, so he stopped and said “Uh, thanks for listening.”
- This interaction with a kid about eight, who asked very business-like: “Are you new here?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty new, and I don’t usually work on Wednesdays.”
“I knew it! I’m in here like every day, and I haven’t seen you before.”