8 Things I Learned Behind the Circulation Desk

A few months ago, a childhood dream of mine came true (no, not that one about working the soft serve machine at McDonalds): I was hired at a library. I was—and still am—elated to get paid to nerd out and be a part of the behind-the-scenes processes at my local library. What I didn’t know is there is so much about libraries that I wasn’t aware of. Here are eight funny and unexpected things I have learned behind the circulation desk so far.

 1. Strange things are often found inside returned books.

People have somehow not grasped the fact that while library books can be transportive, they are not meant to be vehicles for transporting their belongings. (The newspaper clipping from the 1940s was a cool find, but the human hair was not.)

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2. There is no reading behind the desk.

As a wonderful place of community for the town residents, there is almost always something going on at the library. There really is no time—or need—to read when working because there is such fulfilling work to be done, whether by helping a 5th grader locate a book they’re excited about or learning how to prep new books so they can get into the hands of the patrons as soon as possible.

3. I get paid to do a daily scavenger hunt.

Okay, so exploring the stacks in order to figure out from where to pull holds isn’t an official scavenger hunt, but it felt like a beautiful, book-filled one to me as I became familiar with where to find the YA graphic novels during my first two weeks.

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4. DVD cleaning machines are magic.

No one likes watching a movie and getting to the intense part when he’s finally going to admit she was right and perfect and beautiful all along when—freeze—the DVD hits a scratch and refuses to budge. Instead of leaving the DVDs scratched or painstakingly washing each individual disc by hand, my library has a DVD cleaning machine that makes everyone’s life better.

5. Library resources span more than books and movies.

As a girl whose library card has seen more action than Jason Bourne, I thought I knew this. Clearly not, because I quickly learned that Kindles, adult yoga classes, and cake pans are all available to those who have library cards in my state.

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6. Shelving children’s illustrated books is the hardest.

They’re cute, colorful, unique, fascinating, distracting…and that is why they’re so hard to shelve. I’m always tempted to just sit down in one of the bean bag chairs and read each book before putting it away.

7. My TBR list always has room to grow.

You thought your to-be-read list was long? Try helping the children’s librarian process new materials, checking in and checking out books constantly, plus hearing recommendations from both coworkers and patrons. At this rate, I’ll catch up on all the reading in time for retirement.

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8. Library workers have both humor and patience.

There are many incredible and curious patrons who come to the library. The demographic for the library at which I work is mostly made up of excited young families and friendly, talkative elderly folks. Unsurprisingly, this means that I have become rather skilled in not laughing out loud when I overhear children ask their parents extremely honest questions. I am also pretty decent at explaining how to print from the computers.

I have no doubt there is still much for me to learn about libraries and the incredible places they are. What’s one of your favorite parts of having a library card? (And if you don’t have a card yet, you definitely should look into getting one as soon as possible.) If you want to become more involved at your local library, check out Why You Should Become a Library Volunteer.

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