5 Ways To Love Your Local Librarian
Libraries have always been magical places for me, and over my past ten years as a kindergarten and first grade teacher, I’ve always viewed the school library as a sacred place. When the chance to work as a librarian (at the elementary school that has housed me for almost a decade!) arose, I uncharacteristically let administration know that I would do anything to get the spot. With a little luck and a lot of library magic, the job became mine. Now I have the strange privilege of working with former students and longtime colleagues, most of whom know about my love of books and all things literary, and I’m often asked how I’m handling the change. Is it the dream I hoped for? Is it even what I expected?
Mostly, yes. Building a collection, inviting in speakers, and introducing students to books and research skills is the most amazing way to spend my days. I often pinch myself when I get the rush that comes with finding the perfect series that makes a student’s eyes light up. It’s hard but rewarding work. If anything, I just wish that people would use me more. I get that a lot of reluctance comes from wanting to seem capable, or perhaps even an aversion to burdening the librarian, but helping people is literally what we’re here for!
In honor of National Library Week, I want to share some ways you can love on your local librarian. A good deal of these suggestions require you to take advantage of us, and even though I’m writing from the perspective of the school library, I think many of these would apply to your community institutions, as well. The library is one of the last places around where you can get something for free, and the more you use us, the better shape we’re in!
- Ask for book recommendations. One of the most widely understood jobs of a librarian is to connect people with books. Readers’ Advisory is the fancy title for this act, which involves having surface knowledge of many genres and knowing probing questions to help a library patron narrow down what they’re looking for. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to put into words the kind of thing you might like, but librarians are used to this awkwardness and are ready to wade through the mess with you, hoping to come out with a perfect match on the other side. Be ready to answer questions about recent reads and things you can’t stand, and remember—the more conversations you have, the easier it will be for your librarian to locate a good read.
- Check things out. This might seem obvious, but checking things out of the library is a huge help to the librarians in your life. First of all, circulation data about things that are checked out helps librarians see which books deserve a spot on the shelves, and help us show The Powers That Be that our services are being used. Secondly, the circulation desk is often the place where we have the biggest connection with our patrons. When I can’t get to every student in a library session, a two-sentence exchange about their latest book during checkout time helps me CHECK IN with books that are popular at different grade levels as well as my student readers individually.
- Leave the re-shelving to the library staff. It’s such a powerful urge—to return things where you found them. Unfortunately, with library books, getting it right can be a (rather archaic) art, and if books are shelved in the wrong place, it’s a whole other kind of headache for the library staff who will have to hunt them down in the vast wilderness of the stacks. Even if you feel like you’re adding to the work pile, you’re saving us a load of trouble by letting us put the books in their proper place!
- Request resources often. One of my favorite things is when a teacher comes to me with a vague request—resources on a broad subject, or fiction books that are somewhat the same as a specific classic. Getting to scan the catalog and riffle through my own mental filing cabinet is a special kind of library thrill. Knowing that the collection I’m developing is directly affecting classroom instruction is another level of excitement in and of itself. Especially in this first year on the job, I keep careful records of the different kinds of requests that come in on a calendar, so that I know what things are needed by which grade level at which point in the year. These records will be a major factor in my purchasing, so even if you’re a library whiz and can look for resources on your own, make sure to ask for what you can’t find—your question might be the key to getting something in the library!
- Shout out to your librarian. This last one is fully optional, but nothing makes a librarian’s heart sing like a little shout out appreciating their hard work. As I’ve moved through this first year, comments from teachers and students about things that are working for them or aspects of the Media Center that they appreciate have been gold, simultaneously lifting my mood and informing my work as I move forward. Last week on National School Librarian’s Day, a 5th grade student made a graphic with my school picture, thanking “the brilliant book buddy,” and several students tweeted testimonials from the school’s account with specific things they appreciate about me as a librarian. Reader, I cried. A little handwritten note, a tweet or Insta comment, a kind word while you’re headed out the book with your loot—it’s all treasure to your local hard-working librarian.
While some of these are more specific to certain settings than others, hopefully you’ve found an idea or two that will help you spread some love to a library near you. If you’re looking for even more great ideas, check out this article about supporting libraries during National Library Week and beyond! Not sure if something I’ve mentioned will work for your specific librarian? Do what all of us professional answer-finders hope you’ll do, and ask!