If there is one thing that can be said any day in the library, it’s that it’s probably not typical. The library is for everyone, so it follows that everyone comes to the library, bringing with them their enthusiasms and their myriad requests. We love ‘em all because our patrons are a true reflection of our community.
That said, there’s a little bit of the superhero in your local librarian.
It begins, not with a quick change in a phone booth, but with the invisible superhero cape every library worker dons at the start of the workday. I call it the pleasant-helpful-cheerful cape. Sometimes, it’s the problem-solving cape. Other times, it’s the useful-information cape. So much, all in one cape.
Once the cape is on, the computers come next. Behind the scenes, we need to get a multitude of machines up and running, so you can check your email or check out a book. That’s why, when you’re there with your nose pressed to the door glass at 9:58 a.m., you’ll see us all flapping about in our capes, getting things ready for you.
And then the doors are open! Here’s just a pulse of how the day might look:
10 a.m. Thirty people walk in right off the bat. Moms and dads and kids and strollers head downstairs for storytime; a half dozen go directly for the public computers; three want the wi-fi password; two head for the OPAC computers to look up library items; two more wait for personal help; a family of four new to town wants library cards; a fellow from Prince George wants a BC OneCard.
12 p.m. Three computer users need extra time; two computer users need help printing. Jean wants a book from another library, and we give her a lesson on how to request books herself. Jim wants to know why the books he put on hold an hour ago aren’t yet on the hold shelf (we collect hold requests once daily); we get his books from the shelves. The lineup at the desk is six deep, and the self-check station is on hold as we reboot.
2:00: The self-check is back, which is great because several patrons are happily checking out their items when a family with three homeschooling kids comes in wanting a library orientation. The two library workers on the circulation desk are busy with computer help requests, a phone call from a patron wanting help downloading e-Books, and another trying to find the book she heard about on CBC, but can’t remember the title. Luckily, the Children’s librarian downstairs has a moment for a tour, superhero cape a-flap.
3:00: There’s a brief lull in which the circulation staff madly checks in items, cleans and repairs CDs, calls folks about their holds or the DVD that wasn’t in the case, processes incoming interlibrary loans, and tries to catch up before the next onslaught.
Cheerfully, of course. Because when Mildred drops in from Mountain Lakes for a Large Print murder mystery and a chat, we’ll have a smile for her. She has, after all, been coming to the library for half a century.
The rest of the day? At any given moment: a vision impaired patron needs help selecting Daisy Readers and audiobooks; an Alberta visitor is looking for her great-grandfather’s obituary in the Nelson Daily News on microfilm; a landlord with a problem tenant wants a quick overview of Clicklaw online; a tenant with a problem landlord would rather access a book on the subject. And yet another patron wants to know if librarians really can leap tall buildings in a single bound, or if all this cape stuff is just for show.
All of the above with a brand new Integrated Library System trying our learning curves, but never affecting our smiles, or the merry flap of our capes. Typical? Not on your life.
What’s that — up in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s — you know.
Anne DeGrace’s library column is featured every second week in the Nelson Star