Friday, February 14, 2014

Things they don't teach you in library school

So you guys know that I finished my Masters in library stuff last year. Over the past few months of working and volunteering, it's occurred to me that there's a bunch of stuff that my Masters didn't prepare me for but probably should have. As well as a bunch of stuff that was COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS INFORMATION AND GENERALLY A WASTE OF MY TIME. But let's focus mostly on the former, shall we?

Things I Wish They'd Taught Me In Library School

1. How to contact books. 
So. Much. Contact.
When you're at the start of a roll of contact, it's pretty straightforward. (You know, unless you suck at contacting things and get bubbles everywhere) But when you're getting towards the end and all the contact wants to do is roll up on itself? It's a bitch and a half. Today, I had to use four pairs of scissors to weight down the corners. And a fifth pair to actually cut it. There should really be an entire subject on how to wrangle that stuff.

2. How to not squeal like an excited six year old when you come across a book that you loved as a kid and had forgotten about.
Last week's examples of this? The Bugalug's Bum Thief, aka the only Tim Winton book I've ever liked. Pagan In Exile, aka the book that contains my favourite blasphemous curse ("Christ in a cream cheese sauce!"). Come Over To My House, which is sadly out of print now, probably because it straddles a fine line between YAY DIFFERENT CULTURES and extreme cultural insensitivity...

3. There may be cockroaches.
Look, there may be cockroaches ANYWHERE, really. But when you're in a building populated by small children who like to drop crumbs and that's full of dark crevices? You will encounter them more than you would like.

4. How to not scream about said cockroaches in front of a room full of prep kids.
File under: things that would have been really handy last year when a huge cockroach fell out of a picture book and onto my foot.

5. You will always feel dusty.
Go look at your bookshelf. See how dusty the books are (even if you read/dust them regularly)? Multiply your book collection by several hundred and you'll start to understand. Always carry hand cream.

6. You WILL giggle hysterically while reshelving because some books have awful covers. 
I question your definition of "great"

Her heart says "yes", her eyes say "murder"

Friendship and demonic possession

7. The system will only freeze/play up when you have a queue of 25 six year olds staring at you expectantly with piles of books in their hands. 
True story.

8. You won't need to know how to MARC code.
Okay, sure, if you get a job as a cataloguer, MARC coding might be a handy skill to have. But for the vast majority of us, you can just go ahead and copy catalogue that shit. And if worst comes to worst, Google what 245 |a means.

9. Knowing your collection is more important than knowing Dewey numbers.
People are going to come in and say "Do you have any books about [for example] dragons?". Saying "Probably. Go check 398.2454 and see what you find!" isn't nearly as helpful as "Are you looking for fiction or non-fiction? If it's the former, we have Harry Potter, Eragon, the Temeraire series or The Hobbit. If it's the latter, we've got books on dragons in western culture, in Chinese culture, in Meso-American culture (though strictly speaking those are feathered serpents), in art, in literature, and in Dungeons & Dragons. Where would you like to start?"

That said, the Dewey Decimal Rap is pretty great:

10. Your patrons will crack you up more than you expect.
My favourite is still the kid who said to his friend "You know, pee is 90% water and 10% malaria", but the kid today who yelled "LET HER EAT HER APPLE IN PEACE!" at her friends who were watching me through the library window was equally hilarious.

Plus, on my first day? I discovered that a kid had shoved a book about the five senses ("Feeling with the fingers") in the puberty section. Said title took on a WHOLE different meaning.

Patrons totally make the dust and the cockroaches and the mysteriously sticky books worth it.

What elements of your job did university not prepare you for?

K xx


  1. UM.... EVERYTHING. Granted- in youth ministry there are a lot of things that we talk about with different situations, but you'll never actually be prepared. (Ex. In class you now you'll probably eventually deal with people who have drug issues and such and think you're ready - YOU'RE NEVER READY.) But there were other things too like what to do when a teenager starts to strangler herself while on the way home from Florida in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm in Arkansas. (True story. Most terrifying night of my life.) But with day-to-day things, fundraising and handling the money. We had like one or two class periods on that - THAT'S IT. WTF? So much of my job was organizing fundraisers and getting the youth accounts settled and I had no clue what I was doing.


  3. I hear you. We had TWO CLASSES on budgeting, and even then, it was basically "They'll show you what to do because every workplace is different and uses different systems." Right, and knowing the basics wouldn't be at ALL helpful...

  4. Obvs. Especially the hilarious supermarket tabloid ones.

  5. I love this whole list. Also, thank you for warning me about the cockroaches because no. No, I could never do library stuff. Lastly, I quit school, so that probably prepared me to be a quitter really, really well.

  6. One crawled on me on Friday. I'm still impressed that I managed not to scream...


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