Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ode to Libraries

I dreamed about the library again last night.  I was at the reference desk trying to answer questions, but everything was different and I couldn't find what I needed.  My former colleagues were there but they didn't pay much attention to me, didn't really care if I was there or not. I woke up and went through most of the day with a cloud of sadness over me.  It's been two months since I left my job and I am surprised at how much I still miss it. The dream made me stop and think about why I loved my job so much and can't seem to let it go and move on.  

To start with, I love the atmosphere of libraries - there is a feeling of quiet efficiency in the air that enables staff and patrons alike to work diligently and creatively.  And all around us is an abundance of entertaining and informational books and other media - old favorites and new interests mixed together - a true democratic institution. There is something for everyone and in the current economic climate this is especially important.  The last few months that I worked at the library we were busier than I remember us ever being in the previous 11 years.  Consumer health information, career guidance, financial advice, self-help materials, computers with internet, and, of course, free entertainment is available to anyone who comes through the doors.  And if someone needs help finding materials or information there is always a reference librarian to assist.  I loved working the reference desk, which is strange since I am an introvert and not always comfortable meeting new people.  But when I am behind the reference desk I have no problem dealing with the public. Maybe it is the "know it all" coming out in me, but I love helping people to find what they need or solve a problem, and I always made sure that my answer was never "no we don't have that" or "I can't help you."  If we didn't have something I either tried to get it from another source or looked for something else that might help the situation.  Too many times we encounter people in doctor's offices, government agencies, or businesses who seem to take satisfaction in informing us that they can't help us, and I always wanted to appear friendly and helpful, never obstructive. Fortunately I worked with a group of people that felt the same way, which made all of our jobs so much easier. Where else can you go where the primary purpose of the staff is to help you and serve you, asking nothing in return (except a very small percentage of your taxes)?  

Which brings me to the real reason that I miss the library so much: the people I worked with.  The library had (still has, minus me) a kind and friendly staff who worked hard to meet the needs of the community and were a source of support and fun for each other. The library became the place in my life (besides home) where I was the most comfortable and confident - it became an important part of my identity, who I was and who I was striving to be.  So I guess that is really why I miss it so much - I left part of myself there and I feel a little lost without it.  I am job hunting and hopefully there is great job out there waiting for me that will replace some of what I lost. I know I will be better equipped to handle it because of the people I worked with and the experiences I had at the Upper St. Clair Township Library.


  1. I believe you just captured why so many of us entered the profession in the first place. The love of people and the role of the library in the community; its power. : )Good luck job hunting!

  2. You are a wonderful writer. I was so glad you were able to participate and added your comments to the mix. You reminded me about a dream I once had about another place I worked. I left there when I was about to deliver my second son. He was born with a hearing problem, and I stayed home to work with him. I thought I was doing fine in my new world, till one night I dreamed I was talking to my old boss and I told him how much I missed being with adults. Until that moment I didn't realize how lonely I was on this life path. My son can hear and speak clearly now, I am in a job I truly enjoy and I still stand amazed at the power of dreams