The final weeks before school begins almost seem a bit surreal. Those involved with the schools are enjoying the last days before the bells begin to ring on the various campuses and institutions. Places like the library are wrapping up their summer reading logs, and we notice a shift in the population using the library. And educators are mentally preparing their classrooms, their schedules and watching a shift in their lives.
The library staff members meet monthly to try to keep everyone informed about changes, problems and other issues that need discussed and communicated to all. This time of year, we are all a bit punchy, as summer months create very high levels of activity, and we are all a bit more tired. But the joy of seeing new and long-standing patrons excited about their books and reading materials, building lifelong learners, and helping those who need just a little more assistance keeps us all happy and feeling blessed for the community we are working in.
This doesn’t mean we don’t ever make mistakes. One of the reasons we meet regularly is to continuously try to improve our service, learn new skills and be more capable of assisting our public. At our last staff meeting, we discussed the difficulty of helping at times. With so much information at our fingertips, it seems impossible that we can’t find the answers to all questions…but we can’t.
Probably the most difficult is how to help people “find” other people. Telephone books don’t include cell numbers and more people use cell phones today than land lines. Databases that used to help are now mostly fee paid per use. The more the information seems to be out there, the more elusive it has become. We know we can’t just hand people telephone books anymore to help them locate the long-lost.
We try to be pleasant at all times, but we all have off days. We all make mistakes, but librarians tend to take it a bit more personally. We don’t all handle things the same way, some have more skills than others, some are more diplomatic, some more friendly, some are easily frustrated, some have incredible patience. We don’t live in a perfect world, nor do we have perfect days, and as great as I think our staff is, we don’t have a perfect staff. (But it’s a darn good one!)
When things change, whether it is the technology we have in our pockets, or the computers at the library, some think we have an inside track to the answers. Most of the time, we have to stop and figure out what changed, no one warns or trains us. And we do our best to troubleshoot problems, find alternative ways to resolve the issue, and hopefully teach the patron we are trying to help. For all the different software, devices and apps that are out there, there is not a single source of training to “fix” the many problems that arise.
While we don’t have all the answers, we do have staff willing to try to help. And sometimes that help means we have to study the situation, try a few things, and then just guess…hoping something will work.
This is the one job skill that is hard to teach, and it’s what makes libraries still relevant. We try hard to find solutions, to find information, to qualify answers, to find resources. We can’t always do it. When that happens we are discouraged, as this is our job. But we want our community to know that we are doing our best, we do care about the needs of our very young and our very old, and everyone in-between. We wish it wasn’t getting more complicated all the time. But we are here to help the best we can, and hope everyone understands that we can be stumped, we get frustrated also, and that is when we have to take a leap of faith.
It’s a strange world today. Hopefully together we can cope with the changes in store for us next.