3 Things to Know Before You Work in a Public Library




1. Library service IS customer service: This means you will be required to interact with people and assist them. Yes – there will be rude patrons, crazy questions, and the occasional bodily fluid that needs cleaned up; that’s part of customer service. If you think you are above  any of those tasks, find a different career path. Don’t think that just because you’re a cataloger or IT specialist, you’ll be able to hide out in an office and squeak by without ever dealing with patrons. Not happening, buck-o. At most public libraries, every single employee will have to help a patron at some point in time.

2. Public libraries are for the public: This might seem a bit obvious, but judging by conversations with colleagues and social media posts that I’ve seen, it needs to be stated. The public includes: homeless and poor people, LGBTQ people, all races, conservatives, liberals, people of all shapes and sizes, all ages, all genders, etc… If you have any kind of prejudice that will impede you from giving each person that walks through library doors the same quality of service, then a public library is not the workplace for you. The public library should be the great equalizer and that can’t happen if there are bigoted people on staff. You don’t have to agree with everything a patron believes or does, but you can’t let it affect how you treat them.

3. Libraries are more than books: I once took a call from a grandmother who wanted to know about the process of becoming a librarian. She said her granddaughter hates computers and was looking for a career that didn’t involve them. I told her to keep looking. Technology is involved with most aspects of library service and many public libraries are offering more and more digital services: ebooks, streaming, databases, etc… In order to provide good customer service (see #1), you need to know what these services are and the basics of how to use them. Libraries also offer programs that range from coding classes and crafts to lap-sits for babies. If you want to work in a public library, you need to think outside the book.


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