Posted by: bluesyemre | December 25, 2018

An incomplete list of the #non-book things you can get at the #library by #KristenArnett




Most of my time at the circulation desk is spent telling people what kind of things they can’t get at the library. When you work the front desk, you get myriad questions from a multitude of patrons asking for nonsensical things. I mean, I’ve had people ask me for vitamins, lottery tickets, and a sample of my perfume. Someone asked me for instant oatmeal. Can I have a bite of your donut, Miss Kristen (absolutely not). Could I borrow printer ink? A ream of paper? Fourteen packs of yellow post it notes (yellow only). There was a day when a man asked three different times for my toothbrush and I finally had to ask him to leave the premises.

No, sir, you cannot have my toothbrush. No, not even if it’s for a science experiment. No, I’m not trying to stand in the way of progress, I just don’t feel cool giving you something that goes in my mouth. Yes, I understand I am the actual worst and I will absolutely go fuck myself. Okay buddy, have a nice day!

I do not take any of this personally (unless they’re asking for my used chewing gum, please stop doing this, okay). And in a weird way, it kinda makes sense that patrons would come up and ask me for all matter of ephemera. After all, aren’t we the people that answer the hard questions? Isn’t the library the place you come when you need help with anything and everything? We should be the people to ask when you’re looking for something obscure. Librarians SHOULD be the ones you call when you’re desperate and you need help fast.

What that means in terms of librarianship is that we have gotta completely reassess what it is that we’re providing the public. Programming? Sure. Up-to-date electronic resources? Yep! Board books that aren’t full of baby teeth marks? Absolutely! But it also means redefining what it is that patrons can check out. By update the collection, I mean reinvent it entirely.

A very cool thing that’s been happening in the wide world of libraries is that we’re expanding everything we might house and catalog. Sure, we still have printed materials like books and periodicals, and yeah, we still got all those DVDs kids love to scratch up and rub their sticky jam-hands all over, but we’ve also got a variety of other items engineered to help you make the most of your life and of your community space.

What do I mean by that, exactly?

Well, for example, you can now check out “event” clothes (i.e. stuff for job interviews, graduations, proms, etc etc etc) from the NYPL. Why is this something people would even want? Easy—because it means that people who don’t have ready access to this outrageously overpriced stuff can borrow them and return them when they’re done, free of charge! The goal is to provide ready access to things that people in the community might need. Do people in the community need stuff for job interviews? Hell yes, they absolutely do.

Libraries aren’t only checking out clothes. We’re cataloging gardening materials like seed packets and spades, then there are laptops, phone chargers, reading glasses, musical instruments (electric guitars, clarinets, flute, even the goddamn triangle), digital cameras and professional grade film equipment, bicycles and scooters and skateboards, puzzles, board games, and even cooking supplies (someone please bake me a cake, I’m begging you). One library I worked at started offering up reading lamps for three-day checkout so that patrons could use them outside at night. These are meaningful additions to the collection that people actually use!

This has also meant that there are more items available for kids and for teenagers, our most at-risk populations. There are toys and dolls, textbooks, homework supplies, pens and pencils, rulers, calculators, and craft kits. Some libraries are even offering museum and art gallery access to their patrons. The library should always be a space for people to come inside, learn, and grow. Librarians are feeding growing needs. It means we’re always on the lookout for what the community would benefit from the most. Is it a new database? Okay. Is it a selection of blankets to keep you warm in the frigid study rooms? That’s cool, too.

Last year, American Libraries even posted a fun and handy map that locates “the library of things,” an interactive collective of interesting items that each state offers to their community patrons. It’s wonderful to see all the ways that libraries are working to better build up their patrons, subsequently building up their communities.

It’s like I’ve said here a million times: the point of a library is to be a place for the people. Serving the public doesn’t just necessarily mean feeding their minds. It means taking care of each other, having empathy, and knowing that sometimes a suit coat is gonna be crucial for a person who needs to ace an interview. We are here to serve the public. And if that means you wanna checkout a toothbrush, we are gonna make those readily available to you.

Just not mine, okay?

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