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I may have mentioned in a previous post that I work at a library (and have, professionally, for over fourteen years, but had worked as a college/high school student at libraries for some seven years prior to that . . . so something like 21 years of my life so far?). Something that I have often found interesting, and perhaps a bit funny, is how, often, when I mention this fact to a new acquaintance or somebody who does not know me particularly well, I will often receive a variation of a response that goes something like "Oh, you must love to read?"
Well, yes, I do in fact rather enjoy reading, but really that is independent of my work at libraries. First off, I developed my love of reading long before I began any work at a library. Secondly, over the past four years of library work, I have only peripherally worked with books or periodicals or other circulating reading materials. My current position holds the lofty sounding - albeit far less lofty being - title of Digital Literacy Coordinator. Prior to that I was a Staff Development Specialist and before that I was a Tech Center Library Assistant. All and all I have worked much more with computers and digital mediums rather than reading material. And while my current role contains the word "literacy" the focus is largely on the "digital" part and less about the ability to read (beyond the general fact that being illiterate would make using computers or digital technology pretty damn hard if not impossible).
It is probably pretty reasonable, considering the history of libraries and the predominant continuing function, to assume that most folks who work in such an institution enjoy the act of reading, but it is not a prerequisite, to the best of my knowledge. An inverse of the comment I receive can be found when I have served on an interview panel and the interviewee feels obligated to inform us that they love books. Which is great, libraries do indeed have a lot of them, but that love is not really determinate of whether or not you'll be a good fit for the work you are applying for.
Part of this is that libraries are absolutely associated with books and reading and for the common person who has never worked for a library, books and reading are likely to be one of the main engagements with a library. However, a lot of different work goes on behind the scenes that is missed by the public. Libraries, like other places of work employ accountants, HR specialists, IT professionals, web developers, operation managers, and all sorts of other jobs. Work in acquisitions and cataloging might interact with books, but it is decidedly not in a reading context. Reference work may help find books on a variety of subjects, but again, this is not generally focused on literacy. In fact, often, youth services staff are the library employees who engage most actively with the activity of reading, as childhood literacy is a common aspect of that work. Increasing a lot of library work focuses significantly on digital spaces, access to and understanding of them.
I take no offence from the suggestion that I "must love to read," because, again, it is true. I do in general try to broaden a bit of the understanding of what working at a library entails, mostly in hopes that it will broaden the potential in which a person may choose to interact with the institution. Libraries have changed a lot over the past few decades and will continue to change. As organizations we have not always done the best of informing our public and users how we are changing and what that means of the services we provide, so the opportunity to discuss it further is a welcome one.
Haha that kind of questions are annoying... but I don't think it's necessarily because of you or your job, a lot of people ask that kind of filler (and usually rather pointless) questions just to say something. Or so I think, I have never really felt the need to do it.
I never realised how many associated jobs are available in Libraries. People, including me think that it’s all about the Front Desk staff and the Librarians. This post really made me to appreciate our libraries even more. Thank you.
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