So how was your holiday?

Readers of this blog (yes, both of you) could be forgiven for thinking I’ve been on an extended holiday. It’s been a long time between posts. Usually at this time of year, I’m settling into a new semester, wondering why the school summer holiday always goes so fast. But this year there was no holiday for The Infobrarian …

A few weeks after my last blog post, I started a new job, as branch librarian at a new public library. Yes, public library! After more years than I’m willing to admit, I decided to leave the relatively cloistered life of school teaching and school libraries to join a real-world library. And I’m loving it! OK, so having no summer holiday came as a bit of a shock, but it’s been so busy – and so thoroughly engaging – that I really didn’t mind working right through December and January. We did get days off for Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year and of course Australia Day, but for the rest of the time, the new library was open Monday to Saturday.

As well as a shiny new library, we have lots of shiny new books, shiny new CDs and DVDs, and even iPads and eReaders (a bit of a trial run for our organisation). Best of all, I have a wonderful team to work with – half are new like me, and the others make up for our inexperience by being tried-and-proven public librarians. We have a Children and Youth Librarian, a Youth Services Officer, and 3 library officers. And me. After two months on the job I am feeling a little less of a liability, but it’s good to know the others are covering my back!

So I thought I’d revisit this blog and try to explain what it’s like being a branch librarian in a brand new library: challenging, daunting, rewarding, fulfilling, and above all, a lot of fun. And I have a few stories to tell – but all in good time. Maybe when I get that holiday!


3 thoughts on “So how was your holiday?

    • Probably the biggest difference is in the collection. In schools, there is an understandable curriculum focus in non-fiction, to the point that when space is tight, anything without a direct curriculum connection may be up for deselection (this is true because I’ve done it!). Public libraries need to cover a broader range of general interest topics. We have wonderful cookery, gardening, craft and architecture sections, but our history fits on one bay (i.e. 4 shelves). My last school library had more than two lanes of history, about 20 times as much!

      Public library fiction is chosen mainly to cater for popular taste, although good public libraries will have a broad range of genres. We also have a large number of DVD and CD titles, most of which fit under the “popular” tag. One of the guiding principles of selection for public libraries is to choose items that will circulate, where a school will select according to curriculum and age-appropriate criteria.

      The other big change for me is the lack of technical services. In each of my school libraries, there was a pool of library technicians. Most of the cataloguing was copy cataloguing, but in one school I did plenty of original cataloguing. Our public library organisation relies on the services of a book distributor – their staff not only catalogue and process all our books, but do the selection as well, based on profiles. It’s taking me a while to get used to this – I can request items, but most of them turn up uninvited. Being a very pedantic cataloguer, I get a bit condescending about the cataloguing errors I keep finding!

      School libraries are at the mercy of the timetable, and users come and go with bell times and breaks. They can be bedlam during lunch, and before / after school. Public libraries may see the same numbers through the door, but usually in more of a steady flow, but they can be less predictable.

      Of course, you can’t put on the big bad teacher voice in a public library! It’s all about customer service and courtesy – I think many schools are heading this way, too, but I think some school libraries would be happier places if staff and students used a customer service approach. THere you go – something contentious to finish with!

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