August 31, 2012

Did you ever assume... part 2

Fall is a pretty quiet time of year for us, but we want to keep giving you something to read on the blog.  So, as introduced earlier, we're taking this opportunity to address some common misconceptions about libraries. 

A good one to start with is the idea that library staff have read all the books in the library.  Variations of this include the idea that the Children's Librarian has read all the books in the Juvenile collections, or at least all the Picture Books, or that the Information staff have read all the Adult Fiction or seen all the DVDs.

It's true that many of us are big readers, but that is, perhaps surprisingly, not actually a requirement for getting a library position.  Some of our staff are big Audiobook listeners; others enjoy journals or newspapers; some are rabid DVD-watchers.  Some prefer to spend their leisure time in other ways.

Not only is it a myth that every member of library staff loves to read, but how could we possibly read every item in the library?  As the Adult Services Librarian, I order hundreds of items over the course of the year.  In July alone, I ordered 120 books.  That doesn't include DVDs, Books on CD, any periodicals, or anything ordered by the Youth Services Librarian.  I'm a pretty quick reader and I do enjoy reading at home, and I say with some pride that I've already read over 60 books this year.  But at that rate, it would take me a full year to read what I order in just one month.  Even if all I did all day at the library was read (another misconception we'll address next time), I couldn't read everything I order fast enough.  Averaging out paperbacks against longer tomes, I figure I could get through one book per day at work (again, if I were able to do so).  One book a day, working five days a week-- minus time off for vacation, sick days, holidays, etc.-- would probably get me through about 200 books per year, plus the 120 or so I would get through at home, on my own time.  That's still taking the whole year to read less than three month's worth of book ordering.  It is simply impossible for me to read every item we add to the collection.

All those orders-- books requested by patrons or of general interest to and appropriate for the community, chosen by a librarian here at NPL, paid for with money from our general operating fund (or from a donation)-- also don't include the dozens of books that are donated every month.  People generously, constantly, drop off books of all types in our little red donation wagon, and many of those books get added to the collection as well.  That could be anywhere from 15 to 200 books per month!

And that's just talking about keeping up on reading new items that are being ordered.  When I started working at NPL, there was an existing collection of over 70,000 items.  How long would it take me to get caught up on existing items?  I'm no math whiz, but I'm pretty sure it would be a really, really long time.

And those 60 or so books I've read so far in 2012?  That doesn't include the picture books.  In addition to working full-time, I have a 4-year-old in my life.  Muncha, Muncha, Muncha and Is Your Mama a Llama? and Perfect Square and The Cat in the Hat and Yertle the Turtle and How Are You Peeling? and Curious George at the Aquarium over and over and over and over and over...  Plus the cookbooks and copies of Cook's Illustrated so I know what to make for dinner for our family of three.  Plus the books full of instructions as I make hats and socks and quilts for my boys (one aged 30, one aged 4).

So, have I, personally, read books from the collection?  I sure have.  I haven't purchased a book at home all year; everything I read comes from the library, either through print or downloadable.  But I have read only a tiny fraction of what we offer you, our patrons.

This boggles my mind.  Come back next time for library on-the-job duties!

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