Working in a non-MLIS Library

When I accepted the opportunity as a substitute librarian at my local public library (on top of my full time grant job) I knew this would be different.

It’s a tiny town with a beautiful but very small Carnegie library. Most of the staff (I think all but the Library Director) work a max 30 hours a week. Oh, and no one (not even the director) has a degree in library science.

When the Director welcomed me on board she said “we’re all very eager to ask you questions.” I politely smiled and reminded her that I would be happy to let them pick my brain but to also remember that all of my experience had been in an academic setting.

We obviously have some different ideas and since I’m a sub I’m hesitant to step on too many toes. Right now I’m there 6-15 hours a week since once of the librarians is on maternity leave.

[That sentence right there stresses me out – should I write “librarians?” It feels cruel to qualify it when I know the people who work there are dedicated and take their jobs seriously and want to help the patrons and the community. But they don’t have the background to always support this and they don’t have the language and culture to speak library speak. It’s not like the feral librarians in academic settings who have advanced degrees in other disciplines and the bridge of academia to connect on.]

Maybe these things that wig me out have already been thought about and discussed, maybe they haven’t. Unless I start a conversation I have no real way of knowing but in such a temporary positions is it my place to ask? Or do I have an obligation to ask because of my background? I would appreciate your input.

1) Staff frequently bandy about words like rent instead of borrow and commiserate with patrons on how fines are helping to fund the library and punish the member. [I did step in on this second half during a conversation between an older page and a patron I could not let that slide]

2) There are no real privacy controls. This is really bothersome to me. If a patron doesn’t have their library card on them, no big deal just type in their name – no ID shown. Library employees don’t even ask to match their address or phone number! This gets under my skin BIG TIME.

3) Which makes me wonder, if my husband called and asked what was on my account, would they tell him? I don’t recall reading anything about patron privacy in the handbook.

4) The library hosts a documentary event each month – screens a documentary and facilitates a discussion. Pretty sure there hasn’t been any consideration of copyright. I know staff also knowingly lends library movies to community groups and churches with the full knowledge they are showing them as scheduled events.

So fellow librarians What Would You Do?

(Also, I’ve never had the honor of anyone sharing a blog post on ALA Think Tank, but please refrain as I know one of the staff members is in the group – thanks!)

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