Working with the public

When I applied to Library School last year, I was adamant that I was going to work in an Academic Library within the Arts Department. I did not care what University or Institution is was going to be, as long as I ended up there. I was leaving my car, dogs, extremely supportive; family, boyfriend and friends in Ireland to hop on a plane and go to a country I had never been to.

Here I am, a year later in my first paid library assistant role, and I am in a City Public Library.

Upon reflection, I have always enjoyed working with the public. I have been in part-time or full-time roles in the customer service sector since the age of 16 (with breaks here and there for study purposes, thank you parents)!

I did not know that my skill sets were really geared towards a public library setting, until I was given the fantastic opportunity to work as a Summer Relief Library Assistant. If you had told me a year ago that I would be working where I am, I would have told that I would never do that!

Returning to full-time education after a two-year gap (I graduated in 2011 from U.C.C with my BMus, and went back for my MLIS in 2013) has humbled that little stubborn, fresh-faced, ‘driven’, 20-something girl and has really turned me into an independent woman who can actually do this.

It was really a confidence issue with me, I did not think I would be able to handle the vast types of information enquiries that are thrown at you every day. For example, the KPI’s can be questions on the local voters role, researching family history, how to correctly send away a CV for a job and then… and only then will I consider the traditional “stacking the shelves” that I was constantly told that I was getting a Post Graduate degree in. (And also, the “You need a degree for that?”)

I will share a story with you from my job this week, which has actually help me establish that I want to work within the Public Libraries Sector for the rest of my career.

I had signed up a new library patron who did not have much English a few weeks previous. They arrived in upset and asking for help, as they had been kicked out and had been homeless for a few days. I was a bit overwhelmed at the challenge and asked for help from other L.A’s and Librarians to cover the desk for me. After a few internet searches and Google Translate, I was able to help the patron fill out a form they needed to submit for emergency housing. They left with a smile on their face and being positive, which is all I could ask for. I went out for my lunch date with my partner and came back for a research meeting (off the clock) with a colleague in the department I worked with. As I was leaving, the patron had bought me roses and left them for me.

This made me feel very conflicted. The gesture meant so much to them, due to their cultural background, and I have never been given flowers from someone apart from my parents. (I checked with management and due to the gift being under £10.00 I was able to accept them).

Every time I think about them, I smile.

They are in my flat (which I have been living in for 3 months) next to my pet fish in the kitchen and…. I am really grateful for it.

It has made me realise, when I am trying to help people every day, no matter where they are from and what that information need is, I am making a difference.

I am in the right profession, and I am helping people. Not in a “I am soooooooooooo great so I am”, but as a simple fact. I can do my job. I can do it well, and I love it!

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