Sunday, May 29, 2011

Libraries Lacking Personal Interaction

Quick note: As we wrap up our week of celebrating high school graduations, Tina will announce the winner of the $25 gift card tomorrow. Thanks to everybody who commented and good luck!

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a panelist during the Utah Library Association annual conference. Here I am afterwards, dining at Rooster's in Layton with YA authors (left to right) Lara Zielin, Adam Selzer, moi, Sheila A. Nielson, and Emily Wing Smith. From what I could tell, the librarians and their colleagues were there to bond, inspire, educate, share, and improve. As a huge fan of libraries, I was honored to be included.

My local library, which is about 10 minutes away from my house, is in danger of closing. If it does, our closest library is about 30 minutes away. Why is it in danger? Reportedly, not enough people are coming in to check out materials. It has lots of wonderful programs, especially for children, but since the elementary school is no longer located right next door to it, it's seen a decline in participants. I admit I don't take my kids to as many activities now that it's not quite as convenient to get them there after school. However, I do take them there once every or every-other week and we all check out books.

Going to the ULA conference made me see that librarians really do enjoy their jobs and want to promote reading. But here's my thoughts on that. When I go to my local library, there isn't any interaction with librarians. I go to the computer to look up the book I want (not a very user friendly program, but I won't get into that now), locate it on the shelf, and then check it out at a self-checkout station. (Even if there's a librarian doing something at the desk, she'll shoo me over to the self-checkout station.) Sometimes I never lay eyes on a librarian, and if I do, they're usually in the back room. I'm not saying they're not working; it's just that they're not interacting with the people. Sometimes I try to strike up a conversation with a librarian, but I get the feeling that I'm bothering him or her. I've been going to this library regularly for over 8 years and I only know one librarian's name. She was a real gem and I miss her. (She moved to another library years ago.)

I remember being so excited to go to the library as a child. Why? Because the librarians would help me find books, and then suggest other books, and when I came back, they'd ask how I liked the books. It was like my own little personal book club, and their passion for reading was contagious. In a world where technology has all but erased person-to-person interactions, I wish we could recapture that wonderful, magical feeling of knowing just beyond the library's doors is endless shelves of books as well as a helpful, encouraging, knowledgeable librarian who is glad to see us.

Would librarians giving library-goers personal interaction change the world? Maybe! After all, it changed my world when I was a child! Now I'll hop off my soapbox and see what you think. Is your library all computers and self-checkout stands? Or do you get a personal touch? Do you go to the library or find you have no need now that we have the internet? Do you like having a librarian help you, or would you rather do it yourself? Tell me! :)


TinaFerraro said...

My kids use libraries themselves now, but I must say for their younger years we had a wonderful, knowledgeable librarian who helped us with choices. She became a special friend, someone we will always remember!

Wendy Toliver said...

I love that, Tina!

Jessica said...

As a teen librarian I consider it an intregal part of my job to interact directly with as many of the teens that come into the library as possible! While many of them may not care to chat with me every day, I am always ready, willing, and able to locate books, recommend new ones, and even just chat about school.
I'm with you...that was one of my fondest memories of the Library growing up. Talking to the librarians! I can't imagine not wanting to be on the other side of those conversations now!!

Wendy Toliver said...

Hooray for you, Jessica! I know there are librarians like you out there (I met many myself at the ULA conference) and it truly warms my heart. I hope you know what a difference you are making, simply by making yourself accessible to the teens. Thank you!

Wendy Toliver said...

P.S. I'm having troubles with Blogger but I did try and edit the title to read: Some Libraries Lacking Personal Interaction.

Anonymous said...

I think my library has great personal interaction, but I'm probably a bit biased as I work there.
I think our big problem is that people at the circulation desk (who aren't actual librarians) get asked librarian questions and try and help when it takes them twice as long and sometimes they can't even find the answer. And then they have to rush patrons off or try and get them to use the self-checks because their line is getting longer and longer, when they should be directing people to one of the reference desks where their questions can be more quickly and better answered without rushing through the process.
But all that aside, I wouldn't be working in a library if I hadn't grown up going to such lovely ones as a child.

stephhale said...

Back when I was little, pretty much everyone is town was scared to death to go to our library. This old lady worked there who literally hated kids and she would pretty much chase anyone out who dared to go there. It makes me sad and angry to think about all the children that may have missed out on the love of reading because of that woman. I still belong to the same library and everyone there is wonderful now. They have an amazing summer reading program for the kids (we NEVER had anything!) and movie nights, Wii playtimes and so much more. I am there with my kids several times a week. We don't have any self checkout because our library is so small, but we can reserve books and movies on the computer so that they just send an email when it is available. I love this service and I'm sure it helps out the busy librarians too.

Jess Day said...

I'm a teen librarian/ library page who loves my job. I'm the one who puts YA books on display and frequently talks to my fellow teen booklovers. I try to interact with parents aso in the MG section and recommend books to them. Sometime people just need a little push

Wendy Toliver said...

Yes, emmiefisher, that makes sense that sometimes questions aren't being directed to the correct personnel. And I'm glad your library does a good job interacting with the people. I know they appreciate the extra TLC!

I'm glad to hear your library has improved so much since when you were younger, Steph!It sounds like a great place to be.

I agree, Jess Day, that some people just need a little push. My middle son is this way. He's 8 and just barely getting into chapter books and he's always looking around for a librarian to help him find books that will keep him reading. Thanks for being such a great teen librarian!