My path was never the librarian despite my love of libraries and literature. I never considered walking this path until college when realizing that becoming a teacher wasn’t in the cards for me. I count myself lucky for working in libraries and customer service jobs that, with the finishing of library school, positioned me to gain a full-time library position in circulation within my state’s library system.
Were the job duties simple and easy? No. Were the job duties challenging and engaging? Yes. This is my ode to the library assistant.
I first became a library assistant after graduating with my Master’s in Library and Information Science. It was a rough period, with people around me asking why I was in an entry-level position, why I don’t make enough money, why I deal with duties that do not require my degree. My go-to answer: I go in 100%. This is my challenge. Eventually I’ll move up when the time is right. I need to learn circulation first.
Let me tell you something, I have the utmost respect with circulation. They deal with the front-lines, the first phone calls, the irate and the charming first, they deal with everything I did not learn in library school. (I was fortunate to have a required class on communicating with others however there wasn’t a class strictly on Circulation.) These guys are badass, helpful, know-everythings that I wonder how the library would survive without them. I can’t survive in a library by myself without circulation. If patrons are the lifeblood of the library, circulation is the heart of it all. They ensure I do my job as a librarian well.
I would never trade my time in circulation for another job. I learned how to properly run a register in the library, how to talk to patrons better, how to make small talk and promote programs easily (I’m an introvert that is confused by small talk), how to assess books for mending, how to multitask and juggle phone calls with a patron in front of me while needing to find a book on shelf. It was my boot camp into the library world post-school, with a full-time job.
To all of you working at library assistants, I love you all for you are essential to the library machine. You do the dirty work, the grunt work, the work that needs to be done. You help make the jobs of techs, librarians, managers, and volunteers so much easier. If you move up due to experience, you’ll be better equipped to handle the position. It needs to be said: You. Are. Vital.