Library Lesson Learned II

On my way home from the train a few days ago, I ran into a woman who frequents the library where I work. The library stays open until 9 pm two nights per week, and she is almost always there at least one of those nights watching videos and shows on her laptop. I say hi to her and ask how she’s doing, but we never had a conversation and I didn’t know her name. One night, for no apparent reason, she gave me a bag of tasty Szechuan peanuts. Anyway, when I saw her walking home from the train that day, we both recognized each other immediately and had a nice conversation. By virtue of seeing each other at the library, this woman and I had tacitly become friends.

That very same evening at work, another frequent patron came up to me while I was shelving books to say that he hadn’t seen me in a while and asked how I was doing. I said that I only work a few nights each week, but yes, it had been a while since we had seen each other. He asked what I do when I’m not working at the library, and was interested when I said going to library school. Again, this was someone I had seen at the library a handful of times, but not someone with whom I thought I had any sort of relationship.

These two instances made me realize that in my four months as a public library employee, frequent patrons have come to recognize me as a familiar face. Whether I help people directly or just say hello, patrons have started to associate my face with the library. It is strange to think that I am developing informal relationships with people every time I show up to work, and that those relationships transcend the library’s walls. Community interaction is one of the most important aspects of working in a public library. Of course, not all patron interactions are positive, but the two aforementioned exchanges helped me contextualize public librarianship as being interpersonal as well as informational.

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