The Hardship of Librarianship

An eight-year-old girl who comes to the library multiple times per week with her older sister, and sometimes their mother, posed the following to me and a colleague on Thursday night: “Do you work really hard every day? I think being a librarian would be hard.”

I don’t know what prompted her to say that, as my colleague and I were both sitting at the desk doing…well, we weren’t really doing anything. In fact, the girl’s next question was “What game is that?” when she noticed that I was playing Minesweeper. The library is open until 9pm on Thursdays, and nights are generally pretty slow, so I would not say that I was working particularly hard (unless Minesweeper counts as hard work).

Librarianship is not hard like rocket science or physical labor is hard. I would say it is hard like fielding customer service calls or working in retail is hard. No matter what type of library work you do – reference, cataloging, research, archives, and/or whatever else – you never know what you are going to get on a daily basis. The need to be prepared for just about anything is what makes librarianship hard. I don’t think that “librarian” will ever show up on a list of most difficult occupations, but sometimes an innocent question from an eight-year-old can be among the hardest to answer.


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