A Sincere Hug and Easter Chocolates

April 5, 2007 at 7:45 pm 9 comments

Memo to Self
File under: Why I Love being a Public Librarian


I have friends who sincerely question why I choose to work in a public library. They all earn far more than I do with less or equal education. One or two even point out to me on a regular basis that I could earn a better salary with less stress if I looked elsewhere for a job.

Well. this post is dedicated to all those who think I should desert public librarianship for greener pastures. In the last week I have had not 1, not 2 but 3 encounters that remind me why I love what I do and will continue to do it for the foreseeable future:

1. After a poetry reading event a young woman approached me and introduced herself. I recognized that she had been at several program lately, but did not yet know her name. She told me that she had recently moved to the area for a job and had been feeling “lost” without having any friends or family nearby. She went on to say that once she discovered our library she felt like she had found a sense of community as she is an aspiring writer and poet. I shared with her that I understood perfectly, having moved all on my own to NJ 8 years ago and leaving friends and family far away as well. She gave me a shy smile and then, quite spontaneously and very sincerely, she gave me a huge hug and thanked me for organizing events that gave her a feeling of “place and being among friends”. It was probably one of the best moments I have had in quite some time.

2. An older woman took my “Sharing Photos Online” class a few months back. She came in this week because she was so excited and just had to share with me the digital photo albums she made for her daughter’s wedding. She had done the entire album on Snapfish and ordered 2 copies — one for her and one for her daughter. Each one was slightly different and personalized with captions and a variety of layouts. It was obviously a labor of love and she was so thrilled with the final product. I felt very proud that she had learned so much and so quickly as when she first came to class she did not even know how to get the photos from her brand new digital camera on to the hard drive. She told me she is now working on a book with their vacation photos and has found a new hobby thanks to the library. She signed up to take “Fun with Flickr” next week before she left.

3. I came to work yesterday to find a lovely box of Easter chocolates from Thomas Sweet with a note thanking me for finding an article. I had done a search earlier that week that was rather time-consuming as the information given to me was vague at best, but the man requesting the article told me that it was of great sentimental importance and he really wanted a copy of the article. I was thrilled when I found it and printed it out for him, leaving message on his machine that he could pick it up. He left the chocolates with a lovely note when he picked up the article. Totally not necessary, I was just doing my job, but a wonderful gesture nonetheless.

It is anecdotes like these and many others that I relay to my friends when the quiz me on my job choice. Seriously, how many jobs are there in this world where you can get gratitude, hugs and chocolates all in one week?

I am writing this post so that I can read it on those days that I am having a bad day at work and so that I can always remember why it is that I choose to be a public librarian. I would be interested in seeing other anecdotes in the comments about those wonderful moments that you experience because you are a librarian — I will bet there are a lot when we all stop to think about how we impact the lives of those we serve daily.

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9 Comments

  • 1. Ross Callender  |  April 6, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Loved the anecdotes. My personal fav occured when I was working for Gates Library project and the public library I was out was holding an Open House. A little boy about 10 years old asked me if he could give me a hug to say thanks for the computers and cake! Still chokes me up to this day! Thanks for sharing!

  • 2. library2.0  |  April 6, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    that really put a smile on my face. Its nice to see some rewards are not always financial to make a job enjoyable………..

  • 3. Michelle McLean  |  April 6, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Job satisfaction is the main reason I have worked in public libraries for 21 years. Thanks for sh owing that its about more than the money.

  • 4. Azzy  |  April 9, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Fantastic anecdotes. For me, the 2nd week after starting at a new library I helped a woman print out a flyer for a small business she was trying to start. She came in because her family wouldn’t help her, so she hoped the library would. When she saw her flyer in print she cried and gave me a hug thanking me all the while. Never felt so good in the workforce before and it just cemented my belief that I was in the right job for me.

  • 5. Cynthia  |  April 9, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I’m a financial analyst who returned to graduate school (part-time) to get my MLIS. Everyone thinks I am insane. Everyone pushes me to get a job at a corporation–you know, finanical stuff they say. No I say–I want to be a librarian, just like the ones who have helped me all my life. I know I will take a big cut in pay. I am ok with that. Yeah, I know, it hasn’t started yet and maybe I am kidding myself, but I don’t think so, because if ANY public library would hire me–even part-time–I would quit today. I want to have experiences like yours–thanks for the stories! I really needed them to get me through the end of this semester (while I try to design my first UI web based tutorial….).

  • 6. liz  |  April 13, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for sharing. I think it’s not only these big moments that make it worth it, but also the small ones that happen everyday. When you help someone find a book and they look at you and say, Thanks, you just made my day. Or when you set a kid up on a games computer and they shriek, Curious George! That’s my favorite! What other job do you get to make people’s days regularly?

  • 7. Peter Bromberg  |  April 13, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Hi Janie,

    You’ve really captured the reason I loved doing public service reference work.

    I once read an article that explained why cigarette smoking is so terribly addictive: It’s because every puff gives your brain a positive reinforcement of nicotine, and that happens 10 times per/cig.

    “That’s just like being on the reference desk”, I thought! Except instead of 10 nicotine hits, I got 10 hits of “thank you” every hour. Help someone, “thank you!” Help someone, “thank you!”

    Quite addictive! :-) (and it doesn’t affect one’s tennis game like 2 packs of Marlboros…)

  • 8. beautiful Chinese girl  |  April 24, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Interesting article.I’m a beautiful Chinese girl,could you do a friend with me?

  • 9. beautiful Chinese girl  |  April 24, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Interesting article.I’m a beautiful Chinese girl,could you do a friend with me?


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