Library Day in the Life Project – Days 4 and 5

When I am not working at the PHR reference desk (or the main Reference Desk), I spend the rest of my time in my office which is conveniently located behind the PHR reference desk.  Here is what my desk looks like:

I guess I should explain some of the items on my desk.  First, you are pretty wondering why all the coffee/tea mugs?  Yes, there are 3 of them on my desk.  At one point there was 6 mugs and 2 water bottles.  The environment in the library is very dry so I am usually drinking coffee (morning), tea (afternoon/evening) or water (afternoon/evening) throughout the shift.  I should also point out that I am not a morning person so it’s best not to talk me until I have had at least couple of cups of coffee.  Otherwise, I am not going to follow our conversation very well.  I don’t have a coffee maker in my office so I end up bringing coffee from home.  We have a hot water dispenser in our staff lounge and I made good use of it.

So what’s up with the devices?  My Creative Zen MP3 Player is a one of the three devices I use all the time. I usually walk to work while listening to audiobooks.  In case you are wondering, I just finished listening to Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune by Thursday morning.  My Kobo Touch eReader is my other fave device.  Like many library staff members, I prefer to read on my meal breaks.  In the interest of sharing, I am currently reading Lawana Blackwell’s The Dowry of Miss Lydia Clark.  And you guessed it.  My third favorite device is my computer attached to a very nice widescreen monitor.  Because I typically work the afternoon shifts on the desk, I spend my mornings drinking coffee and catching up on email and my various RSS feeds.

Okay so now you are wondering, what’s up with the last item in this photo? Namely the Serenity Prayer poster.  Well I made a New Year’s Resolution to start letting things go and not getting stressed out over things that were beyond my control.  I keep a copy of The Serenity Prayer  above my desk  as 99% of the things that usually stress me are  work-related.


Library Day in the Life Project – Days 2b and 3

Here is the other half of my observations from Day 2 regarding my job, which also nicely sums up my Day 3.

But first, here is a photo of the PHR desk where I spend the bulk of my day.        

The room itself is located on the main floor of Central Library but tucked away in a corner.  As a result, patrons often regard our Reading Room as a quiet place to work.  One myth I should dispel about the Prairie History Room is that it’s not a designated quiet space.  There is actually no designated quiet places in our library.  Patrons can browse our collection, take books off the shelf and even make photocopies.  The only restriction is that we don’t allow patrons to drink or eat in the room.

Anyway back to the desk.  Unfortunately, Prairie History was renovated before my arrival in 2006 and what ended up happening was the placement of an oversized reference desk outside of the reading room.  Yes, to my dismay, the desk acts as a the proverbial gatekeeper.  Patrons will sometimes ask if they are even allowed into the room.

The desk is really a minor hiccup.  The best part of my job is really working with the patrons.  As hard as it is to be in the public eye all the time, I really enjoy working our clientele who include the hard-core genealogists, local writer who use our collection for their “inspiration”, amateur historians looking for info about a long-forgotten building or individuals, and my personal favorite, the young school age kids who are researching for their Heritage Fair project. Yesterday and today were no exceptions.

I won’t kid you when I say that all of the questions that are asked are interesting.  Most of them tend to be the “usual” sort–namely, “Do you have the obit for this person?”, “Do you have the newspaper from March, 1952?” or “How do you print from the microfilm machine?”  These are the types of questions I can answer in my sleep.  But from time to time, I am pleasantly surprised by how a simple answer can sometimes result into something a little extraordinary.  Last night was no exception.

A mother came to the PHR desk and told me that she is trying to help both of her daughters with their heritage fair projects.  One daughter was researching Nellie McClung and another was focusing on the Underground Railroad. The one with the Nellie McClung project was having some difficulties because the mother was really trying to track down some of McClung’s stories.  I was skeptical because PHR does not collect fiction at all but I duly found and placed holds on a couple of books that she could borrow from other branches.  I also found books on McClung within the PHR collection and set them side for her while she went to renew her library card at the circulation desk.  As I was scrolling through the results list, I noticed a couple of references to McClung’s writings that looked like there were works of fiction. I  checked our shelves and then ran downstairs to our secondary storage unit where I ended up finding a copy of The Black Creek Stopping House and Other Stories.

But the real surprise was when I opened up the book and realized that our copy was printed in 1912!  For a book this is 100 years old, it’s in terrific condition. When I peeked inside, I noticed a book label saying it was a donation to the library.  Although I don’t really know when the book was donated and became part of the PHR collection, I kinda like to think this book has been part of our collection when we first opened our central location in 1912.  I just find it so fascinating that a)my predecessors opted to keep it despite that the fact it doesn’t fit our collection mandate b) its excellent condition despite the fact that we don’t have optimal storage conditions for old books.  Needless to say, the mother was so thrilled with the find and could hardly wait for her daughter to come in to see it.  Just what I like to hear and see.  Oh and by the way, I also found some additional books on the Underground Railway for her other daughter. The mother left the library very satisfied and happy that I was able to help her. Happiness all around.