On Memory
Book Note: A Broom of One's Own

Stuff I Didn't Expect When I Became a Librarian:

  • Librarians don't get to read at work. It's true! I thought I could sit at a desk and read books. Not true! I do read about books sometimes. (Thus making my books-I-want-to-read list grow & grow & GROW.)  I write about them. I sometimes get caught up and read a little bit of a book (like the other day, when I read the entire first chapter of a book whose title is escaping me, only to look up fifteen minutes later completely embarrassed that I'd been so intent on that book I didn't notice the time passing) or a poem in the New Yorker.
  • Librarians also don't get to be on the top of a hold list, unless no one else (except another librarian) is waiting for the book. This is sometimes frustrating, but then I remember the 8273 other books I want to read, and I get over it.
  • Every time my kids see me carrying a stack of books, someone pipes up: "Mom, I can't believe how much you look like a librarian!"
  • The frequency with which little old ladies call with questions like "I need the phone number for my Uncle Earl" and "can you find me a recipe for caramel apples that's guaranteed to work?" Sometimes this annoys me (do you not own a phone book?) but then I remind myself that one day, I'll be a little old lady, baffled by whatever technology we have, and perhaps I will have accumulated a bit of good karma by being patient now.
  • Strange men developing an affection for me. Well, one in particular. Even when my body language is screaming "I really don't want to talk to you," he continues trying. I have developed a very practiced icy demeanor and the ability to remember something I urgently need to do in a far library corner when he comes in, but I still get sort of a stomach ache when I see him. On the other hand, it was unexpectedly empowering to rebuff his more unwelcome advances and have my stern words actually have an effect on his actions.
  • The cleaning requirement. Dusting shelves, OK, I get that. But who knew that librarians also vacuum? And occasionally deal with bodily fluids? The last time I worked, I cleaned the walls of our elevator because, hello: someone had peed in it. Grody.
  • How internally frustrated I get over some computer questions. (By "internally" I mean: I try desperately to not let the frustration show on my face.) "I saved this file on my home computer, how can I open it here?" is a perennial favorite, as are the occassional "I need to recreate _______ but I have never used a word processor before, can you show me how?" demands (fill in the blank: birth/baptism/ marriage/death certificate, passport, divorce papers, junk mail flyers). I try to remind myself that not everyone has a computer dude for a husband or long years of working with computers, but still...can't a LITTLE bit of logic be used?
  • My disappointment when a beloved book sits forever on my recommended reads shelf (for example, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks has been sitting there, untouched, for over a week!) and, conversely, my wildly-too-large happiness when all of them fly off the shelf. How cool is it that I get to influence what people ready?
  • The frequency with which we find stacks & stacks & stacks of CDs piled up in random corners. You'd think people'd be honest about their music piracy and at least check the CDs out before ripping them to their laptops!
  • My very favorite question: "I need to read something off of this list for my English class. Can you help me pick one?" Much as I love being a librarian, some part of me still misses working with teenagers. I like helping them find something they'll love to read. My second-favorite question is "Can you recommend some good poetry to me?" but I've only been asked that three times in nearly as many years.
  • How rarely I take my own kids to the library. I've got to work on this! It's just so much easier to pick up a few books for them when I'm already there, but I miss the way it used to feel to go to the library.
  • I didn't think my list of books-I-want-to-read could get any longer nor my pile of library books any taller. I was wrong on both counts!
  • Just how much I would love my job. It's one of the things I am most grateful for right now, and quite a bit of it isn't even about the money. (I really don't make very much anyway.) I love knowing I have a place to go where everyone likes me and no one rolls their eyes at me or tells me dinner is disgusting or goes all passive-aggressive on me. Everyone I work with is civilized and mellow and kind. And honestly: aside from the old guy saying inappropriate things to me, the most stressful part of my job is having to take a cart of books upstairs on the elevator. Who wouldn't love a job like that?



"Grody." That word alone made me smile.

I love this list, Amy.

I was listening to short stories being read on NPR tonight and was so captivated that I sat in the parking lot of Macey's for fifteen minutes just listening. Then dh called to see what I was buying and ultimately I had to confess I wasn't in the store yet. Anyway, your passion for reading and writing is energizing to me, just as the readers were tonight on the radio. You make me want to go write something fabulous.

Becky K

I am jealous of your job. You have to have an MLS to work at our libraries as a librarian. I wish I wish I wish.

Did you know there isn't ANYWHERE in the state of Utah to get an MLS? Not one? Am I the only one who finds that ridiculous? Where do people go to get them, huh?


I'm about to start my 10th week of working as Assistant Librarian (afternoons) at our local library. I'm loving this job too - I'm amazed at how quickly the time goes as it seems no sooner have I arrived at work and settled in, than it's time to go home again.
And my 'to read' list and pile are growing exponentially. I'm glad this isn't going to stop (but I'd be grateful if it would slow down a little).
Other than the piles of CDs (we don't have them in our library), and the inappropriate comments from that old guy (although I expect my turn will come), the things in my job are nearly the same as those on your list. Who knew libraries were so similar even though on different sides of the world?


Ripping the library's CD collection onto my laptop without even checking them out? Wow! What a great idea! Can't believe I never thought of it! (Not really. I take them home to listen to them, and if I really like them, I go buy them.)

Melissa K

I've thought more than once that I should have gone directly on to major in library science following my education degree. I love reading books, recommending books, organization, research (BIG love here)... and I still remember the joy of being a library aide in junior high!

So I am a wee bit jealous that you get to spend so much time in a library. Except for the leering guy part. ;)


I have to make a decision soon about going back for an MLS degree (I would probably do much of it on-line). Don't know why I can't make up my mind about a job. I know that I need some outside stimulation away from this isolated house and these ever-demanding children, but ... I drag my heels. Why?

I love reading about your job and still hold out a hope for someday.


Loved your list, Amy. I always wanted to work as a librarian, but instead I get to work FOR librarians, which I love too. By the way, so far I've enjoyed the books you've recommended to me. :-) Becky, you're right! It's crazy that MLS degrees aren't offered in-state anymore. Even crazier? I don't think they're offered anywhere on-campus anymore. But they're offered online and some of the programs (like the University of Illinois' online MLS program) are super good.

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