Ever since I was younger, I’ve dreamed of working either in a library or in publishing. So when I got to college and found out that I could work at my campus library, I was thrilled. My second year I applied and got the job, working at the help desk as a student worker.
Working at the library as a college student was a life saver, it was one of those ideal campus jobs where you could sit there the majority of the time and do your homework while getting paid. It saved my bank account and my sanity a lot.
Working at an academic library I think is probably different from working at a public library. You have a focus on student resources and help, as well as the majority of your books are not meant for fun.
My library in particular though was also a public library, so the public could come in and use our resources like they would any other library in the city. Their public library cards would even work at ours as well.
This led to a lot of interesting people coming in, especially since we were open until midnight most nights. The majority of trouble we got though came from the students and not the public.
I actually walked back some nights to the dorms across the street by myself. The walk was never long, 5-8 minutes at most. Usually someone else would walk back with me though. We never had any scary moments thankfully.
We weren’t open for very long on Saturdays (and only one student worked on Saturdays with a librarian) but on Sundays we were open the majority of the day and into the evening. Fridays we closed early at 5pm.
Saturdays we were almost always empty of people. At most we would have maybe 5 people there, mostly during finals week. Sunday’s though usually got busy.
After my freshman and sophomore (?) year when they rebuilt the student center, they added in a really large student hangout study area to the student center that was almost always open except late at night.
So then students didn’t use the library as often as they used to and for a while, they toyed with making the library hours shorter.
My duties were really low key as far as responsibilities went, even after I became a supervisor my senior year.
- Shelve books
- Help students locate books and materials
- Check in and out library materials
- Dust bookshelves (which I used to read a lot actually)
- Reorganize bookshelves
- Weed out old books they were getting rid of
- Assist students with technology questions and occasionally homework
- Direct students to other campus resources
- Assist researchers with the Danish archives
- Assist cataloging books and the local city archives
- Answer the telephone
- Count the number of students in the library every hour or so
- Close up and lock the library at end of shift
For the most part, working in the library was really peaceful and a great job. My actual work was pretty different from what the actual librarians did.
Since they worked for a university, a lot of their jobs revolved around helping students find resources for assignments and teaching media literacy.
My library was also unique in the fact that my university is the only Danish affiliated college left in the United States (the king and queen of Denmark visited in 2001). So not only do students of Danish heritage get scholarships there, but the library has a Danish archive in it.
We had almost a mini museum of related items and books. A lot of original stuff from past students and their families who founded the school.
I would also give tours of the library and archives to visiting incoming students and past alumni. Our alumni are usually pretty great, a lot of them liked to tell scandalous stories from when they went to school there.
I actually really enjoyed when we weeded books. Although I was sad we were getting rid of a TON I also knew that the majority of the collection was severely outdated and needed more room for new books. There are some older books I wish I would have checked back in on since I graduated to see if I could buy them or not.
Even through we were mainly an academic library, we still had a small fiction section, popular magazine section, and kids books. The library was actually pretty good about ordering in new books and getting completed series of books.
The best part is that we had no real due date so we could just rent and rent books. This also led to a lot of students forgetting they had the books and us forgetting to call to check in on them. We did have due dates, but we weren’t as strict as a traditional public library was.
The library also usually hosted a rotating section for artworks. Every so often, we would feature an artist or an event.
The library was a great place to meet since it had a lot of seating areas and private areas. I do wish we could have had more, softer couches. But it was still great.
One of my favorite events was the dogs who came in during finals week. They were the best and an absolute joy to have in the library. Hot tea, dogs, and books?
What more do you need?
And of course, I can’t forget to mention the cafe. We had a Starbucks before I went to school there, but when we switched food providers, they redid the cafe and put in Einstein’s Bagels.
It’s not my favorite coffee cafe of choice, I’d rather choose a local shop and then caribou coffee. Nevertheless, it was still pretty great for what we had and bagels made great on the go class food.
One of the funniest times working at the library was when another supervising student late at night found the emergency walkie talkie.
We didn’t know it broadcasted to campus security and all of the cities’ police stations so he started joking around on it.
About 10 minutes later, campus security came in and had a talk with us and thankfully a good laugh.
We had a lot of other great moments, and a lot of not great moments as well. I think the student librarians really went through a lot those years I was a student.
Overall, I really loved my time working at the campus library and would totally love to be a librarian professionally sometime. I keep applying to those local help desk jobs, but I don’t usually get a call back. And I’m hesitant about getting my masters.
But if you have the chance to work at an academic library, especially during college, I would totally recommend it. Even if you don’t like books, it’s usually a great on campus job.