When I tell people what I do for a living, and then they realize that I serve the public, sometimes I get a twisted face of pity coming at me. Folks who sit in an office all day might not be familiar with what it means to meet new people all day long. I find serving the public in the library to be an extraordinarily rewarding job. While I can’t speak for airline workers and their clientele, the vast majority of library patrons that I meet are kind, inquisitive, grateful and generally lovely. In fact, sometimes they can even get sheepish or apologetic about what they don’t know or do. And so this post will serve to say that we’re okay with all of it, really! The Library would just be a big empty building without you! We’re glad you are here.
Below are some apologetic phrases we hear, and the reasons why there is no need to apologize to your librarian.
- I don’t have time to read. This is often muttered with a hint of guilt, and sometimes this phrase will include a lack of eye contact. But listen. We’re okay with that, really! We won’t judge you. Even librarians get into reading slumps. We find ways to dig out of our slumps, and then we share them with you. Library eBooks, of course, can be a time-saver. If you have them on your tablet or smart phone, they are likely always with you… you can read a couple of pages in line at the post office or grocery store, though we don’t recommend reading while stuck at a red light. If you need a change of pace, listen to an audio eBook or an audio book on CD.
- I don’t like to read. We are totally okay with you telling us this, but we kind of/sort of don’t believe you. Like police are trained to protect and serve, librarians are trained to believe that there is one book for everyone. It’s our job to find that book! Maybe you need to try something new! A graphic novel, a staff recommendation or a Read-Alike for that really popular novel might do the trick. Okay, and maybe we need to broaden our definition of book. Because maybe you just aren’t in the mood to read or listen to books. You can still get your literacy fix at the Library. We have zinio & freegal ( free subscriptions to e-magazines and free music downloads), CDs and DVDs. We are serious about celebrating multiple types of literacy!
- I haven’t been to the library in a long time. Whenever I hear this one I just say: “Welcome back!” We understand that the majority of people live rushed, busy lives, so we don’t judge you if you can’t make it to the library every day. As mentioned previously, we have a vast online presence, with loads of options to entice library use from anywhere. We also are working hard to get out of our doors and into your community, to make it easier for you to find us. With all of that, we still host tons of events, programs, meetings, workshops, puppet shows, music and dance performances, discussions – books or otherwise and general fun for all ages – to entertain and enlighten all of those who visit us in the building proper. Whether you’ve been away for a day or for 30 years, we heartily say welcome back! Let us show you around!
- I’m sorry to bother you. Goodness, no, you are not bothering us. We are at the desks in public areas so that we can be of help to you. We might be working on a project, but that is just to stay busy until the next patron comes along and needs our help.
- I have fines. We do too! Now, it’s your turn to not judge us. We are here every day, but we check out so many things that we just can’t remember what is due back when. In my former life as a teen librarian, I would visit middle school classrooms to promote the library. On a particular visit, I was telling a group of 7th graders that it’s okay to have fines, because a) we have options for teens who have fines, such as Teen Summer Reading Fine Forgiveness and the Fine Alternative Program, and b) I get fines all the time! A very astute 7th grader said: “What!?!?!?! You get fines?!?!?! That’s stupid.” This may be a fair assessment, but it also serves to show that if we judged you, we’d be the pot calling the kettle black.
- I can’t find… this book. the restroom. Classroom A. the mezzanine. a way out of the building. One is apt to get turned around, or have questions while using any of our libraries, if one is not accustomed to it. And due to its massive size, imposing columns and larger-than-life architecture styling, the Main Library can be quite imposing to folks on their 1st or 50th visit. Think of the Main Library as a microcosm of Pittsburgh. It can be quite confusing to find your way around. And if you think of us as a microcosm of Pittsburgh, you’ll know that Main Library, or any Library locals (staff), like Pittsburgh locals, will smile knowingly and be happy to help you find your way. You might even pick up a few tips or tricks while we’re at it.
Happy apology-free library visiting!