No Need to Apologize to Your Librarian

We're here to help (and lean on furniture)!

We’re here to help (and lean on furniture)!

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, discussionsbooks 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.

We’ll climb the stacks to get you what you need. (Don’t try this at home.)

Happy apology-free library visiting!



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24 responses to “No Need to Apologize to Your Librarian

  1. Eleanor "Serene" Mendicino

    Holly, such a nice post! And I love the last picture — I’m short and I do that all the time: home, grocery store, work…..much to the horror of whoever is around me!

  2. Stated so well! Great post!

  3. This post is fantastic! I visit my local library all of the time, so cool to read your perspective. I do apologize all the time when I ask for help, I move to “thank you” instead of “sorry.”

  4. What are the Teen Summer Reading Fine Forgiveness and the Fine Alternative Program? Sounds intriguing…

    • Hi Maggie! Teen Summer Reading Fine Forgiveness means that when teens sign up for our summer reading program, there is a good chance that some or all of their fines will be forgiven. Summer reading starts on June 9th this year. When the teens sign up, library staff will let them know their fine status and what we can forgive.

      The Fine Alternative Program is something that we offer throughout the year for teens. They can work off their fines by doing things like writing book reviews.

      Thanks for the question!

  5. I loved the old photos to go with this post ;-) I’ve always been an avid reader, I particularly enjoy the classics, although I went through a slump for several years where I neither read nor wrote much of anything. However, I’m back to reading again, and I just finished ‘P and P’, which I really enjoyed. Humorous post ;-) good job. I always envy librarians actually, and for a time I considered becoming a librarian, but I’ve always been under the impression that there’s so much schooling involved in it, that I get intimidated.

    • Sally

      Look into it – often a one year program – a lot is ‘technique’ on how to help people and learn how to listen and help people find what they need. I don’t have all of the answers but I know how to find most of them :) Or who else to ask for help..

    • BeckBe

      There are also many, many very rewarding jobs in libraries that do not require a Master’s Degree!

  6. I love this post. I just paid my 30 cent book fine and I felt SO GUILTY! LOL. Thank you for telling me even librarians forget too. You are now my favorite librarian. And I hang out at my library a lot!

    • Thanks Jess, I’m flattered! And please leave your guilt at home! :)

    • Sally

      And fines can help pay for new books – or the heating bill!!!

      • Karen

        Yes! I get a lot of fines but never feel guilty – in fact, I like to think that I help keep my local library going, the amount I’ve paid in fines! Although, library folk are so nice, they often let me off, or reduce the amount I owe out of the kindness of their hearts.

  7. I love my library! Thanks for reminding that it’s okay to ask advice

  8. those fines i forget about really stack up at my college library! it’s a catch-22. lovely post!

  9. Yes, when my friends pull the “I don’t read” one it can be awkward. =)

  10. deanna mehaffey

    Reblogged this on Library-Marketing and commented:
    I just read this and nodded my head in agreement the entire time.

  11. Doreen

    I, as a librarian, feel awful when people say, “I’m sorry to bother you”. It makes me feel that I am giving “Go away” vibes, when all I am doing is keeping busy while I wait for my real pleasure (helping patrons) to come along! “Bother” us! We love it!

    • Linda

      We now have a sign at our desk, “Please Interrupt”. It has received a few smiles and we are approached more often now.

  12. Lilac_librarian

    I am another shame-faced librarian with fines! I have found that if I borrow all my books on my daughter’s ticket, fines don’t accrue for child readers in the UK :)

  13. Great post!! I currently work in a public library too, and have heard most of these. I constantly tell customers, “It’s okay, you’re not bothering me — I’m here to help”. As far as the “I don’t like to read/I don’t read” folks, I like to point out that reading is not just about novels. They ARE reading SOMETHING, whether it’s a magazine, blog, online news articles, sports section of newspapers, etc. I can accept that not everyone wants to read a book for fun, but I agree we need to broaden our definition of literacy.

  14. pauline klein

    When I was a child my librarian told me the book was free for two weeks and then I rented it. No fines, just rent. I grew up to be a librarian.

    • School Librarian

      I think that is a wonderful approach! Our school library doesn’t fine for late books (though we do charge if the book is lost!) or I would introduce that concept at once!

  15. what a wonderful post! i hope to beable to become a librarian in the uk when i move back over. I have worked in public libraries and its just such a wonderful job. i couldnt arrive early enough or leave late enough i loved every minute of it. being of help is such a pleasure aswell… i could carry on for hours :-)

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