Librarian as library user

While it’s no surprise that I view much of my school life (and personal, for that matter), through the lens of a librarian, I don’t want to forget that I am also a library user.

Unfortunately, a library user who feels delinquent in a number of ways. In the interest of keeping positive, here are some areas where I have opportunity for improvement, with specific action items included:

I am the worst overdue offender. 

Well, maybe not the worst, but I’m still appallingly lax when it comes to due dates. I find it amusing that one of my responsibilities at school is to be ‘the heavy’ when students (and staff) don’t respond to lovely email reminders about their overdue materials – especially on days when I’m heading to my local public library after work to pay yet another overdue fine.

Action item: Celebrate my on-going support of libraries through revenue generation!

I have been known to borrow a book from my own school library without checking it out.

Is it only me who picks up a book in my school library with such joyful anticipation that it makes it home without being checked out? If I did this in a public library or bookstore, I would be in serious trouble – and beyond the ethical (and legal) issues, there’s the fact that I’m robbing my own library’s circulation statistics of vital data. Yeesh.


I pass judgement on what I read.

I am militant about not judging anyone, particularly my students, for what they choose to read. Former YA librarian Patrick Jones often speaks about a too-familiar experience:

“I summon up all my twelve-year-old courage and ask the librarian if the library has any wrestling magazines. That is what I thought I asked; instead I think I asked her to show me what her face would look like if she sucked on lemon for a hundred years. She looked like she was about to stroke out at the mere mention of wrestling magazines in her library. She made me feel stupid, and I never went back.”

Like you, I don’t want anyone to feel that what they choose to read is unworthy of their attention. However, I don’t often extend this sentiment to myself when reading something others might describe as less literary and more beachy. There’s a lot of negative self-talk going on when I pick up something light in lieu of more intellectual tomes.

Action item: Don’t beat myself up for reading a wide variety of books and magazines, and use it as an opportunity to role model. With the exception of the flight back from AISL Denver when I read 50 Shades of Grey: I seemed to have been the only librarian at that conference who hadn’t read it. For research purposes, of course.

I have a very small personal library.

I worry that this one might get me banished from the ranks. How can I call myself a librarian when my personal bookshelf (note the singular) contains mostly childhood favourites (Montgomery, Alcott, Ingalls Wilder, Blume) and books given to me as gifts? I’ve had kids say  ‘You must have a whole room full of books at home! ” or “Do you have one of those cool ladders in your own library?”  I feel like such a fraud because 99% of my reading material comes from my school and public libraries.

Action item: Recognize that this actually makes me an exemplary library user 🙂

16 thoughts on “Librarian as library user

  1. This is like reading a blog post about my own library habits (good and not so good!)
    Glad to see that I am not alone.
    Actually, the librarian at my own public library told me that they’ve found school librarians are the most notorious for overdue fines.

    She mentioned this to me as I was paying my own overdue fines.

  2. I’m actually surprised that so many librarians own so many books. When students ask if I have lots of books, I say, I’m a librarian, that means I use the library. The only books I own are reference books (gardening and cooking) and ones given to me in the mistaken belief that I want to own a book. Otherwise, all the books on my nightstand are from my public library.

  3. So much fun, Shelagh, and so true! I will add one item to your list: no surprise to anyone who knows me, I am a “loud talker”, and was a repeat offender in my high school library. The librarian was somehow able to make me feel welcome while often sending me outside for a little library peace. As I quiet down some library patrons who repeatedly take it over the decibel line, I am reminded of my poor patient welcoming high school librarian and think: Karma can be very educational.

    Thanks, Shelagh!

  4. Love this! I can identify with every one of your “delinquencies.” I may currently have a library book (or three) sitting on my nightstand that have yet to be checked out from my library. Call it wishful thinking that I’ll get to them before anyone notices they’re gone!

  5. I confess to having a minuscule personal library.
    In a steamer trunk.

    When I was young, shortly after I got over the whole “I’m going to be Doctor Who when I grow up” phase (OK, I never actually got over that one), I decided I would be a librarian so that I would have access to far more books than I could ever purchase with my own money. Now that I’m actually a librarian, I love helping my students of course, but I realize I don’t have to keep a vast personal library. I wonder how many other librarians are in a similar situation.

    New research grant proposal:
    A survey of librarians to correlate various librarianship variables with the sizes of personal libraries.

  6. We all seem to have a lot in common around our personal library habits:
    -My home library is teeny and contains cookbooks and a few favorites from childhood and college
    -Students tell me to be quiet in the library all the time
    -Just discovered that the three library books I have at home are not checked out
    -I use my school library and my public library frequently

    🙂 Love this topic!

  7. Love the Action Items as you’re ticking off all of you (and my) offenses. And Allison’s comment on being noisy reminds me of the email I once received from a student asking if the library staff would please talk quieter as we are disturbing her!

  8. What can I say? Yes, I’m guilty of all of the above, except that as a former English teacher and daughter of a retired English teacher, my house is loaded with books. I’m also a loud talker, like Shannon. But for all the others I quote these maxims as an explanation: “The cobbler’s children go barefoot.” And “preachers’ kids are the worst.”

  9. Great post! My children and I keep the Toronto Public Library well-funded in overdue fines. I like to think of it as a donation to the library, rather than a fine 😉

  10. I may or may not just keep renewing things I’ve had from the school library for months on end . . . that way they’re not technically overdue, and it makes my circulation numbers look quite healthy . . . just sayin’.

  11. The quote from Patrick Jones saddens me. When I was in third grade, I lived for one year in a teeny community in Wisconsin that had a nice, albeit small library collection and the best of the best librarians. She greeted me with a smile that indicated that she was delighted to see me and always asked how I had enjoyed whatever I had checked out. She was unfailingly enthusiastic about the books I selected (I remember I was going through a Nancy Drew phase) and never tried to intimate that Nancy Drew or whatever I chose wasn’t a good selection, although through our conversations, she introduced me to what I now recognize were better choices. As a school librarian, she remains my highest example of what I want to be for children and after all these years, I still try to emulate her in my interactions with students.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Rebecca. I agree – these early experiences are so critical. How wonderful that you had such a supportive and encouraging librarian and mentor.

  12. Loved this! I am guilty of all of these as well. I also admit that a small percentage of the books I purchase for my high school library, both in print and digitally, are titles I want to read! Oh and as far as overdue books, I often joke with my public librarians that I do it on purpose – to add money to their coffers!

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