What Would We Do Without Library Workers?

Library Workers Make A Difference Every Day

When I talk to people about what they love about libraries, many people start by telling me about their favorite librarians or library workers when they were a child. That person who recognized their potential, or handed them a book that changed the way they see the world, or pushed them to challenge themselves both intellectually and emotionally. That person behind a library desk who was so much more than “just” a librarian. I remember the librarian who encouraged me to check out the “grown-up” books as a kid (Dickens, Maya Angelou, etc.) That little act told me that she knew I was capable of thinking big and handling the harder truths of life, even though I was young. This had a profound impact on how I defined myself.

What would our libraries be without the unique, talented, and passionate people who work there? More than the bun-wearing, shushing stereotype we’ve come to expect, today’s library workers are skilled professionals who are committed to making sure you (and everyone else) has open access to information, opportunities for learning and growth, and the tools to find what you need. They tell stories, teach tech classes, host speakers, build robots, find ancestors, forge partnerships, deliver books to homebound seniors, connect you to the Internet, and answer questions. Author Neil Gaiman said it better than I ever could, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

I could go on and on. But I’ll let them tell you more. I asked a few library workers from the public libraries in Waukesha and Jefferson counties to weigh in on what it’s like to work at the library.

What are some of the things you do at the library?

  • “Answer reference questions, adult programming, and buy books.” ~ Karen
  • “I plan unique and interesting programs for the community, evaluate books and music for our collections, and help patrons with whatever their needs are.” ~ Jennifer
  • “Implement, maintain, and innovate the library’s technology.” ~ John
  • “Budget, personnel, project management, strategic planning, reference.” ~ Brittany

What do you love about your job?

  • “Helping an adult who hasn’t picked up a book in 30 years learn to love reading again. It’s never too late to come back to the library.” -Katy
  • “Connecting people with information that empowers them and fostering children’s love of reading.” -Rachel
  • “Seeing the joy in people’s eyes when they check items out!” -Whitney
  • “That every day is different.” ~ Sue
  • “Finding that perfect book or resource for a customer.” -Abby

Tell us about a moment where you knew you made a difference in someone’s life:

  • “A patron needed help with the computer because her husband had passed away the day before. She needed help putting together his obituary. I just wanted to try to make one thing easier for her on that very difficult day.” -Emily
  • “Working with the Home Delivery program, I meet wonderful patrons who I’ve become lasting friends with over the years.” -Milena
  • “I helped a gentlemen use Skype so that he could do an interview for a job.” -John
  • “I had a grade-school boy thank us for winning a gift card for reading and then tell us that his grandma was going to take him school clothes shopping with it.” -Karla
  • “A kid who comes in weekly said to his mom one night, “Mom, this is my friend Ms. Jane!” -Jane

Library workers are friends and confidantes, the ones we look to for answers, advice, and help. Day in and day out, they open the doors to welcome everyone in and get to work making lives a little better. And they do it all because they love it. Next time you’re in the library, take a minute to thank those library workers for everything they do. (Or bring cookies. We like those too).

A version of this article appeared in the Waukesha Freeman, the Oconomowoc Enterprise, the Daily Jefferson County Union, and the Watertown Times. We will be sharing those pieces here on our website a few weeks after each piece has been printed.