How to be a Librarian Assistant
Ah, the library. A quiet place where one can read, use the computer, or perform cheerleading kicks from the table in the meeting room. Wait – what?! Okay, so maybe I am not the best authority on how to be the typical librarian. But I did work in a library for 3 years during my 10th, 11th, and 12th grades of high school. Technically my title was Student Assistant to the Librarian. And all these years later I will still tell you that it was the BEST job I ever had – even if I was on the crappy Federal pay scale and even if I was part time so I didn’t get the great Federal benefits. I dream sometimes that I am working at the library again with all my old friends. I call them my friends instead of my coworkers because we got along that well. It was a small family of 8 that worked well together and kept the library in tiptop shape even after story time with 56 preschoolers and their families.
"One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter - who was a child at the time - asked me, "Daddy, why are you writing so fast?" And I replied, "Because I want to see how the story turns out!" ~~ Louis L'Amour
How to Alphabetize
I had a few main priorities as a Student Assistant (SA).My first priority was to get all the returned books back to their homes on the shelves, called shelving – I know pure genius.Fiction books were placed in alphabetical order according to genre.The order started with the last name.If the last name of two authors were the same you then went on to the letters in the first name.For example
- Baker, Claudia comes before Baker, Daniel since C in Claudia comes before D in Daniel
- Smith, Michael comes before Smith, Mike since the C since we eliminate all like letters to reach the C in Michael and the K in Mike.C obviously comes before K in the alphabet.
If an author has several books in a genre the last and first name will be the same (there’s my genius showing again).So you place the books in alphabetical order according to the titles, not including the words “The And or An”.For example
- Baker, Mike A Big Circus
- Baker, Mike The Flower Fell (we ignore “The”)
- Baker, Mike Orange County Sale
- Baker, Mike Orange Doll House
- Baker, Mike Orange Doll Zebra
Hilarious Librarian Song
Favorite Children's Authors
The Dewey Decimal System
Now we move on to the Dewey Decimal System. Ugh, I know. But really it IS easy once you understand it. Just think of the groups of numbers as LASTNAME, FIRSTNAME or rather as a LASTNAME(dot)FIRSTNAME. Let me explain more so you will understand. The non-fiction books were shelved according to number rather than letter. The number could look like any of these variations
And of course those above examples are in order. The dot, or decimal, is no different than the comma used between last name and first name of the author in the fiction books. You simply place the books in numerical order as opposed to alphabetical order.
Favorite Adult Authors
Noticing a trend here?!
Finding a Good Book
Another responsibility was to help patrons (you know, those who use the library’s services) find books. After several years at the library I was able to take patrons to a certain section to find information for reports and projects. Animals were in the 800’s, cooking was in the 600’s, and Geography was in the 200’s. I could also find popular titles to fiction books easily without using the computer. Animal Farm was under Orwell in the Classics section, The Burning Hills was under L’Amour in the Westerns section, and The House on Hope Street was under Steele in the General Fiction section. But when it came to finding books I wasn’t familiar with I had to use the computerized card catalog. I could search by author, title, and topic. I always had fun finding books for patrons because I felt like I was presenting them with an ever-elusive treasure.
There were lots of times I had to be very creative in my search because the patron would say “I’m looking for a book I read about 5 years ago. It was a mystery about an old house in Ohio that was used for the Underground Railroad. I think the author was a woman…Bethany, Betty, Mona...” I would often ask the patron to give me a few minutes and I would find them in the library with a list of possibilities. Then the search was on. I would choose fiction-mystery, Underground Railroad, and Ohio as my search terms. Newer books would be discarded from the list since the patron read the book 5 years ago. I would scan the list for authors similar to the names mentioned by the patron and lo-and-behold the title ‘An Underground Railroad Mystery in Ohio’ by Mona Beth Quigley was on the shelf.
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I did have other odd responsibilities. As a Student Assistant I basically assisted where needed which included covering new books and re-covering old books, emptying the trash, making copies for the coloring pages to put in the children’s area, and making coffee for the older gals. I don’t regret many things because I feel as though I learn and grow from my mistakes. But I DO regret not getting a degree in Library Science.
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