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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The word is LIBRARY

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 26, 2016

Recently, I was reading a Blog which involved librarians discussing some of the unusual things that we have been asked while working at a library.


Librarians often comment that they should “write a book” after they retire; but most of us concede that will never happen as the discussions between a librarian and a library user are private conversations.


As a matter of fact, library records regarding your use of the library and what you check out are protected by Ohio Revised Code Section 149.43 and public libraries operate within that provision.


But speaking in generalities, librarians are familiar with common questions that people ask libraries and librarians.


The most common statement/questions that we are all asked from time to time is, “how much time do you have to see books and read?”


That is followed by “you must love to read!”


Well, yes, all of those points are correct to a degree.  Working in a library you encounter lots of books; which today are in print format, online databases, and in eBook format.


Regardless, there are lots of books that we don’t see, or even read about, with more than a million books produced annually.


The typical library only acquires a small percentage of the potential titles based on interest, requests, and demand, and lots of other books are acquired for specific requests through interlibrary loan.


No public library in 2016 can operate without being linked to a larger network with access to a larger collection of titles.  Our library system is linked to 92 other systems with over 220 physical locations and nearly 8 million titles.


Even with that connection, library users are shocked when the book they want isn’t owned by any library in that network.


Librarians do not exist in libraries to sit and read books.  We often read little bits and pieces of books, or reviews of potential purchases.  Today that is complicated by the vast number of self-published books whose authors are waiting to be on someone’s best-sellers list.


Librarians are dealing with the mechanics of a public library, what makes it work to serve the information needs of our users.


People are often surprised when they tell me the title of a book, and I am unaware of it.  I tell people that I am only as smart of my ability to look up information and provide it to them.


Every day in a public library brings something new and different, something interesting and provocative, something to stimulate the brain.


I always say that we librarians know a whole lot about many things, but aren’t experts in any particular thing.


In the 46 years since the first day I worked in a public library, I have watched things change dramatically from people simply looking for a specific book; to the community center of today finding forms for agencies who have closed their public offices.


Public computers, copiers, public notaries, and programs have supplemented “looking for books” as the role of a library.


Regardless, it is a great place to work, even if you don’t read a lot of books all day.


My other comment about things that librarians are “asked,” really relates to the pronunciation of the word LIBRARY.  There is an “R” in the middle of the word library.  Be sure to add that letter as it has been the reason that job applicants have not been hired in libraries.


The word has never been pronounced LIE-BERRY, nor is it spelled that way.


So, if you don’t assume that we spend all day at the library reading books, and you pronounce the word library correctly, you will be fine with most librarians.