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Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”

At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”

Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.

I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.

Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.

Here is a screenshot of my computer, a bit earlier in the day… It shows just the tip of the iceberg of what working in a bustling immigrant neighborhood library is like!


A few days ago a woman came to the reference desk to complain. Why is it, she asked, that we have tons of books about Islam and Buddhism, but few about Christianity?

I tried to point out how many books we do have about all religions, but she was not satisfied. Where were books by Billy Graham, she asked. So I showed her that we had books by him. She was still not satisfied. Then she asked who was responsible for ordering books. I told her that it was centralized ordering, not in the hands of the individual branch. She did not seem to believe me. She asked me why it was that they would order so many books on Buddhism and Islam and not enough on Christianity. (Her words.) I made the mistake of conjecturing that maybe they ordered books according to the demographics of the neighborhood, and that this neighborhood is heavily Asian and Pakistani. At this (pure guess) she raised her eyebrows. Then she looked me up and down. And asked me if I was Muslim.

I am not Muslim, but I really wish I had told her, yes, I am. Or that I had asked her, How does it matter?

Yesterday was quite stressful at the library. I came home soul-exhausted. There were some incorrigible customers who seemed to relish putting the librarian through her paces. But on second thought, there were some thought-provoking and delightful encounters that made the day well worth living. Here are some highlights.

Two Pakistani-American girls befriended me at the children’s desk. One of them shadowed me all day and even helped with reference transactions. I think it made her feel grown-up and responsible. The best part was when we were talking about how bad my spoken Hindi/Urdu is. I explained to them that Hindi isn’t my mother tongue. Then they asked me where I come from. India, I replied. We silently digested the fact that “our countries” are having some “problems” at the moment. One of them said, Read the rest of this entry »

Today went by quick at the library, as Saturdays are wont to do. Patrons kept me busy busy busy requesting GRE test prep information, holding/requesting specific romance novels by Brenda Novak, Geronimo Stilton books, inquiring how to obtain some very specific sounding government healthcare documents, and of course downloading tax forms, tax forms, tax forms, and, and, and…. Not to mention the myriad computer and printer assistance requests.

At the end of it all, at a quarter to five, things slowed down a bit. I started wandering around the floor, letting folks know that computers were shutting down, that the library was about to close, that they should bring their books to the front for checkout, and oh, by the way, could I help them find something if they weren’t finding what they wanted?

Amidst all this end-of-day wrapping up, Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday (Friday) was my fifteenth day working at a public library. It felt positively easy after some of the other days last week. I’m discovering that some days are relatively calm while others are a whirlwind of activity… Therefore, days like these are gold, and should be savored when they pop up, because there’s sure to be a hectic day just around the corner.

Some interesting (and satisfying) things happened today.

A young woman came in looking for how-to books on catering and bartending. While we didn’t have any books on the topics currently on the shelf at our tiny branch, I was able to refer her to a larger, specialized branch that did have these materials. And, unlike many patrons who have waited till the last minute to do their research, she had the time and energy to actually physically go to that branch despite the one hour train ride. And then, just because I was curious, I did some more research after she left, and found that we had at least one e-book in our system on bartending, so I emailed her the link.

A Russian woman who spoke sparse amounts of English came in and managed to communicate that she was looking for a book about New York City, written in Russian.

I’m not sure that my search was the most sophisticated, but I managed to turn up a book in the online catalog that intrigued her. But since this book was at another branch, we’d have to put in a reservation for the book for her and request that it be sent to our branch. This, however, was difficult to communicate with the language barrier. Then it hit me. I could finally make use of the AltaVista Babelfish translation website!

Go ahead and laugh at my nerdiness, but it was fun to type in the sentences in English and then get to see the look of happy comprehension in her eyes as she read the Russian translation of how the reservation process works.

“Da, da!” she said, with a broad smile, while her tiny son looked on. Da, indeed! Satisfaction achieved.

When I was a child, I would get so excited about a visit to the library, that it would at times have a physical effect on me… in the form of having to run to the bathroom. Embarrassing, but true.

So, you can imagine the excitement involved in my first bonafide library job ever. Thank god, though, that I am no longer running to the loo… :) Today is my 11th actual day on the job, which, (along with a myriad school commitments) explains my longish hiatus from blogging.

Am typing this during a break in my day… While I am not officially a “librarian” per se, I basically do the work of one, rather than clerical work. (Although, of course, there is a fair amount of clerical work to be done as well, which is fine by me, as I am one of those learn by doing people.) This involves, among other responsibilities, womanning the reference desk. So far, I have researched or answered questions about (or put on hold) everything from books on cats, the scientific cause of absorption, how to get a patent, Native American tribes of New York State, sapphires, emeralds, Mein Kampf (!), and one very enthusiastic customer who waxed eloquent on Jim Morrisson… In addition to this, I now have several patrons who already know me by name… I hope that’s a good thing!

More soon…

… which I discovered while surfing the web today to take the temperature of Libraryland!

 The name of the blog is as specific as it gets:

Friends: Social Networking Sites for Engaged Library Services

And the description is: Friends: Social Networking Sites for Engaged Library Services is devoted to the use of online social networking sites for any and all types of library-related programs or services.

Upon a quick preliminary perusal, this site appears to me quite packed with useful information with library students –or new librarians– eager and willing to learn exactly how social networking could be used in creative ways to enhance library services. It’s great to read at this time, because I was just starting to feel somewhat cynical about “all the technology” out there, wondering whether or not this was just more stuff to surf and have fun with, or if there really is some use which librarians –and users– can make of it, besides the “isn’t it so cool I found my friend from ten years ago on Facebook” feature. I’ll definitely be adding this blog to my library blogroll!

Here is the blog entry which caught my eye today… http://onlinesocialnetworks.blogspot.com/2007/10/sharing-privacy-and-trust-in-our.html