I was reminded last week that it might not be apparent to everyone what it really takes to work in a public library or work a public service desk. Too many people think that all we do is read books and checkout books. This is not how today’s libraries function. Checking out books and checking in books is really just a small part of the work done here at Keene Memorial Library. As times change and the needs of the community change, so must we. We reevaluate our services regularly to make sure we are serving the whole community of Fremont. So today, I thought I would write my column to thank staff for all the hard work and dedication they give to the community through their extensive work.

I would like to highlight the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for the staff to run the library 64 hours a week. And when I say run the library this includes: maintaining the building and grounds, safety and security of staff and patrons, teaching programs, scheduling events, handling day-to-day activities like checking out materials, assisting patrons with technology issues, ordering and cataloging new materials, coordinating Interlibrary Loan materials, scheduling and performing outreach throughout the community, partnering with various organizations in the community, performing customer service and handling patron issues, and much, much more.

A typical day here at the library could include: working the service desks for 2-3 hours, planning a program, scheduling 3-4 events, answering 50-60 calls, responding to chat requests, replying to 10-20 emails, shelving materials for an hour or two, helping 10-20 patrons with computers/printing/copies, finding a first aid kit for the kid with the scraped knee, working with a distraught patron to remedy an issue they may be having, intervening/mediating with patrons having conflict, cleaning up serious messes, etc… The staff members all wear many hats at work. They are researchers, all-things-library experts, mediators, schedulers, educators, caregivers, and safekeepers, etc...

When we train our employees here at the library, we do not just have to train them on all the rules and regulations (of which there are hundreds). We also train on: customer service skills, how to handle difficult situations or emergency response issues, technical skills such as using our library software or computers skills, knowledge of the entire physical and electronic library collection, skills to handle all the technology equipment in the library, and knowledge about all our programs and events.

It simply amazes me what we handle in a single day. I often talk with the staff about how we managed to pull off all the work we accomplished. The answer usually is “well it needs to be done, so we get it done”. This kind of work ethic is commendable. We all believe everything we do is important and can make a difference to the community of Fremont.

Tina Walker is Director of Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.