Consider the Public Library

by Emma Pinault, Senior Editor, INALJ Florida,  INALJ Idaho, INALJ Indiana, INALJ Iowa, INALJ Kansas, INALJ Georgia, INALJ Hawaii

Consider the Public Library

Emma PinaultMany of us, in college and in library school, fell in love with the academic library. It might have been a little intimidating to an undergraduate freshman, at first, but a good university library is a quiet sanctuary for studying and reading, and also (especially at larger universities) a vast storehouse of information you won’t find anywhere else. There’s something peaceful about long rows of books stretching out as far as you can see, an atmosphere wrapped in quiet and the smell of old paper. Many of us got to go behind the scenes as student assistants in such libraries once we entered library school, and loved every minute of it.

But before you conclude that you’re going to spend the rest of your career in academia after you graduate from library school, take a moment to consider the public library.

At your public library, you’ll encounter a wide variety of different people, of all ages, from the high school student working on a history report to the young parents trying to remember the favorite picture books <i>their</i> parents read to them when they were young so they can share them with their children. You’ll encounter patrons with different needs and interests, and different comfort levels with technology. One day you might be showing a student how to search a peer-reviewed database; the next you might find yourself teaching someone how to set up their first email account.

Your local public library also offers a way to connect with and get to know your local community. The public library can be a space for the community to come together. The public library also challenges you to learn more about the area you serve, and those parts of the community the library does not reach as well. Figuring out how to bring the library to those patrons, and draw them in, can be one of the most rewarding and difficult challenges.

The challenges and rewards will be different than those you’d face in an academic setting, and so will the space itself, the collection, and the patrons you serve. If reader’s advisory is your passion, you’ll have a great opportunity to spend time talking about fiction with other avid readers in a public library. Whether it’s starting a book club discussion group or simply offering suggestions for a patron’s next read, you’ll have a bigger fiction selection and more opportunities to discuss it in your public library.

If you’re interested in children’s services, you can be a part of instilling a love of reading and of libraries in the next generation. How many of us first found a sanctuary and a gateway to adventure in the books at our local public libraries? Even if you’re not interested in reading to young children at regular story times, for those of us who grew up visiting a public library regularly as a child, working in one can feel like coming home.

As you’re conducting your job search, consider applying to public library positions. And wherever you end up, take some time to visit and get to know your local public library!