Notion #1 – Working in a library looks like really interesting/stimulating work.
Reality: Not really. Having worked in retail for seven years, I can say it’s akin to working in that industry, being a police officer, an orderly in a psych ward, or in a day care facility for adults. Actually, it’s all four most of the time. You get to deal with people you would never in a million years associate with…and those are the decent ones. Most patrons will invariably bitch and complain about the free services we provide. My favorite people are the ones who kvetch about having to wait ten minutes to get on a computer. Suddenly, they’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Oh, my God! Ten whole minutes! What is this world coming to?!?! Gosh, I wish we had magazines, newspapers, and books here to alleviate the boredom of having to wait such an eternity to get on and watch wrestling videos on YouTube.
Notion #2 – I want to make a difference in my community.
Reality: I hate to be the one to shatter your rose colored glasses, but that’s probably not going to happen either. Your ideas on how to accomplish this will get shot down immediately by administrators who, ironically, tell you not to have a “no attitude.” I have an idea about how you should treat your ideas: suppress them deep inside…let them foster and grow into bitterness… and then write a section in a scathing essay telling aspiring librarians what they should do with their ideas. It’s worked for me – just make sure you have a case of Mylanta handy. Moreover, once you see the real members of your community that hang out in the library on a daily basis, you will probably abandon any plans you may have had to help them.
Notion #3 – I want to expand minds.
Reality: Unless you plan on putting LSD in the water fountain (not a bad idea, especially on boring days), it’s extremely doubtful that you will be able to accomplish that. While you do get the occasional opportunity to play a part in the intellectual development of some people, I find that most don’t want their mind’s expanded – they’re content to stay dumb and ignorant. Most just want to come in, get a copy of Big Momma’s House 2, and go home. They could give a rat’s ass about your opinions on The Sun Also Rises.
Notion #4 – I like to read.
Reality: Well, that’s nice. However, you won’t be doing any on the job, unless it of course it’s some boring library related issue, like whether we should call the people who come in here patrons or customers (yes, an actual topic). You probably won’t be discussing The Great Books with many patrons – most just want to be put on the waiting list for Big Momma’s 2, since it’s out or been stolen. And if you do get the opportunity to talk to a patron about a book, it will probably be some old person prattling on and on about how “clever” that J.D. Robb (i.e. Nora Roberts) is. When people ask me who my favorite authors are, I usually tell them that I don’t like books. This does two things: 1) Allows me to see the shocked look on the patrons face and 2) Gets me off the hook from having to talk to these annoying people about books and authors.
Notion #5 – It’s a hip career.
Reality: It appears as though modern librarianship has turned into yet another offbeat “scene” (like burlesque and roller derby) and career choice for young hipsters. I decided to get into the library game for two reasons: 1) I seem to have some aptitude for looking things up (because I’m nosey) and 2) It’s one of the few jobs from which I haven’t been (or almost) fired. Not to be part of some “scene.” If you’re looking for that, please go buy a pair of black framed glasses, a double pocketed plaid shirt that’s two sizes too small for you, some skinny jeans, and find another profession. Don’t become a librarian – jobs in this field are too few and far between as it is.