Library Day in the Life: ROUND 6

MONDAY: I’m working a Tuesday-Saturday shift this month, so I spent most of my day in pajamas playing with my son Finn.  I also got a massage and had tofu/veggies/wheat berries for dinner.  It was awesome.  I also turned off Twitter notifications on my phone.  As much as I love libraries, sometimes I just want to disconnect and be a dad and husband.

TUESDAY: Started off my week by having a meeting with various departments about our summer reading program.  This year, we’re developing an in house program called “PORTLAND READS”.  Today we all got on the same page about where we’d like to go, what we need, and what we want out of this.  I shared this brief and simple Google Form as an example of how we could use Docs to create our own online signup and also collect information about the program.  I also began to move ahead with a project idea that involves the March Madness Tournament.  Basically, my library would show the games and at the program we would also have representatives from local colleges at the event as well to talk to teens about going to college, what they would need to do, etc.  At the end of the day I got to spend about 30 minutes just chatting with one of my favorite teen patrons Bianca.  We spent some time talking about music and India Arie in particular.  We listened to her song Video and I’ll never forget what she said about it: “Every teenage girl should listen to this song.  They could learn so much.”

WEDNESDAY: Started off the day writing a proposal to my library to see if I can get some funding to attending ALA 2011 in New Orleans this year.    After that was finished, I embraced for a busy day at the teen desk.  Midterms are happening this week, so the teens get out of school early.  At around 11:45am, we had 50-60 teens in our teen area.  We usually have anywhere from 30-40 teens in here at one time after school, but today was different.  It was like all of them arrived at one moment and the hormones were blasting full force.  This naturally led to some loudness and confusion in the area and I had to make sure the teens knew to chill out just a bit.  Things calmed down maybe 2 hours later and I started setting up for Game Night.  We had 11 teens come to game night.  At the same time, we had the third movie in our Teen Through Time series, which brought in four people.

THURSDAY: Got in at 9:45am this morning to find out one of my staff members was sick.  I’ve got a 10am-7pm shift today so I’m ready for this Thursday.  Spent the first part of my morning talking with our communications staff to get some more PR out for Teens Through Time. Next, I worked on setting up some templates in Google Docs for statistics/budgets/etc.  You know, all things numbers.  It’s been a slow process, but I’ve been trying to put all of my work into Google Docs to keep things manageable.  To say that this Teen Library has been busy these past two days is an understatement.  We’ve had around 200 teens come in and out of our area from 10am-7pm the last two days.  About 60% are actually using our services: computers, wireless, media.  The rest are just sort of here.  They interrupt the teens that are working together.  They don’t really do anything “wrong” per say, but they’ve increasingly become a drain on staff and morale in general.  One of the hardest things I find myself facing in this job is finding a balance between being super nice and welcoming and aware of those that are just abusing our services.  To close off the day, I just dabbled a bit in a few projects I have been working on.  Not feeling 100% ready to #makeithappen tonight, but you can’t always kick butt.


The Verbena album La Musica Negra has been keeping me sane over the past few days.  Today I’m meeting with a representative from Freegal to get a better understanding of their service.  Lots of my teens are using YouTube to listen to music while in the library.  Almost every one of them has iPods as well.  Pumping money into a physical CD collection hasn’t really been working too well, so this seems like the best digital alternative for now.  I mean, sure, it circulates, but at the same time the numbers are way below what I’d expect to see.  Back from my meeting.  It went really well and I’m convinced Freegal is the way to go to serve my teen population.  We’ll see if the rest of the library is on board with it because it is a rather pricey investment.  The teen library was rather busy again today because teens got let out of school early due to midterms.  We almost had one fight break out and two teens had to be escorted.  I guess you can say emotions were running high, but it was resolved quickly and all was well.  For lunch, I went out with the Tim, Daniel, and Jeremy from LibraryThing to Taste of India.  It was great chatting with them and it gave me the kick in the butt that I needed to finish the day strong.

SATURDAY: This is my last Saturday working for a month, so I’m jazzed about that.  Just gonna take it slow today and focus on tidying up little pieces of things that I’ve been working on for my teens.  I’m gearing up for a pretty schedule next week…lots of programs including the Maine Ghost Hunters coming in to do a Teen After Hours on Wednesday.  That should be a ton of fun for us.

What I check out at my library

I thought I’d add this pic to end my post.  This is why I love public libraries.  In 5 minutes, I got an album I’ve been itching to listen to, a Nintendo DS game for my wife Haley to enjoy, and a book my son Finn and I will read before he goes to bed tonight.  Sharing and experience.  I love it.


  1. Good morning Justin,

    Good post. I especially liked the “A week in the life of a librarian” format. I am going to share your post with our department heads. While you describe the environment in the YA area several of your observations would resonate regardless of the department. Your comments on the behavior of your young patrons-from my vantage point at 58 most patrons seem young-certainly struck a chord. Our location attracts a diverse audience. We are surrounded by social service agencies, and the municipal budget has eviscerated many parks and rec programs. Our YMCA closed two years ago…you get the picture. While I have a part time security officer to cover times of heavy usage a lot of the security function falls to me. I have a few things going for me: a long fuse and a plethora of patience, a well defined sense of of right and wrong and the perils of ignoring bad behavior, and a good relationship with the police, social service agencies and schools. You are right about morale: none of us became librarians to act as enforcers,it is an exhausting and often demoralizing responsibility, but it comes with the territory. It is categorically the least palatable part of my job, but unless the composition of our customer base changes it is an inevitable part of working in an urban library.

    Best regards,

    Bob Farwell

  2. I just want to take a minute to tell you how glad I am that Tim introduced us, and how grateful I am for the work you do. Joshua has actively wanted to go to the library every day, has borrowed and enjoyed video games, movies, and graphic novels, and is socializing in a healthy environment. Thank you for providing such great support for Portland’s teens!

    • It has been mega awesome having Joshua in the library. It seems like he’s making some friends here and that he enjoys his time here.

      Hope to see him again today…I have an Eminem CD for him!

  3. Wow! Thank you for all you do. Your city and your teens are extremely lucky to have someone like you.
    Came here after reading “Libmaryann’s Reflections.” Before that was checking out #libday6 on Twitter, & before that was reading “Alaska Librarian,” whose link was in the side bar of an Alaskan political blog. The Internet is fantastic in providing the exposure to so many wonderful people, great ideas, and educational opportunities.
    Have been a wannabe librarian, but life took me elsewhere. Thanks for sharing your week.

  4. Reading experiences like your only further cement my desire to become a librarian. I certainly hope someday I can reach out to as many people as you do. Thanks so much for the opportunity to experience a week of a librarian!

    • I am glad you enjoyed the post. I will make sure to keep sharing the day to day experiences I have….they are what makes the job the best. The people and the interactions make any kind of hard work worth it.

      If you ever have questions about libraries, let me know. I will be glad to chat about them!

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