Why librarians don’t sit around and read books

September 22, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

I had one of THOSE conversations with a good friend last weekend. “If you don’t read books all day, what does a librarian do?” Every librarian has had this conversation multiple times.

So, this has not been a typical week, but I am going to describe it for you so that you will know why librarians are not sitting around reading books all day.

Sunday (first day of the work week in the Muslim world):

  • Late shift, came in at 10 am, worked until 8 pm
  • One hour – new student orientation to the library
  • One hour – collection analysis, comparing the titles in our collection to a recommended core collection (percentage is too low, need to order a lot of core titles)
  • Meeting with other library staff to discuss how the first session of student orientations went
  • Lunch – yes, for my health I insist on actually taking a break and eating something
  • One hour – reference desk = being available to answer any questions people have and help them use library equipment (photocopier, scanner, computer)
  • One & half hours – preparation for instruction sessions I will be doing Monday & Tuesday evenings
  • Rest of the “day” until 8 pm – “manned” the circulation desk, sole library staff person on duty


  • In one hour late, because I am staying late to provide instruction to an evening class
  • Four hours on the reference desk – photocopier help, etc.
  • One hour – new student orientation
  • Lunch
  • Administrative tasks – trying to catch up on paperwork, follow up on tasks that have cropped up, responding to faculty requests, scheduling instruction sessions, etc.
  • Instruction session for a class – teaching them information literacy in preparation for a major research paper they will be doing


  • Three & half hours – proctoring an English proficiency test
  • Lunch – totally starving because I missed breakfast
  • One hour – new student orientation
  • Three hours – reference desk
  • Instruction session, just like the one the night before


  • Administrative tasks – trying to keep up with my email and paperwork
  • Collecting together all our policy documents related to “collection development” = selecting, ordering, receiving, and withdrawing library materials (On another day, I will read all these, edit, and add to these documents.)
  • One & half hour – attend a class to see students give their first presentations in front of the class and to talk about blogging.
  • Lunch & run to the bank
  • Responding to emails and following up on some requests, trying to keep my head above water
  • Meeting with another staff member to revise some documentation on our process for ordering books from vendors like Amazon
  • New student orientation
  • “Manning” the circulation desk so that the assistants can be free to do other end of day tasks

Thursday: (tomorrow, so this is speculative)

  • Library staff meeting – one hour
  • New student orientation – one hour
  • Reference desk – two hours
  • Lunch
  • Meeting about donating withdrawn books to another library
  • Meeting with another librarian to draft proposals for a change in how we do some of our tasks in hope of freeing up some time

Now, I do have to admit that I did check out a book. It is a book on how to build a core library collection, so not an exciting read. I’ve managed to read about one page. I did pick up another book. This was during a orientation session time slot. I was waiting for students to arrive and wandered into the biography section, discovering that we have a biography of Yul Brynner written by his son. So, I looked at all the pictures, read the captions and read about one page of the first chapter while waiting. I also did some reading while proctoring the test, but it was mostly Twitter on my iPad.

So, there you have it. This is what those strange non-reading librarians are up to.



  1. Oh myyyy! I’m exhausted just by reading that! Great respect and wish you patience and courage 🙂

  2. Haha the “conversation* sounds oddly familar if u know what I mean 🙂

  3. Myth busted 🙂

  4. But you must admit you hoped that you could read a bit more than you do. I mean, to be within reach of so many books sounds dreamy to a reader.

    • Yeah, dreamy. Like Augustus Gloop sitting in a chocolate shop and being told he can’t eat any chocolate. Dreamy.

  5. Hence the need for all of us who DO have time to read, so we can tell the librarians who monitor all that information what literature is out there and give them opinions from personal experience and not just online reviews!

  6. Guess what? Yul Brynner’s son, Rock Brynner is an alum if my high school in Geneva- how’s that for random?

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