Kristi Jackowski, Library Aide
TADL Main Library
How long have you worked for TADL and what attracted you to working at the library?
I began working at TADL shortly after the (new) Main Library opened in January of 1999. So in a few months, it’s almost twenty years of service at the library. At first I was employed as a substitute working in various departments such as Circulation, Sight & Sound, and occasionally at the East Bay Branch Library.
When I was growing up, I always thought that I’d be a teacher or a nurse… jobs that focus on helping other people. I enjoyed visiting the library, and a friend recommended that I should apply for a job here. When I received a call to offer me a position, it wasn’t because of my education or technical skills, but as a result of my “people skills.”
One of your main roles in the Circulation department is to staff the Welcome Desk. It seems that you really enjoy this role. What makes it enjoyable?
I really enjoy the interaction with our patrons. Again, it’s about helping people and I never come to work feeling like it’s a drag. In fact, when I’m sick or scheduled for a few days away it feels odd to me. I can only take about four straight days away from the library before it starts to drive me nuts because I’m missing the interaction by serving the public.
The connection with and service to our patrons is so important to the role and reputation of the Library in our community.
You often unlock the front doors of the library in the morning. Can you describe that moment for our readers?
It’s truly my favorite part of the day. When we open at nine a.m., there are always people waiting outside the doors waiting to come into the library. When kids are waiting outside, they often try and guess which door I’ll unlock first and run to it. (Clue: I always unlock the same door first).
We see so many friendly faces of people that you come to know over the years; both regular patrons and seasonal residents, exchanging a warm “hello” and sometimes even a brief hug.
When community members sometimes wonder about the relevance of a library in the Google era, the fact that we have people waiting outside before we open, just waiting to come into the library… it’s a great feeling. Yes, the library is alive and well!
Assisting patrons with collection of overdue fees and lost or damaged items is also a part of your position. Isn’t that a real downer?
It’s a necessary part of the job, but it’s still a service role. The key to helping people to resolve these issues is to focus on, “here’s how I can help you with that.” Compassion and empathy go a long way, while still applying the library borrowing policies. Most patrons respond positively, even in these situations.
In the past 20 years, what has or hasn’t changed the most at the library?
Definitely technology advancements; both for good and (perhaps) bad.
Technology has certainly made interacting with library materials more convenient and efficient for some patrons. Online accounts for library card holders allow patrons to reserve or hold items and then come pick them up and self-checkout during their lunch break and still have time to eat!
When the 3M self-checkout machines were brand new, it was fun to watch patrons be amazed that they could check out an entire stack of books, CDs or DVDs at one time. Often followed by an exclamation like, “that’s sooo cool,” and then give us a high-five at the Welcome Desk.
The only negative thing, in my mind, is that technology has also changed how we interact with patrons. Gone are the “bank teller” windows at the Welcome Desk, where people waited in line to checkout materials. I miss interacting with every single patron. But, as long as people are getting the services that they need from the library, that’s the most important thing.
What is one thing about the library that you want our community to know?
Become familiar with the many digital resources offered through the library, it’s not just books! One of my favorite examples is Hoopla Digital (Digital music, videos, audiobooks, ebooks and comics).
I was going to be traveling with my preschool age grandson via plane. So, I downloaded digital books and movies from my TADL Hoopla account to my iPad. We had a weather delay in Chicago that was several hours long and anyone with experience with children knows how the rest of this story could go. But thankfully, I was able to help pass the time with my grandson by using the Hoopla app. We were sitting in the gate area and gradually, one by one, other kids were gathering around and watching the movie, until there were about six of them all watching the iPad screen. The other parents were so thankful, they bought us food and beverages out of gratitude for helping out in a difficult situation. And it was all because of access to materials via my TADL card!