Straight from the Pages.
Pages aren’t only found in a book. We’re talking about library Pages. What is a Page? They’re the people responsible for the shelving of materials, maintaining materials in correct series through shelf reading, and assisting in overall daily library procedures. Contrary to urban legend, the books, DVDs and CDs, are not reshelved at the library by magical elves overnight. In short, they’re the most essential people that keep our library materials ready for you to use.
At the annual TADL Staff Inservice day, we recently talked with the following Pages about their work: Alicia, Amanda, Cathie, Cathleen, Cindy, Erin, Katie, Martin, Meredith, Morgan, and Raechel.
Q. What attracted you to working at a public library?
Meredith: The first job that I ever had in elementary school was helping in the library, then throughout high school in Toledo, Ohio, I also worked in the library. When I attended the University of Michigan, I worked in the library there. So, I figured that Traverse Area District Library would be a good place to work.
Martin: The first place that I ever attended school in Petoskey (Michigan), was the basement of a library. So, I was introduced to the library as a five year-old. The impression has never changed for me, the library is a place of wonder and adventure. I’ve lived in Traverse City since 1973 so I remember the Traverse City Carnegie Library on Sixth Street, I’ve seen the transitions of buildings and services, and I use the library a lot because I’m an avid movie enthusiast and reader. So, I was here one day and asked Aaron Olson in the Sight & Sound department if they ever needed any help. Well, he looked at me (eyes grew big) and immediately handed me an application form saying, “Fill this out and I can have you working here by Friday!” So, as a retired person this supplies me with all of the human contact that I need, plus it’s a fantastic environment with friendly co-workers. And that’s a great discovery.
Alicia: The library always seemed like a really cool place to be. I have three kids, and we’d be here off and on again, at the time I was beginning to look for a job. Money is an important factor to any job, but I felt called to be a part of serving people and the library is a great place for that.
Raechel: I’ve loved books and reading since I was a preschooler and I grew up spending a lot of time in the library. All I ever wanted was to be in a job where I’m surrounded by books. Now I put them away everyday for a living, and I love that!
Katie: I attended a lot of programs at the library when I was little, and later I was active in the Teen Sages group where I had a lot of fun with my friends at the library. So, I wanted to continue to help out the library once I was an adult.
Q. What skills and processes does a Page need to learn in order to be effective?
Alicia: The primary thing is an attention for detail and an overall awareness of what’s happening in the library department. Noticing that the shelves are dusty, or the books are out of place. Or picking up a book and noticing that it doesn’t feel quite right…and it’s not, because the pages are falling out of the binding. So, it’s quality control.
Morgan: You need to learn the Dewey decimal system. It’s pretty easy to learn.
Martin: When I was starting out I thought that this was gonna be an easy, low-stress, job. Basically putting CDs and DVDs away, how challenging can this be? Our job is on the front lines of the library materials. We’re the first people to receive it, to inspect it, to clean it, to fix it, or identify if something is missing. So if we do our job correctly, it makes everything in the library work so much smoother for everyone: staff and patrons.You may have 500 items in front of you, but you need to to take the time to check each individual piece. It’s like painting the Mackinac Bridge…you’re never done! It’s a constant flow, the amount of product that we process and re-shelve every day would amaze you.
Q. Can you describe for our readers what the cycle is for receiving and re-shelving materials?
Cindy: Items are returned and scanned into the integrated library system software and then auto sorted to five bins. Then they get put onto carts for each department, which then are moved into the library to be re-shelved. CDs and DVDs need to be cleaned or have scratches removed to keep them in good shape.
What’s your favorite thing about this job?
Cathleen: I don’t ever have to answer the phone or sit at a computer! I retired from a job like that, and I’m really happy to be on my feet and moving and simply sorting books.
Raechel: I like being able to focus and put my heart and soul into the details of re-shelving the materials, without needing to stop and assist with public reference questions, so that the next patron can check it out. I can assist you best by getting these items back onto the shelves.
Leah: I like the low-stress environment, where I can work without a supervisor standing over my shoulder.
Erin: I enjoy sorting the books and putting them away.
Amanda: I definitely read more books now, than if I didn’t work here. I work several jobs, so it would be difficult for me to make visiting the library a priority if I didn’t already work here.
Morgan: My favorite part of the library is working with Katheryn Carrier. Well, and my other co-workers. I don’t read in my spare time, because I didn’t like being forced to read certain books in high school. Just shelving the books at TADL has been an education. Whenever I watch Jeopardy! on TV, I know so many answers about books!
Martin: Since I like to use the library for my personal enjoyment, it’s always fun to learn more about the materials in the collection. I’m always discovering more neat movies.
Cathie: I like interacting with the members of the community, and the low-stress environment. Plus, the organizing aspect of the job fulfills a certain need for me.
Q. What’s the best-kept secret or tip about the library that you want the public to know more about?
Meredith: I’m amazed by the number of items borrowed annually through the library. It’s something like 1.2 million items a year! The library has a lot of resources available.
Morgan: I didn’t know about the Nelson Room at the Main Library before working here. If you like “old book smell” they’ve got some cool books in the glass bookcases. I like old stuff (local history), it’s really cool!
Alicia: The variety of online digital resources, and the availability of MelCat (Michigan Electronic Catalogue) to borrow books from libraries across Michigan, is a real value to accessing materials. And the library is a place that’s usually open during bad weather, when other places are closed.
Raechel: You can ask any question to a librarian. Literally any question! I found my first apartment because they helped me locate information about available rentals in the area.
Cathleen: The library is where the community comes together in a public space, and you learn more about your neighbors.
Martin: The library staff are welcoming to everyone, regardless of your circumstances in life, as long as you abide by the behavior policy you can be here.
Amanda: The public library is a great place for events and programs, but also a safe place for introverted people to still be out in public. They don’t have to interact with others, though they can if they choose to, and don’t have to be lonely.
Q. Would you recommend this job to others interested in working at the library?
Group: Yes! (enthusiastically together)
Cathleen: Pages are the foundation of everything that happens at the library, and we do feel appreciated for the role that we provide.
Raechel: Just the other day someone asked me, “What is a Page?” And suddenly it dawned on me that our position is aptly named. We’re like the book. The pages of a book are very visible, and yet invisible because they hold the words and text and keep them in order for the reader. But the pages aren’t the entire book, just an essential medium for the book and reader to interact.