Yesterday was my final day of work at the library.
Not gonna lie; that was hard. The library here has been a key piece of my existence for my entire life. I borrowed tons of books and went to activities there as a little kid. When I hit 11 I was asked if I wanted to be a volunteer, and I began helping to keep the kids’ section in order. At age 16 they really wanted to start paying me, but due to a county hiring freeze, they couldn’t. Finally, when I was 17, I received a phone call while I was on a road trip with my best friend; they wanted to interview me for a paying job! Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be home for a week. So, I had my first-ever job interview on a hot July afternoon while sitting in a park ranger’s cabin and wearing my swimsuit. Classy. Three days later I was officially a county employee!
People sometimes think my job looks boring.
All they see is a girl shelving cartload after cartload of books. They see repetitive work. I see discovery. They don’t understand why I love my job so much; I can’t imagine not loving it.
I love the feeling of gracefully pushing around packed book carts that weigh more than my body. I love stopping to pop open the cover of every fascinating looking book to see what it’s about. I love being introduced to so many new stories and ideas. I love helping the patrons find their desired goods and services. I love having the “superpower” of always being able to find just about anything amongst the stacks. I love solving the mysteries that some patrons present me with.
In my 13 years there, I’ve been able to do so much!
Sure, I’ve put away literally millions of books. But everyone knows that. What they don’t always know is how many other cool things the library has let me work on.
I’ve been sent on fun and exciting photography assignments. I’ve learned how to create and curate a small museum of 1930’s artifacts. I’ve directed and acted in a live audio drama, and I even got to invent all of our sound effects! I’ve trained employees and volunteers. I’ve rescued numerous books from other libraries that have accidentally been sent off to our shelves. I’ve been sent off to spend entire afternoons combing the giant books of vintage newspapers in the Tribune archives for fun articles and trivia.
Sometimes they send me to run errands. Sometimes they let me make phone calls to patrons. Often, they’ve sent me around town with fliers to advertise our events at local businesses. I’ve had fun helping out with things in the back processing room and doing my part to improve the organization of our database. Oh, and of course, I’ve had fun cuddling our resident library cats and spending half a week helping to make 200 graham cracker houses.
It’s not just about what I’ve done. It’s also about who I’ve met.
I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with a well known classical guitarist and meet a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I’ve also gotten to know a wide array of fascinating patrons: the man who solved murder mysteries with divination. The guy who kept getting his 9/11 Truth Project site shut down by the feds. An entrepreneur from Seattle. A teen who thought bragging about his time spent in juvenile corrections and stealing his mother’s car would make me want to go out with him. The sisters who I spent 6 months watching before I finally determined their natural hair color. An elderly lady who reads children’s books out loud to herself on occasion. The woman who brings her entire desktop computer to use the free library wifi. The adorable four-year-old who wanted to help me shelve the books one day (and he did, with a little help from me to show him where they went). All of the amazing librarians with their fun tales and personalities. Oh, and of course, the litter of kittens that were born in our administrator’s office!
Some people get excited about their last day at work, but I didn’t want mine to end.
Sure, I could have shown up, done my shift, and left. But I couldn’t. So I stuck around until I was the very last person left, even after the front desk librarians were gone. I have this odd infatuation with being locked in the library in the dark at night, so I took it all in one last time. What other libraries will allow me to be the only person in the entire building after closing?
It felt wrong to just leave, though. So, I spent half an hour writing notes to everyone on staff to leave for them to find at their workstations. It was fun, and thinking of them smiling at the last piece of me left in the building makes me smile too. I even wrote one to the patrons. It’s true, what I’ve heard people say: doing something nice for others really can help you feel less sad.