My life as a librarian

I hope this month so far has shown you how amazing, crazy, and truly inspiring libraries mean to me. I thought I’d take some time to share the journey I took into becoming a librarian, my true life’s passion. Ok, here goes…

To be honest I had no idea what it meant in the beginning. My meagre experience while growing up in Zambia, boarding school in England and high school in Sri Lanka gave me only a few class visits to the school library. So I hadn’t experienced a public library until my family migrated to New Zealand. Although my local public library gave me a free card and access to so many books, I didn’t use it as often for leisure reading as university coursework and exam prep would mount everyday!! It was only after I had graduated from my geography degree and was searching for a job that I found the job vacancy that launched my career.

image of woman holding book inside library. lights above. woman in black and flowery dress with bright orange lanyard around neck.
Reading at work…

The first few years I worked part-time as a library assistant while pursuing a library studies diploma from an online correspondence course. To the question why: the answer is because it made sense at the time!! 

I must take this moment to say a big huge thank you to my sister who gave me the encouragement to actually do this!! Without her support and belief in me I don’t know what I would have done with my life!! 

Somewhere in between assignments and coursework, the two – work and study – became one. It made sense and some kind of internal jigsaw puzzle clicked into place. This was what I was meant to do with my life!! 

Over the last seventeen years or so I’ve worked in different public branches in Auckland along with a small rural library outside of Auckland when I was briefly married but that’s a story for another day!! Although I’d been mostly in library assistant roles, the responsibilities and experiences I’ve acquired have only grown over the years and progressed to the senior library assistant role I hold now. I’ve had the delight of helping out for storytimes dressed up as a tiger, glammed up for the local Santa Parade and helped promote endless regional events from Diwali, Lunar New Year, to Comic Book Month!! To say I have less things to do now would be quite wrong as I have to oversee quite a few things along with keeping up with online learnings, attending workshops and even training others!!

A giant thank you goes to all the managers and colleagues who have helped and supported me over the years!! Without your guidance, kindness, and friendship, I wouldn’t have been able to climb over the hurdles in front of me to this moment!! 

My passion for reader’s advisory, I think, has always been there. For those who don’t work in libraries, Reader’s advisory is a core service provided by libraries which basically involves library staff recommending fiction or nonfiction titles to customers through direct or non-direct means!! (I know, it’s very technical for what is fairly the obvious reason for being called ‘library’)

four-grid comic strip with characters from Peanuts, Lucy and Linus. they are talking about library in front which gives books for free.
A little library comedy

The interest in children’s literature began one evening when I had started reading the first Harry Potter book while waiting for a bus. I fell into Hogwarts and basically returned three months later a changed person!! The younger readers were all into Harry Potter then, (they still are!!) and some had finished the books and were wanting more. It was actually them who propelled me to look for alternate authors, partly to help them, but ended up helping myself at the same time. And so began my journey into children’s literature and the blog you’re reading now. I do read other adult books every now and then, for research and enjoyment. The last two years I’ve been facilitating a book chat at work and since the group consists of an eclectic mix of elderly patrons I find myself reading fascinating non-fiction and some of the contemporary bestsellers to just keep up with them. 

Being a librarian means more than just getting the right book for the person in front of me. It’s more about getting to know who they are, why they came to the library, and how I can help them make their visit a pleasant experience. Mainly I feel happy knowing that I’ve given them a happy memory to remember when they think of the library. If you go to your public library wherever you are and ask the staff what brings them joy; it will be the patron who returns with some comment about a recent book they’ve read or someone who remembers the librarian who helped them. That there, is in my opinion the highest form of work satisfaction!! 

For me, being a librarian is my career. I might as well tell you that I am a fully registered member of New Zealand’s professional organisation for library and information services and need to keep learning as much as possible for my job. Every day brings new challenges, changes in processes and learning opportunities which I have to keep track of all the while trying my best to be a better human being!! It’s hard work most of the time, but so rewarding!! 

four grid box with photographs of people dressed up. top left three people in black with batman tshirts in pose. top right three ladies dressed up in blue and white dress, red long dress and blue and yellow dress. bottom left person dressed in crocodile costume holding sign. bottom right two people dressed up at leopard and tiger with sign of zoo in middle. caption in middle in white letters reads Fun at work!
Having fun at work!

Over the years I’ve participated in working groups for projects, assisted in layout changes after refurbishments and even acted a bit towards the filming of a book handling video!! (Longest Sunday of my life!!) All of these helped me grow in my career and advance to a heavier workload with additional responsibilities in the senior role I play today. To tell you the truth, when we returned to work after lockdown it was as if we’d all been rescued after being stranded in the desert!!

I know this post doesn’t look like it has a specific structure so please forgive my wandering mind and thoughts!! 

No two days are the same when you work in a public library. We might get a fire drill one day and the next have three schools visiting!! Despite the rosters and scheduled events in place, most days – like life really – never works out the way we plan it!! I’ve had my share of unruly and rude customers over the years, and I can tell you some very colorful stories about the many people in Auckland I have met! However, for the few who are like that, there are multitudes who are just the sweetest, kindest, and friendliest people around!! It’s the little ones that always keep my heart lighter for they’re the ones who can really turn the most difficult of days worth getting up for!! Storytimes and the baby sessions are the best because you get to either wave to them or stamp their little hands at the end!! 

From the many years I’ve worked in Auckland Libraries I am lucky to count many of my colleagues as close friends. We’ve shared meals, charity walks, and laughed over the most ridiculous things!! We’re a crazy bunch at times but you won’t find a more dedicated group as a whole towards literacy and reading!! Oh, and we love gossip too!! 

The role of the public library throughout New Zealand is mainly about the community. For me and I can speak honestly for most of my colleagues, we’re not just a building which houses books, we are the community hub. Free WiFi, ample car parking and public bathrooms aside, most libraries provide so much more and can be seen working with community groups to provide so many more possibilities. Since Covid-19 gripped New Zealand, I am proud to be working at Auckland Libraries who not only have given internet packages to families, but provided job search support and keep on looking for more ways to help the greater Auckland. 

(Sorry, I just had to get that down so the world can see what an amazing place this is to be in!!)

black and white comic panel of two people inside library. man at counter standing in front of woman seated at desk with large QUIET PLEASE sign underneath. caption at bottom reads 'Oh I could tell you where self-help is, but that'd sort of defeat the purpose, wouldn't it.'
Only in the library!!

Well, I guess that’s all I needed to tell you about my life as a librarian. Yes, it’s true we don’t get paid in millions of dollars but for me it’s not just about the money. It’s about the connections I make; with my colleagues, my loyal customers, and with the amazing world of literacy and books in all formats!! 

I hope you enjoy reading the rest of the reviews this month!!

Stay safe and keep reading!!

Miss Mahee

P.S. If by any chance, this has sparked an interest in becoming a librarian, have a chat with your local librarian and ask them how you can become one too!!

image of interior of old-fashioned library with wooden desks and spiral wooden staircases with books everywhere. large quote across front in different font reads When in Doubt Go to the Library - Hermione Granger-
Inspirational library quote

4 thoughts on “My life as a librarian

  1. Loved reading this! It’s been wonderful watching you grow on your journey as a librarian and so proud of all your achievements. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for you big sis!


  2. Thank you for sharing your story! I worked as a library assistant in high school, and I miss it every day. 💙


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