Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

Do librarians read all day? Should we?

Librarians and library staff have been fighting the incorrect stereotype (among many others) that their jobs consist of reading all day long. And while I still have programs to plan, books to weed, research questions to respond to, and other things to worry about, I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we took a little time to read on the job and model the behavior we want to see, if we just might see our communities a little better for it.

— Abby Hargreaves, “Do librarians read all day? No, but they should”

I love the spirit behind this, especially for youth librarians seeking to model and encourage positive behavior. But since the whole premise of this article is that patrons assume we’re reading a lot anyway, are PDRs (public displays of reading) the best way to bust this particular myth?

If it were up to me, all librarians would be allowed to do some pleasure reading while on the clock. It directly relates to the essence of the job, even if it doesn’t specifically include readers advisory.

But to “model the behavior we want to see” would require us to read while on public service desks, and I think that’s bad customer service.

If we’re engrossed in or even skimming a book, they will think they are bothering us if they ask a question, which is another very common assumption I would love to destroy.

That said, if you can fit reading in with the other aforementioned responsibilities away from the desk, all the better! It’s a shame some managers would frown upon this. As if looking busy in your cubicle is the only metric for what constitutes good work. I find lunch breaks, pre-bedtime, and audiobooks during my commute enough for me to read 70-80 books per year, but your mileage and busyness may vary.

Perhaps a more structured “read-in” event would be another option: “Read With Your Librarian” or a kind of (not so) silent reading party. People reading in libraries is not a novel concept, but people of all ages intentionally reading their own books together with their neighbors is a photo-op waiting to happen.

2 Comments

  1. We have signs that say “Please interrupt! Your needs are more important than whatever we are doing.” And, while it’s true that people still don’t want to bother us, the overstatement of wanting to help is a conversation starter.

    As for the popular myths, you’re not wrong. As a full-time library staffer, I don’t have time to read. Too much paperwork to do. Too many book review journals to get through. Too many academic research questions to answer. And, right now, I’m planning an interactive, public presentation for the week leading up to the 23rd of June.

    • The amount of time available to read will definitely depend on your position and type of library. I’m at a small suburban public library, so there are slower times on desk when I *could* read if I wanted to. But I also don’t like having to stop and start over and over; I’d rather have a more sustained time where I know I won’t be interrupted.

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