Library Assistant in circulation at an academic library. Up until last week I was also a part-time student at the iSchool at the University of Illinois. I’m also one of the managing editors of the blog Hack Library School.
How long have you been in the field?
How Do You Work?
What is your office/workspace like?
My desk is a mess. I have a few personal effects, such as pictures and trinkets, but most of my space has been taken over by bookbinding supplies (book tape, exacto knives, rulers, glue) because this past year I’ve been learning to do book repair for my library.
What do you spend most of your time doing?
Most of what I do is customer service. I help patrons at the circulation desk, answer phones, and respond to emails. I’m also responsible for discharging books, collecting circulation stats, and training student workers. I serve on a couple of committees, including a fun one that plans social events for library employees.
What is a typical day like for you?
As a full-time library employee, part-time student, and blogger, my days have been pretty full for the last two years. An average day might look like this:
- 9am - 5pm: Work. I’m responsible for a host of different things in circulation, including providing customer service at the desk, responding to phone and email requests, discharging books, recording circulation statistics, and serving on a couple of different committees.
- 5pm - 6pm: Bike home and prepare dinner. I love to cook!
- 6pm - 8 pm: Class. This summer I took Adult Popular Literature, where we talk about the different genres and learn how to provide readers’ advisory.
- 8pm - 9pm: Work on projects for Hack Library School. This could include writing posts, giving feedback to other writers, scheduling guest posts, or responding to email enquiries.
- 9pm - 10pm: Read in bed until I fall asleep.
What are you reading right now?
The last book I read was In the Woods by Tana French. I loved it, but don’t get me started on the ending! Now I’m working through Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi to get my true crime fix. I wish I could say I’m reading something academic, but I just finished school and I need a break!
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Don’t be discouraged by rejection. I can’t attribute this advice to any particular person because I feel like I hear it all the time - and I need to hear it! Especially as I begin my job search. I try to treat every rejection letter as inspiration to keep on trying.
What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
At one point, I was responsible for recruiting people to take a library survey for an assessment initiative. This included approaching strangers in the lobby of our bustling library and asking them to fill out a survey. The constant rejection was awful! I have newfound respect for those Greenpeace campaigners I see on the street.
Inside the Library Studio
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
This is technically two words, but I can’t stand when an author describes a character as having “almond eyes.” I feel like I see it everywhere and it drives me nuts (pun intended).
What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I love animals and have volunteered in shelters for years. I’m too squeamish to be a vet, but I think it would be awesome to work in a cat cafe.
What profession would you never want to attempt?
Accounting. I worked as an accounting assistant in a corporate setting before I moved into libraries and couldn’t stand the monotony of endless Excel sheets.
What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to read faster. I always have a pile of books waiting to be read and I never seem to be able to get to all of them.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My career is still in the early stages, as I’m currently searching for my first post-grad job. So far, I’d have to say I’m most proud of the work I’ve done at Hack Library School. We’ve done some neat projects, such as interviewing the candidates for President of ALA this spring and a series of posts about Latin American librarianship in conjunction with the blog Infotecarios. Our blog is entirely student-run and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done together.
If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
One day when I was new to reference, I was helping an alumni of my university look for the print copy of his thesis from about thirty years ago. According to our catalog, the thesis was no longer available. He was upset by this news since he did not have a copy for himself. After he left, I kept thinking about his situation and did a little more digging. It turned out that his thesis was part of a digitization project and was now online. Luckily, I had his contact information and let him know the good news - he came in the next week to look it up on one of our computers. This scenario taught me to explore every option before giving up on a reference question!
When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Kristina Williams, who is taking my place as Managing Editor at Hack Library School!
Brenna tweets at @LibBrenian.
Brenna tweets at @LibBrenian.
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