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On & Off The Shelf

May 17, 2011

    Libraries fill many functions – from a link to state government to a community center … to the more commonly know educational center.  In this column, I will highlight services of the library available to those in our community. 
    Today’s focus is Reference – a little-touted, but primary library service that impacts the lives of people in our community tremendously.
    Reference service involves finding the right information to help solve or satisfy the patrons’ questions/needs.  People call in, e-mail, or come looking for information on a variety of topics from how to build a tree house to medical conditions to how to fix a leaky toilet.  Others ask for travel information, how to find a birth announcement of a family member, or help in identifying an insect.  The questions cover many topics and the interactions are confidential.
    I began my career as a reference librarian at a university; today I cover the desk rarely and only to fill in when needed.  The following is an account of one hour I spent covering the desk and will give the reader a snapshot of how the library enriches lives.
     My one hour begins as a mother asks for help finding her daughter’s Facebook page after another family member suggested the need. I help her pull up her daughter’s page.  She tells me about her parenting struggles and I figuratively hold her hand as I help her print off pages for her.
     Then a woman doing genealogy research needs some help finding an obituary of one of her ancestors.  We find the correct date and page of the obituary and print it off.
    Meanwhile, two others ask for help using computers.  One is typing a cover letter for her brother, formerly employed by Thunderbird.  The other, a former Fleetwood employee, is typing a resume.
    I receive a couple calls asking whether the library has certain book and DVDs.  I reserve the items so that they will be pulled from the shelves and ready for the patrons when they arrive.
    Next, a grandfather walks in to ask for information about a medical condition his two grandchildren have.  We find out together that only 1 in 20,000 individuals have this condition and further find what he already suspects – there is no cure, only treatment.  We look and find a book on living with the condition.
     My hour is nearly over as I walk back to help two ladies on the computers.  They are sharing stories on coping with unemployment.  The one typing the cover letter finishes first and they wish each other luck.
    People often think of libraries as the place to check out books or DVDs.  Many in our community participate in one of the hundreds of programs offered throughout the year.  But most do not realize what happens every day at the library or think about the impact a public library has on our daily lives.
    My one hour on the desk dealt with a variety of topics – unemployment, creating a resume, helping people get back on their feet, atypical medical conditions, parenting, gaps between generations, family history and technology.  This is a normal hour in the library!
    Stay tuned for more On & Off the Shelf coming soon!
    
Kelly A. Ehinger,
Director
Adams Public Library System
With locations in Decatur & Geneva
www.apls.lib.in.us
 

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