It's undoubtable that libraries provide essential resources to children and adults all across the country. Not only do they grant free access to books, computers, and other educational resources, but they preserve history, protect the truth, connect communities, and even provide refuge to those who need it. Of course, none of these incredible things would be possible without the help of librarians, who do so much more than reshelve books, charge late fees, and remind patrons to stay quiet.
While they may get a bad rap for being strict or overbearing thanks to their portrayal in pop culture — or in your childhood memories — librarians are vital to the education, health, and wellbeing of the communities they serve. They organize shelves, sure, but modern day librarians act as public servants, record keepers, academic scholars, information professionals, community builders, fundraisers, and so much more.
You already know that librarians acquire new books for the collection, catalog and classify them by subject matter, recommend them patrons, and help check them in and out, but you probably didn't know a librarian's role extends much further than the checkout desk. Here are seven surprising things librarians do — you know, other than help you find that one book with the red cover you can't remember the name of.
They schedule author visits and book signings
You already know that librarians were responsible for what books come in and out of the library, but did you know they choose which authors visit, too? Librarians are responsible for event planning, and that includes finding authors to come for readings, signings, and book festivals.
They organize community classes
Now that you know librarians are in charge of events, you should also know that they're the organizers, promoters, and often the moderators of them, too. That includes community classes, which librarians are often responsible for teaching. Whether it's a yoga class in the reading room or an lesson in Microsoft Word in the computer lab, librarians are the coordinators, advertisers, and often the presenters responsible for bringing it to the public.
They offer extensive technical services
When people think of librarians, they think of dusty covers and fragile book pages, but modern day librarians actually have to be very tech savvy. It is their responsibility to manage databases and online catalogs, plan and operate unique computer systems, and develop technical procedures for collecting, organizing, and interpreting information. On any given day, they a librarian might also have to show a patron how to set up an email account, help them navigate their online banking system, or even sign up for online dating. Let's face it: librarians really do it all.
They run storytimes
Okay, most people already know this, but it can't be overstated just how important storytimes are, and without librarians, they just wouldn't happen. The librarians are the ones who not only plan and advertise the beloved event in their communities, but they also choose the reading selection, organize accompanying activities, and they're often the voices actually reading the stories. Let's not forget they also keep the peace during story time, meaning it's up to them to keep the children's attention, answer their questions, and make sure everyone has fun. No pressure, right?
They protect your information and your privacy
As Kristen Arnett explained in her Tales of the Library column on LitHub, librarians are the ones who design and implement privacy policies, and they're always meant to protect one person: the patron. "No one will know what you’re looking at on our public computers (even if it’s porn, again, or pictures of the Loch Ness monster, or where to buy the world’s largest gummy snake)," Arnett writes. "Your information is secure. We’re committed to safekeeping the data."
They write grants that keep libraries open
It's no secret that public services like libraries are always looking for new ways to find funding. In addition to organizing fundraisers and book drives, many librarians are also responsible for writing and applying for much-needed grants that help fund important programs, renovations, and other operating costs. It's not every job that you need be constantly on the lookout for new ways to make sure your place of business stays open, but when you work in a library, it's often a requirement.
They help patrons find important resources, including food and shelter
Librarians are often there for patrons who need a lot more than books or computer help. Because the library is free and open to the public, it has long served as a refuge for the homeless. While some libraries have started hiring social workers and counselors to work on site helping those individuals find food, shelter, healthcare, and job training, in many other cases, it's the librarians who are usually called on to help them find the resources they need.