Here is a real thing we learn about in library school: LIBRARY ANXIETY. It turns out that many people get nervous about going to the library, and especially about asking for help. It seems quiet! And organized! Everyone else knows what they’re doing! You’re just some weirdo bumbling around with your small herd of children trying not to break into a cold sweat.
But guess what — librarians like to help people! Seriously, it’s why we get paid the big bucks. (Not really, we don’t get paid very much, which is why I can’t currently reconcile a Tiny Job with childcare costs.) So in that spirit of helpfulness, I’d like to walk you through the reasons a lot of moms give for not using the library much:
You don’t know what they’ve got.
- Learn how the library’s online catalog (OPAC, if you want to be fancy) works. A lot of it can be worked out tooling around on your phone one afternoon while you’re nursing a baby. You are reading this blog. You know how to Google! It’s not dramatically more difficult, but if you get stuck, you could ask someone at the circ desk. I promise you won’t be the first one.
- Got books double-stacked on your shelves and enough streaming media to pacify an invading army? There still might be something for you at your local library. Check your library system (either by searching online or asking) for free museum passes, puzzles or toys, and other perks. (I personally ordered circulating ukuleles for a library, so it can definitely get delightfully weird.) Every little bit adds up!
You can’t find what you want.
- Ask a librarian. (Ugh, I know, sorry.)
- Learn how the catalog works. (See above.)
- Learn how, on the library website or in person, to request material they don’t own but you really think they should.
It’s too much work to haul all your finds.
- Place all the items you want on hold in advance and pick them up at the front desk. Then you never have to venture into the stacks, where suddenly all your kids are darting in disparate directions. Before I was a mother, I never understood why people did this. NOW I KNOW.
- If you do want to explore the shelves, do a little research ahead of time on your phone. Every time you find an item that looks interesting in the catalog, take a screenshot that includes the call number so you have them at your fingertips already when your attention is divided between half-remembered Dewey Decimal lessons and your book-flinging toddler.
- Consider alternate book carrying strategies: look into buying one of those little grocery carts favored by old women in Brooklyn, breaking out a wheely crate, hooking canvas bags on the stroller (my current method) or equipping everyone with his or her own backpack.
It’s overwhelming to track everything you have checked out.
- Make sure your library card is linked to your email address. Many library systems will send out email reminders a couple days before materials are due back.
- Ask at the circulation desk to get set up managing your library account online. This way you can renew most materials from home at least once. (If this freaks you out, some libraries will let you renew by phone.)
- Carefully consider the pros and cons of applying for library cards for each family member: on the one hand, you can check out more stuff and place more holds but then you’ve got more things to keep track of and more accounts to check to be sure you aren’t accruing fines. With more cards come a higher threshold of fines, which can be a good or bad thing, depending.
Like anything, repetition breeds confidence, and though I admit I’m biased, overcoming your library anxiety is definitely worth the initial harried panic.
What tips and tricks have you learned to help you make the best of the library for your family?