I’m Aryssa and I am a public librarian in Washington, D.C. Today, I’m taking you behind the scenes for a day in my life. Every day is different–especially when dealing with the public–but here’s what a typical Wednesday looks like for me!

Morning – Me time

The public libraries here in DC are open until 9pm on weekdays, so my branch splits our shifts. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I work a typical 9AM-5:45PM, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I work 12:30-9:15PM.  On those later work days, I like to sleep in a bit, eat a big breakfast, and accomplish anything I might need to get done. Sometimes this means doing laundry and cleaning house, sometimes it is running errands, and other times, I can curl up on the couch with a good book before I have to head to work. 

11:30 a.m. – Leave for work

I have kind of a long commute, so I give myself about an hour to get to work. This isn’t lost time though. Today, I started listening to a new audio book – It Isn’t What It Looks Like by Molly Burke. It was one of the free audible originals last month, and I like it so far. Of course, I did pause between chapters to listen to Taylor Swift’s new album. I just couldn’t help myself. I also made a pit stop for some ginger ale because I was out sick yesterday and am still on the mend. 

12:20 p.m. – Get to work, desk time

Around 12:15, 12:20 I arrive at the library, sign in, and put my cardigan on. It’s like a cape, but honestly, it’s still hot outside but cold inside, so it’s necessary. Because of the way we divide our time, I usually arrive and head straight downstairs to work the circulation and reference desk for two hours. That means I’m the one handling all the public complaints on our first floor, where we have all the adult books, 20 computers, three study rooms, a meeting room, and the book return area. For those two hours, I’ll help people on the computers, including teaching them how to print, helping them save documents, and explaining that I don’t know their email password. I’ll create library cards for patrons as well as replace ones they have lost. I also make sure all the books returned to us are discharged and ready to be shelved by our technicians. Working the desk energizes me as much as it drains me because yes, it’s hard explaining to people a hundred times a day how to print, but I also like teaching people how to use the computer and helping them accomplish something they may have seen as insurmountable. I’m the youngest one in my branch, so it often falls to me to handle big technology issues. 

2:30 p.m. – Programming prep time

On Wednesdays, I lead a program where I help people with resume assistance and connect them with library resources on resume writing and editing, but every week, I have to do a little bit of preparation. First, I brew a pot of coffee so I have something to sip on. Then, I print a few flyers to hand on the door to the study room where we meet so people know where to find us. I also print a few copies of a handout I have on taking our Universal Class on resume writing. I also check out one of our laptops so that I can still help people who don’t have a physical copy and want to do digital edits. Then, I head down to the programming room a few minutes early to make sure it’s clear, clean, the signs are up, and I’m ready to go. 

3:00 p.m. – Resume assistance programming

This is the first program I started leading when I joined the library, because I noticed everyday that I was helping people print their resume, make changes, upload it, et cetera, and we have a lot of job seekers at my library. However, just because people need a program doesn’t mean they actually come to that program. Some weeks I’ve had no one show up, but today I had a guy come in who was new to D.C. and looking for a job. We made some small edits to his existing resume and I helped him find some local career fairs and look at the upcoming hiring in D.C. workshop another library is offering. He was grateful for the help and I’m happy I was able to help him out. 

4:00 p.m. – Lunch break

I take my lunch/dinner break after my programming, usually, or whenever I can sneak it in. We’re union, so we get a mandated 45 minutes, and I always take advantage of it. Work stuff goes away, unless there’s a catastrophe. I usually read during this period, listen to an audio book, or work on some FFL writing, all while eating my usual lunch – a Lean Cuisine. Yes, it’s simple, but it works for me. I stay busy and don’t always have time to cook (nor do I always want to) so I keep Lean Cuisines in the freezer. Every week, I make sure to restock so that I have some variety. 

4:45 p.m. – Future programming & general library stuff

When I’m not on the circulation desk or running a program, I’m usually taking care of general library tasks or planning for future programming. Today, I’m planning to a college admissions workshop another colleague and I are leading in September, so I’m editing flyers, writing blurbs for the press, and making sure our curriculum is planned out to best help people. Canva is a big savior for me though we also rely heavily on Microsoft Publisher here. I’ll take small breaks and walk the stacks, making sure everything is in order, helping any patrons that catch my attention, and making sure that the book bin has been cleared. I am also in the middle of writing a chapter for a textbook, so I usually work a little bit on that if I have some free time. 

7:00 p.m. – Back on the desk

After a bit of a break and a chance to stretch my legs and brew a new pot of coffee, I head back downstairs to the desk. In the evenings, I usually split the desk with a coworker. I occasionally roam the stacks to go ahead and start pulling some of the holds for the next day to save time in the morning. I also clean the holds shelf for titles that are due for pick-up that day. If patrons don’t pick them up that night, they go off to the next patron on the hold list. This is super important with uber-popular books like Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. For example, our library system has 144 copies of Becoming, and there are 248 holds on it, and that’s almost a year after publication. When it first came out, there were nearly a thousand holds on the copies we had. I once again help people on the computers. We get lots of people coming in to use our express computers in the evening and print things like resumes, boarding passes, tax documents, et cetera. 

9:00 p.m. – Closing time & heading home

Our computers shut off around 15 minutes before closing, so that’s when people usually start heading out. I make sure everyone is out of the study rooms, lock the bathrooms, and do last minute preparations to make the next morning easier. This includes printing the meeting room list for the next day, putting away the old newspapers, making sure the computers are all logged off properly, et cetera. I also make sure my workstation in the staff-room is cleaned up, the coffee pot is empty, and any perishables are off the counter. I’m 100% a believer in a clean work-space being a happy work-space. Once all the patrons are gone, my coworkers and I lock it down. Then, we head out, and call it a night. 

RELATED READ: The Diary Of A Legislative Assistant

So…that’s a day in the life of a public librarian. It’s not always glamorous, but we’re doing work that no one else does. We’re making big differences in people’s lives, whether that’s connecting them with a book they’ll always cherish or helping them print a resume for an interview that will get them back on their feet. Patron interactions can vary from terrible to great, but working with the public everyday makes me a stronger advocate for the role of libraries.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member