Recently I've been fielding questions from both patrons and friends alike about some of the nuts & bolts involved in Library Land. While I'm always happy to talk about libraries and librarians until the wee hours, I thought it would be helpful to post some of these answers for those of you who don't want your ear talked off. So consider this a crash course in Everything you ever wanted to know about libraries but were afraid to ask.
Q: Are you volunteers?
A: About 99% of the people you see behind the desks at the library are employees. Reference Librarians usually have not only a college degree, but also a Masters of Library Science degree. Other Library staff come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a wide range of skills and expertise to running the place. Also, we couldn't open our doors without the help from volunteers, whether they shelve books, work the booksales, or assist on other library projects.
Q: Are all of your books donations?
A: While the Santa Fe Public Library gets hundreds of thousands of items donated each year, only a portion of those get added to the collection — the rest get passed on to the Friends of the Library book sales. The Library has a book budget, and it also benefits from the periodic GO Bonds to freshen up the collection. For the past couple of years, over 30,000 items were added each year across all three branches.
Q: You already have books. Why do you need more?
A: Imagine if you went shopping for socks just once in your life. That's it! You have socks! But think of what would happen to those socks over time. While we're hoping that people don't wear books and CDs and DVDs on their feet, library items suffer from the same fate as other inanimate objects: wear and tear, breakage, obsolesence. New books and movies and music come out every week, and we keep up with these so you're not stuck reading the same dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre for the zillionth time.
Q: If you're buying all these new items, how do you find room on the shelf?
A: There's a little-known and very misunderstood library practice called weeding. We go through the items on our shelves and remove things that are in bad condition and out-of-date. As an example, books about the moon published prior to 1969 are going to have incomplete information and thus removed from our shelves. For a humorous look at the ongoing world of weeding, I cannot recommend the blog Awful Library Books highly enough.
Q: Are librarians out to conquer the world?
A: While the jury is still out on this, I think it's safe to say that we have no intentions of taking over the world. We just want to make people a little more informed, a little more entertained, a little more empowered, and sure, a little bit happier than they were before they used the library.
Look It Up graphic from Librarian Avengers. Sock graphic from eHow.