Last March your Library closed to the public. We’ve been reflecting on what this meant for us, both as individuals and as an institution. As we look forward to reopening on Monday, April 19, we also wanted to reflect on where we’ve come from.
We’re capturing individual reflections on working at the Library during this unprecedented moment in time. Below you’ll find our conversation with Juniper from Technical Services.
What was your job before we closed, and how has it changed in the last year?
My job shifted this last year from specialist to cataloging librarian, so I now focus solely on cataloging. A cataloger makes sure all the information is correct when a book is available in our online catalog, like the page numbers, title, and subject headings. So for instance, if you search ‘mythology’, I’m the one who has added that search term to the book.
For the few months that the Library was totally closed (March-May), I was pre-cataloging books from home, and then once we started curbside in June we had to finish cataloguing all those books. It was a huge amount. In just May and June we catalogued 1,960 new books!
I have also learned some new aspects of cataloging this year because of us being closed. For instance, in the last few months we’ve started offering laptops for checkout and so those had to be added to our online catalog. Learning how to catalog those was really cool. I’ve never had the experience before of adding something totally new and foreign to the collection, so I am grateful for the experience.
How has the Library being closed affected your view of the library and your role here?
Library catalogers have a lot of informational power and with that comes responsibility. And most especially during this pandemic closure, because people aren’t browsing the shelves. Patrons right now can only find books through our catalog, so what I do when I catalog a book determines what they find when they search.
A lot of people depend on browsing. They make the decision to check out a book based on the title, or how a book looks and feels, or the summary. So in order for me to “sell” the book to the patron, especially right now, I have to tell as much as I can using a few quality words. I’m really a liaison between the book and the patron.
The Library has always had public-facing departments and then the behind-the-scenes ones. My department has always been on the back side of things. But this year it’s been moved forward, the roles sort of flipped, out of necessity. In many ways Technical Services is now the face of the Library, because the public’s interaction with the Library’s collection depends on our work, now more than ever.
What are some words you would use to describe working at the Library this last year?
Chaos! And confusion. It’s been an unprecedented situation, and often we haven’t known what we should do. We had to learn to prioritize a little differently. But there’s also been cohesion, because we all had to figure out how to deal with this together. The word improvising also comes to mind. This year has required a lot of thinking outside the box!
Click here for details about the Library’s reopening on Monday, April 19. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for daily updates on our collections and services.