You know you are a rural librarian if….

A list compiled with contributions from PUBLIB, the ARSL Listserv and others. Perhaps some of you out there have others to add? Add yours as a comment below and we’ll add it! The first on the list are John Clark’s “Ten ways to tell if you are a solo librarian” and other early contributors are noted in this PDF.

    1. People in the checkout line hand you a reserve request written on the back of their grocery list.
    2. People tell the town manager you work too much because they saw your car at the library after 9 P.M.
    3. You stop at yard sales to buy movies for the library.
    4. You have a network of fellow scavengers who save Coke, Pepsi and Powerade caps so you can redeem the points for more stuff for the library.
    5. Your fingerprints are on every item in the library.
    6. You debate weeding a title you just know cousin Emma will hate you for, but do it anyway.
    7. You’re on the delivery service, but drop off an ILL pouch in the next town after hours because you’re going there anyway to do some grocery shopping.
    8. You visit other libraries and the first place you go is their used book shelf.
    9. There is a bigger library that has adopted you, and you have done the same for a smaller library.
    10. You have done story hour while simultaneously checking out books and answering a reference question over the phone.
    11. people bring by new babies AND pets to show the staff.
    12. your bookmobile has had to wait for a flock of sheep to clear the road.
    13. your bookmobile has mowed down a flock of guineas (They saw the sheep in time, but the guineas never had a chance).
    14. staff members know the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of the kid checking out books.
    15. you know and call the owner when a dog wanders into the library.
    16. staff members can walk to any store downtown during their break.
    17. patrons bring you vegetables from their gardens.
    18. the books on raising goats, sheep and chickens circulated more than the books on fine arts and travel.
    19. your patrons know what the Firefox books are.
    20. you not only continue to circ VHS, you buy them at used books sales & yard sales because your patrons still want them.
    21. people tie up their horse-wagons and buggies to the bike stand in front of your library (It’s an Amish thing).
    22. your patrons like you to place holds on titles for them – even before they know they want that book. (Proactive reader’s advisory).
    23. you are the town’s copier service, fax service, UPS pickup spot, meeting room, community, service outlet, internet cafe, and perhaps even the coffee shop (vending machine anyone?)
    24. you can see trees, open spaces and livestock from your library’s front door (mooooo).
    25. you are The Community Center for your village or town.
    26. you invite all the patrons in for hot soup and coffee when the power is off in neighborhoods during the winter.
    27. people stop you in the grocery store (or dry cleaners, or restaurant, or…) to return books ormake requests for books.
    28. you have to drive at least 10 miles to buy a gallon of milk.
    29. the children from summer reading bring their report cards in to show you and invite you to their graduations.
    30. you know every kid on the high school football team by the kind of books they read when they were in summer reading.
    31. you and all your staff cry when someone tells you of the passing of a long-time patron.
    32. you have ever installed a water-heater or fixed a major appliance yourself, or with the help of a spouse, because you could not afford to call a repairman or the nearest one is more than an hour away.
    33. patrons call and ask you to renew books and you don’t have to ask their names because you recognize their voices.
    34. the directions given to outreach staff involve turning next to the big barn with the red chickens in the yard.
    35. you’ve ever had a patron drop off house plants for you to keep while they had an extended hospital stay.
    36. your elevation is greater than your population.
    37. when you get a phone call asking for the Reference desk, Acquisitions department, Overdues, Children’s Services, ILL, etc., you say “I can help you with that.”
    38. you get stopped in the grocery store by people who tell you they have overdue books or fines, and want to take care of it right there next to the lettuce.
    39. when people are looking for bars, they’re not talking about their cell-phone!
    40. you troubleshoot for everyone in the community’s computer problems, not just your own.
    41. you loan your personal books out to supplement the library collection.
    42. you repurpose computers until they are useless to the library, and then you repurpose them to another non-profit or family in need. …same with books. …and occasionally other fixtures.
    43. you back up your school librarian, whose job is constantly in question, and is wearing far too many hats these days.
    44. your Friends group is remodeling the library bathrooms…themselves, and the Board members help move shelving, wash windows, plant annuals, and paint walls.
    45. you have volunteer maintenance folks.
    46. people bring you lunch and dinner because they know on busy days you don’t eat because meals are not on the schedule.
    47. patrons subscribe to a periodical to ensure the library has it.
    48. when school gets out, your patronage (and bathroom use) double (or triple) and you know everyone coming in (mostly).
    49. you open early and stay open late when it is too hot for living outside and most people don’t have air conditioning.
    50. lost books are only found after the patron has paid for it or replaced it.
    51. people call the library for the number to….anyone, anywhere in town.
    52. the deer outside outnumber the people inside. (Or geese, or ducks…and they should know better to chase the Swans out on the ICE!…or you see a fox run down the street after close and make a left at the corner of the library to go hunting.)
    53. one of your patrons calls and asks you to bring the library ladder (a wooden one over 50 years old) and come to her house to put a baby robin back that fell out of its nest.
    54. you are shopping for groceries and people stop to request a book purchase or to renew their books when you get back to work. Oral requests, not written.
    55. you are digging weeds out around the parking lot when the library isn’t open yet and passing library patrons stop to help.
    56. my husband hits all the yard sales and thrift stores to look for movies for the library.
    57. your patrons call your house at 9:30 at night and they forgot to pick up an audio book for the trip they are leaving on the next day and can you please meet them.
    58. every child in town knows you as the library lady and soon the parents all call you that too.
    59. patrons leave books in your mailbox at home.
    60. people drop off and pick up clothes alterations, plants, flowers and other items for other people to pick up.
    61. you can stand at the library front door and point at the buildings of the post office, bank, courthouse, doctor’s office and diners.
    62. you talk to patrons about their family for 10 minutes before you renew their materials over the phone.
    63. animal husbandry is the largest non-fiction section in your library.
    64. you are not only the town librarian but the town mayor (I met a woman who was librarian and mayor).
    65. folks drive their lawn mowers to the library (or tractors).
    66. you can walk to the post office to pick up an interlibrary loan and leave the library unattended.
    67. there is no stop light in your county, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island.
    68. you get mail addressed to “Library – P.O. Box” the lady at the P.O. Knows.
    69. the highway snowplow stops by the library for audio books.
    70. your town has three bars but no bank. you can order free-range eggs at the circulation desk.
    71. the only way some kids get to summer reading is to drive a school bus to a neighboring town and pick them up (because you are the school bus driver too).
    72. the library has become the underground railroad for buying and selling of more mushrooms.
    73. extra produce from people’s gardens is left in bushel baskets inside the front door free for the taking.
    74. you can knock on a patron’s door and get the overdue books back yourself.
    75. your library closes for the annual town festival because all staff are marching in the parade and the library is the best viewing spot.
    76. your library is not within a major corporate donor’s area of service thereby disqualifying you for their grants.
    77. parents call to tell you “send John home, it’s supper time”….and then call back 15 minutes later because that’s how long it takes for him to walk home and John isn’t there yet.
    78. families see you out in public and ask you why your not at the library.
    79. patrons call you at home to ask if you have a particular item in the collection and if you do if you will save it for them for the next day.
    80. the parents of teens ask you to give their kids a ride home so they can stay for programming
    81. you are the one who cleans up the poop left by the pet a patron brought in to show off.
    82. you have a set of tools for repairs (or spouse willing to act as unpaid maintenance person – mine decided sleeping with me was not enough compensation).
    83.  you have taken a reserve request and/or reference question while in the bathroom of the local American Legion post.
    84. you are called a patron’s “personal reading advisor” (That is what my feed store owner calls me).
    85. UPS delivers to your home because the library is closed.
    86. you’re stopped at the Casey’s in a near-by town and asked if you have such and such book.
    87. you have a newborn baby goat in your office at the library because it was rejected by its mother, and you are bottle feeding it.
    88. you are late to work because you had to drop animals off at the sale barn.
    89. you need to leave early to take your kids and their livestock to the 4-H weigh in.
    90. you come to work with chicken poop somewhere on your person
    91. a patron had to pay for a damaged book because it fell in the sheep dip
    92. you stay open when the electricity is out because people will be in for books to read until the power is back on.
    93. it doesn’t surprise you when the reason for power outage is because a combine took out a telephone pole.
    94. the book is dirty “because I was reading it in the field while I was waiting on . . .” makes perfect sense to you.
    95. you suggest checking the trucks and tractors for that missing audiobook CD.
    96. your first reference question is from a 4-H member asking how long to leave a rooster with hens before what he wants to happen happens
    97. the regular library person forgot that it was her day to work, so an 8th grader who volunteers on Saturdays went looking for a key to open the library and run it.
    98. the state library consultant is asked to run the library for a few minutes because the librarian is the only one on duty and a patron called needing help canning beans.
    99. staff members know the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of the kid checking out books.
    100.  a dog wanders into the library and you call the owner.
    101. staff members can walk to any store downtown during their break.
    102. patrons bring you vegetables from their gardens.
    103. you are late to work because the railroad crossing was blocked by railroad cars moving forward and back again while switching to the grain elevator tracks (this can take 20 minutes or more!).
    104. patrons use your car as a bookdrop, within a 60 mile radius of the library.
    105. you are late for work and kids knock on your front door and ask you why you are not at the library.
    106. people run out to their cars and return books to you when you are grocery store.
    107. you come home to find book donations on your front porch.
    108.  patrons ask you to bring books they have on hold to meetings and baseball games.
    109.  patrons come to your house when the library is closed and ask to check out a book because they don’t have anything to read.
    110. you slow down on the way to the library for a parade of field mice running across a gravel road. There were about 15 to 20 of them.
    111. a patron comes in and says “I want to read that book by that author that I liked last year…” and you know just what book they are referring too.
    112. someone asks directions to a person’s house without having the address and the library employee tells them the correct way to get there.
    113. your patrons arrive by 4-wheeler, tractor or lawn mower.
    114. your patrons see you coming in your vehicle & hold their returns out their car window for you to grab as you pass by.
    115. your director wants to have a “living display” for National Dairy Month and bring in a cow to show the college kids. Then when she says “Because who’s milked a cow before?” and all 3 of the other staff members chuckle and raise their hands
    116. any time you go into town to shop or run errands, four or more people ask you to renew their books, or place something on hold for them. Or hand you a big stack of books to take back to the library for them!
    117. laptop users ask if they can access the Wi-fi from the front porch rocking chairs. (even a small log cabin library likes to keep up with the times)
    118. you call to tell a patron his/her book is in, but they might not answer because the phone is in the barn! (true story, honest)
    119. you have to request patrons not to spit tobacco in the trash cans.
    120. children at church ask you to unlock the library so they can get their favorite movie.
    121. people call you at home to see if you have a book on a certain subject that their child needs for a report.
    122. people give you money for a book memorial at church.
    123. the sack boy at the grocery store asks when his books are due.
    124. someone comes into your library and says “you know that book with the red cover by that author I like so well” and you know what books she is asking for.
    125. someone comes into your library and says “you know that book from yesterday and it was a very big over size book. And they don’t know the author of the book.
    126. when you go out to grab something to eat, you are asked to fix and diagnose a computer and printer problem there on the spot. I guess part of the enjoyment of being a really rural librarian
    127. on your way home, you have to deliver books to some of the patrons that couldn’t make it into the library, because they were working in the fields or the weather was not good and they could not walk to the library.. True
    128. you know the name of every person who comes in the library. Not just their name, but the whole family, as well and their dog and cat. And you know what church they attend. And they ask you to pick out their books for them because, “You know what I like.
    129. a customer gets angry because the book on CD won’t play in his DVD player! When a new librarian is introduced to patrons he or she is asked, “Now, Who are your people?”
    130. When FEMA requests that the bookmobile notify people at scheduled stops in low-lying areas they need to evacuate within 24 hours.
    131. When you have a waiting list of people who have asked to harvest the pecans from the trees in the library yard.
    132. When you are locally known as one of “the folks down to the librey.”
    133. There is a very loud explosion just outside the building and nobody flinches.
    134. You have patrons who have been shot, died of overdoses, given birth or conceived children, all in your library.
    135. You know all the cheap brands of fortified wine, malt liquor and where they are sold.
    136. You can tell by look or smell what a patron has been smoking.
    137. Your library has an “armed intruder” protocol.
    138. You don’t walk to your car alone, day or night.
    139. You have kids who virtually live in your library because it is one of the few safe places to go, and even safer than home.
    140. You realize that there are many degrees of homelessness.
    141. Every day quite a few people use your lavatory as a bathhouse.
    142. You have become quite used to interrupting men who are enjoying safe sex with themselves.
    143. You know better than to wake a sleeping patron.
    144. You know exactly how to dispose of dirty diapers, used prophylactics, suspicious packages and drug kits.
    145. The only dog you haven’t discovered in a backpack is an Irish Wolfhound.
    146. You have been cussed out in every major European and Asian language or dialect–at least that you can identify.
    147. There are at least three very poor and neglected children that you would steal away with if nobody could find out.
    148. You have given money to somebody because they needed to eat.
    149. You can give turn-by-turn directions to any spot within five miles, and you know where the buses stop, and have the train schedule memorized.
    150. Sometimes in a farming community so small and rural that the town no longer has a school and does not have a post office, bank, bar, grocery store, or gas station(most farmers have their own gas delivered and everyone else goes to the next biggest town miles away) but does have a library, a grain elevator, and, if you are lucky, a church.
    151. I once filled out a report on rural libraries that asked how far it was to was to the nearest city of 25,000 (limited to cities within the state). The answer for our library was 380 miles. Another library in our system was even further away, nearly 500 miles. Luckily for us, we were on the state border and only had a trip of 100 miles to get to a decent shopping mall in a neighboring state. Was this in one of the wide open Western states? Nope – Michigan.
    152. when a tree falls down during a storm and is blocking the road to the highway, you don’t need to worry about being late to work – in a few minutes someone with a chainsaw in their truck will come along and cut up the tree.
    153. when you see cows out in the road, you know whose they are, and offer to help get them back in. (after taking off my good shoes and putting on a ratty pair of shoes.)
    154.  you wouldn’t dream of planning any sort of library program during Hunting Season!!
    155. When I was young in Massachusetts the number of rings indicated who on the party line was getting a call. When my mother finished some of her conversations she’d say “Did everyone get that?” …and you’d hear click! click! as the other two families on the party line quickly hung up their phones.
    156. Here in our suburban libraries, bunnies gambol in the backyard, next to Route 287 and deer ramble through. Up the road wild turkeys keep people pinned in their cars at the 9/11 Memorial. Fortunately, the local black bears haven’t come to charge out Corduroy yet.
    157. a patron has to pay for books he accidentally shot while shooting at the possum he notices in his living room. He missed the possum, but nailed the stack of books!
    158. My parents were in town and fell by the library to take me to dinner after work, and a little girl came in to get a library card. We charged for outside-the-city cards, $2 for kids. The little dear had saved up $1.90, and her mom didn’t have any money on her, but I gave her the card anyway, and told her to bring in the extra dime next time she had one. She checked out a couple books and left happy After I locked up, my dad told me that not only had I told the mother that I trusted her and her child but that that mother would tell everybody she knew that I had. The little one came in a week or so later with the dime, too, so she was good for it.
    159. when you’re at the grocery store during the day on a weekday and the 5 year old in front of you in line whispers in her mom’s ear to ask if the library is closed.
    160. when the UPS man delivers your home computer to your husband at work, after stopping in to ask you where you’d like it delivered. (We sure missed Dave when he retired!)
    161. when you ask a patron applying for a library their phone number, they rattle off the last four digits (sadly we now have to dial the area code but natives or long timers still rattle off just the last four digits)
    162. you go to lunch and a patron hands you a book and asks if you can return it for her.
    163. you get complaints about staff when you’re at the roller rink in the next town with your son.
    164. the turkey at the front door is a REAL turkey, not a politician.
    165. every other patron asks about your mama – by name.
    166. you cannot open the library’s dumpster because a bear was jumping on it and smashed the top. you have chipmunks living the ceiling of the library eating the wiring. (both true stories from another library I worked in).
    167. We’re not rural, but one of our libraries in an outlying desert area of Phoenix often has wild animals, insects, and reptiles wander around and in the building. A friend who works there told me they had a customer who was chased by a wild boar. The customer was holding a bucket of KFC and refused to put it down, even though a giant wild animal with sharp teeth was chasing her down.
    168. patrons are personally affronted if you ask to see their library card at checkout.
    169.  a kid tries to pay his library fine with eggs and you refuse because you don’t have any eggs in the drawer to make change with.
    170.  your in-demand magazines are Field and Stream, Successful Farming, American Rifleman, and Farm Journal.
    171.  you have a list of legislators taped to your reference desk, but you can name all the U.S. Representatives for your state.
    172. you have to phone anybody in your state library association, you have a choice of two area codes.
    173.  your license plates have either a cowboy, a fish or a vegetable on them.
    174. there are two seasons: Hunting and Fishing.
    175.  the most-borrowed volume is the Ball Blue Book (a guide to canning).
    176.  there is one college football team for the entire state, and it may as well be for the entire planet.
    177. everybody knows you have not been walking very well, and one night, as you leave and head for your car, a PU going the other way stops and just sits there until you are in your car then goes on their way. And the Chief of police lets you park in a no parking spot while you are at work in the library.
    178. you are afraid to open the door because the skunk on the porch makes you nervous.
    179. Or, in the winter, “I can’t get out of my driveway” due to the snow.
    180. the two books enjoying the highest checkout in the library are The Chicken Health Book and How to do Your Own Divorce in Texas
    181. a perfectly valid reason for calling off work is “my road is flooded out again.”
    182. a patron asks to trade you either a dozen eggs or a freshly baked pie in lieu of paying a fine.
    183.  you refuse to issue a card to Billy Bob Jr. because the picture ID he brought in is his father’s, and you know this because you know where both he and his father live, and the address on the driver’s license is the father’s.
    184. the grandfather across the street is your security system (True!)
    185. you list the names of probable readers next to every book you order (in the order of their VIP standing or watch out!), and if there aren’t enough possible readers you won’t be ordering it. (Sadly, also true)
    186. you know every card-holder by name, and could take a stab at age and ancestry for two generations in either direction.
    187. when you walk to work (because you CAN), every car stops to ask if you need a ride and what happened to your car?
    188. your library has a watering trough. Though no longer being used.
    189. your library has a hitchin’ post.
    190. Or your husband’s packages!
    191. when delivery people bring packages to the library, not your home, irrespective of what the address says.
    192. the only time you lock your car is in the summer, and that’s so that people won’t leave bags of squash in it.
    193. a firefighter stops a young vandal from damaging your vehicle by saying “No, that car belongs to one of the librarians.”
    194. you carry bits of paper in your pocket when going to the grocery store, etc., because you know someone will request a book, or have a question.
    195. you check out and take books to an elderly client because she kinda, sorta threaten to tell your Dad if you didn’t.
    196. a boy’s book is overdue and his excuse is because his mother kept him at the hospital day after day while she was sitting with her brother who had had a log run through his stomach. (The man lived. EMS confirmed the story.)
    197.  a man walks in with a shoe box in his hands, asks for the Readers’ Advisor, takes the top off the box and says, “Can you help me identify this (very much alive) snake? I’ve never seen one like this around here.” (True story.)
    198. you’re late to work because you were stuck behind a tractor – or a combine.
    199. when you’re not home, the UPS man knows to drop off your package at the library.
    200.  you are happy to adjust employees’ schedules around their county fair competitions.
    201. your whole area’s Internet connection goes down because a farmer’s horse dies. (The farmer used a backhoe to dig a hole for burial and accidentally cut a cable in the process.)
    202. you’re new to the library and are given directions to the Smiths’ house that include, “Turn right at the corner where Mrs. Jones’s aunt used to live.” (You don’t know Mrs. Jones, let alone her aunt.)
    203. your genealogy materials are rarely used because everyone knows each other and their family history.
    204. you have to walk the long way around the library in the morning to avoid the skunk by the front door.
    205. you’re still considered a newcomer after you have been the library director for five years.
    206. there are no dentists or optometrists in your county that are on the insurance plan offered by your parent institution.
    207. patrons think you have a parking problem if they can’t find a parking space within 20 feet of the library.
    208. no local HVAC technician can repair your system because it is larger and more sophisticated than anything they have ever worked on.
    209. a child at Wal Mart says “Look Mama, it’s the Library lady!”

 

4 Responses to “You know you are a rural librarian if….”

  1. Tina Nolen says:

    I love it when kids tell me in our case at the Piggy Wiggly or Dollar General, “Look Mommy, It’s the Library Lady”/
    There is no place like a small rural town.

  2. Valerie says:

    One of your young patrons does not know their address (none of them do for some reason) and they start telling you where they live by saying “You know the house where the goose lives?” and you do.

  3. Kitty Wood says:

    When your patrons are kept out of the building due to the snake who won’t move away from the door.

  4. Jim Kessler says:

    Unless I missed the joke, isn’t that the Foxfire books (and not FireFox)? (Speaking from first-hand tech support experience where you know that only people of a certain age are going to ask you about “the Foxfire browser.”)

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