A patron approached the desk and commented, “It’s like everyone just forgot what living with COVID was like and we’ve all just moved on.” I couldn’t imagine anything further from my truth. A global trauma has lasting repercussions on people’s psyches, how they live their lives, and how they move forward. For me, and, I’m fairly certain, a large number of people, the past several years continue to feel like a heavy weight that we cannot yet fully lift off of our shoulders. Though, it’s clear that we are enduring, trying to put that time in the rearview mirror, we are all moving ahead in the best ways that we can manage.
“How can I help?” is typically among the first questions we ask people who we find standing in front of us at any of our service desks. The answer varies, depending on the individual’s needs. It could be that we provide help to a patron who is trying to fill out an online job application, or we are asked to help download a book to their phone. It could be that we show a patron the resources we have for sharpening job skills or simply teach them how to help themselves with free tools available with their library card. Or, it could be, in more instances than you might imagine, that we are simply present to lend an ear.
One of our perennially favorite questions is not typically phrased as a question; rather, it’s “I need a good book to read.” In Michiko Aoyama’s bestselling Japanese novel, “What You Are Looking For Is in the Library,” librarian Sayuri Komachi is particularly skilled at selecting the perfect book to help each individual move forward and achieve their goals. In reality, patrons are not always aware of what they want, until we ask a few more questions. The trick to any reference question may be found in how well we listen to one another. It’s clear from the number of holds on Aoyama’s novel, that this story of hope and resilience found through the power of books is striking a chord with library users. And, why shouldn’t it? To believe that the library is a place in which we can find the answers to what ails us is not a misplaced notion. As I work my way through each day, helping myself and others, I continue to be wed to the idea that whatever you are looking for is, indeed, in the library.
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