Today I took a break from reading children’s books and, instead, watched The Public. I will read two books tomorrow. Today I need to address this fabulous and moving movie and MY experiences working in a library.
It took Emilio Esteves 10 years to get this movie made. It is the story of Stuart, a librarian at an urban Cincinnati library, and the homeless patrons who decide to occupy the library during a vicious cold spell that is leaving frozen homeless people all over the city. The film touches on the causes of homelessness, the opioid crisis, mental illness, sleazy politicians, and the importance of libraries and their staff. I don’t want to give away the whole movie, so I will just say that it is really worth watching.
In 2009, I lost my administrative assistant position during the economic downturn. Like thousands, I was laid off. An angel named Angie Patterson, swooped in and saved me. She was the Library Manager and I knew her through my administrative assistant job. She offered me a part-time Library Technician position and kept me employed. I owe her so much.
Everyone thinks that people who work in libraries sit around reading all day. This is FAR from the truth. Let me tell you about my experience.
First, it is a non-stop, physical job. After my first part-time shift at the library, I slept for two days and could barely walk. Between standing for hours on end, bending to pick things up, emptying book drops, and reaching to shelve materials, I didn’t stop the whole time.
Second, every day is different. You never know what each day will bring. From odd objects found in the book drop to backed up plumbing, every day is an adventure. Since I don’t work in a large urban library like Stuart, my experiences haven’t been quite as news worthy. Some of my experiences in the past 10 years:
- During the recession spent many hours helping patrons, who have never used a computer, to file for unemployment or assistance which had gone totally online.
- Provided first aid to a patron that overdosed in the library and then later in the same day had a patron drive her car into a wall at the library.
- Cleaned up poop left strategically in the middle of the floor in the men’s room.
- Taught patrons how to get eBooks, stream our movie services, learn languages, and listen to audiobooks, on their electronic devices.
- Entertained patrons with craft and food programs.
- Helped a library school student with her homework (keeping in mind that I did not go to library school).
- Found some interesting things in the book drop (partially eaten food, disgusting porn magazines, a tree branch, empty drink cups, beer bottles).
- Found interesting things when cleaning up the library at closing (box of melted ice pops in the shelf in the children’s room, underwear, marajuana leaves in books, toys, papers with personal information, cell phones, power cords, purses, bags of change, shoes, library cards, drivers licenses left in the copier).
- Helped newly diagnosed patrons research their diseases.
- Met some amazing authors and read many wonderful and not so wonderful books.
- Provided comfort and shelter for patrons after Hurricane Irma left people without electricity.
This is just what I could remember after watching the movie. My point here is that working in a library is not what people think it is.
Watch The Public and next time you visit your local library, share your appreciation with the staff. It will mean the world to them.
Thanks for reading.
2 thoughts on “The Public”
Wow! It’s great that this movie has given the public some insight into the workings of a public library. People have pre-conceived notions about libraries and they’re usually outdated; I’m glad you gave some facts, especially with the safety issues at PG recently.
I like the fact that the movie showed some of the issues we deal with on a daily basis. I wish that it showed the shear volume of work that it takes to provide services, materials and programming, to the public.