Things they did not prepare me for in Graduate School

Things they did not prepare me for in Graduate School

Things they did not prepare me for in Graduate School
Megan Fisher, Bee Cave Public Library

  1. The intricacies of trying to build a walk through Sneetch-bot from scratch.
  2. How much I would overuse 586 field (it’s my favorite) or how many times I would yell at my computer screen because I totally fixed the problem in the record and why won’t it just save already.
  3. How to deal with a global pandemic.

I’m writing this blog from a makeshift standing desk. It’s made up of a cafe table, a small decorative trunk and a bunch of halloween light boxes. My at home coworkers keep trying to attack the images of glow in the dark spiders and won’t stop laying on my keyboard demanding attention. They are also fluffy, have tails and have no useful opinions with regards to how to increase digital literacy.

I’m one of the lucky ones: my director and city manager have been more than accommodating in making sure we can all work from home; I have fast wifi at my current location; and I was able to outfit my personal laptop with everything i needed make sure I could function during the duration of the shelter at home policy.

My job as a cataloguer should make working from home nearly impossible. I have several colleagues from around the country lamenting about how they don’t have a viable way to work from home right now, due to the nature of their ILS system and the need to have the books physically on hand. But like most of you out there, my job has many hats, some of those hats are amazingly suitable for working from home and can be worn with fuzzy slippers.

I’m taking frantic calls from patrons that have never used our OverDrive system before but need to find books to distract them or their family because they already read all 20 books they checked out before we closed.

I’m working on collection development, despite not knowing when the items I am listing will go on the shelves. This also seemed like the perfect time to really dig into the LibrarySolution cataloging system and prepare for migration. If I mess up now, there will be plenty of time to fix things. There are all kinds of continuing education classes in Excel that I am moving off my “to-do” list. Ya’ll, I can do very fancy spreadsheets now.

After trying to coax my coworkers into using Teams for the past year, now finally seems like the right time to really start to use the program. I’m thrilled mostly because now I can send them endless gifs of Fiona the Hippo… but also so we can hold conference calls and I can teach everyone what I am learning about the new TLC system even though we aren’t face to face.

During these online meetings with coworkers, these calls with patrons, and the messages sent back and forth with the TLC team as we work towards migration, I’ve noticed something…. no one wants to stop the conversation. We want to talk to someone because we’re all feeling the strain of not being able to go anywhere or see other people outside of our bubble. We want to know how other people are doing, WHAT they are doing. No one knows how long this will last, or what’s going to change day by day. It’s fair to say it’s a bit scary out there right now.

Asking someone “Are you OK?” at the start of a call and ending it with “Stay safe” are the new Hello and Goodbye. Asking if someone’s local store has restocked on toilet paper and pepperoni is the new “do you need anything else?”.

I don’t think anyone was prepared in grad school for the day when we would have to debate how we protect our staff and the public and still serve them all. No one could have the foresight to stop in the middle of a lecture on the organization of information and say “by the way, if all the libraries have to close because of a pandemic here is the universal list of do’s and don’ts”. After all of this is over, I’m not even sure we could compile  that list. There is no one-size-fits-all. There is no RDA manual to tell us where to put the comma and how long to stay closed.

So for now we muddle through and do what we can. We hope that the powers that be remember how bleak things were without us when it comes to next year’s funding. We binge watch continuing education videos so we can come back with a new skill (sorry, I don’t think binge watching “the walking dead” counts as continuing education…yet.). We contact coworkers and friends to check on them. And in return our nonliterary related friends probably ask us how the heck they can access digital items and send us that picture of the library cake (you know the one). We carry on as best we can, like we did that one time we got a shipment where all our preprocessed books came in with the wrong spine labels. We got through that catastrophe and we can get through this pandemic.

This is our current normal. And we are prepared to adapt as best we can. We may not have a manual for how exactly to get through this, but we will because just like how we build entire candy lands out of cardboard, or how we can plan programs based on whatever we have on hand, we can duct tape this thing together from our living rooms.

So maybe Grad School did prepare me for this in some ways.

  1. It taught me to be flexible, because things don’t always work out the way you intended and unexpected obstacles are just part of the job.
  2. It taught me that sometimes you have to take what you have and figure out how to make it work.
  3. It helped me develop a “I don’t know that now, but I will figure it out”

But seriously, if anyone knows of where I can get some pepperoni, let me know because my store is empty and my at-home co-workers are totally unsympathetic.

Megan Fisher
Bee Cave Public Library
Bee Cave, TX




Justin Larsen Larsen