Things I Do and Do Not Miss About Working at the Public Library

1. I miss the look of relief and delight on patrons' faces when I know the author of a book they only know half the title of, or the color of the cover. It's like I'm reading their minds. 

This isn't at an actual library. I wouldn't trust a library so dark. This is at a club in Vegas. 

This isn't at an actual library. I wouldn't trust a library so dark. This is at a club in Vegas. 

2. I miss small humans scampering toward the storytime room, and the bathroom, or anywhere, really. They move with such urgency.

3. I do not miss the impatience with which adult humans stand in line. Two people ahead of you does not constitute a customer service crisis in the library. Chill. 

4. I miss sunset through the windows of the amazing building I worked in. Libraries with natural light are gifts to their communities, and more cities should allocate funds to upgrade their libraries.

5. I miss Daniel (not his real name), the former personal trainer who lived in a homeless shelter, brought me juice from Robeks and always smiled.

6. I will forever be sensitive to the sound of rustling plastic, as I have become adept at discovering prohibited snacking taking place. You can't quietly open a bag of chips. It's just not possible. 

7. I miss weeding books. It is painful but instructive and humbling for a writer to see books put out to pasture, sometimes because they've been loved too hard, sometimes because they had a few frenzied months of demand, then faded out of glory. Sometimes, the book was never checked out. Not even once. 

8. I miss the bashful, conspiratorial way that people request books on such everyday issues like marriage, and weight loss and child rearing, as if seeking advice on how to be better or feel better is shame-worthy. 

 9. I miss the way that hipsters leave crestfallen when I not only know which "obscure" literary book they're talking about, but inform them that it's so popular we have a holds queue. 

 10. I do not miss having to bar mentally ill patrons for being loud, being combative, or otherwise disruptive in the library, especially on weekends when many of them have limited access to their meds, or when it's freezing, raining or dangerously hot outside.

11. I do not miss later running into these barred patrons on the street.

12. I miss the teenagers, though I was never cool enough for them. No one can make you feel like an oppressive, dowdy nag quite like a 14-year-old girl. 

13. I miss those same teenagers' nerdiness, evidenced by the fact that they spent all day in the library. They played Yu-Gi-Oh!, drew manga and watched Vines. 

14. I don't miss my colleagues who called those teens "bad," or “aggressive” when they were just young, black or brown and bored. Bad kids don't stay inside a place full of rules, like the library for long. They hang around out front, or in our library's case, across the street at Starbucks. And even those kids weren't bad, just loud and bored. 

15. I miss getting new books and putting myself into the holds queue to check them out. I never used my library insider access to cut the line, but I'm not going to say I didn't want to.

16. I miss the old ladies who came in with a cart and loaded it up with the books that I tracked down for them. Romances and Proust and mysteries. 

17. I miss the people who came with cut outs of the NYTimes Sunday Book Review and put a hold on everything listed, proving that book reviews do still matter to some readers. 

18. I miss seeing the way people's reading preferences defied my assumptions. The young black woman in fishnets who wants Warren Buffet. The old Indian woman looking for Love in the Time of Cholera. The older white dude looking for MockingJay. The Colombian architecture student looking for Uwem Akpan. The twelve year old Korean boy reading Balkan travel guides "for fun." I noticed Steven, another one of my favorite patrons, watching "When Harry Met Sally" on the computers twice. People publicly claim to consume certain things, but we consume all sorts of things in private. The data about who reads or watches what is not always right. There are the things we purchase, then there are the things we borrow, and after the things we borrow are the things we pick up in the library, read for a while, maybe even come back for a second day, but never take home with us. I am very interested in this last category, and I worry I'll never learn so much about it again. Also, the buzz in the library rarely mirrors the buzz online, as far as what book is hot now. Sneaky Pie Brown (a cat author, seriously, a cat credited as writing books) is always in demand, and a Jonathan Franzen novel might languish in a display for weeks.