It’s one of the many questions my followers have asked me that I’ve never had the opportunity to answer.
“Cassie, what exactly do you do at work?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
For those of you who are new to the blog or who’ve simply missed out on the updates about my job, I work part-time at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (known by everyone normal as “Bobst”).
Bobst Library, according to its official website, is one of the largest academic libraries in the country, with over four million volumes on its shelves, and an even larger number in an offsite storage facility. It also houses Fales Library, the Avery Fisher Center, and a separate digital studio.
Working at Bobst is an interesting experience. It takes an extensive amount of part-time help to keep the library running smoothly, and the process is split up into a number of teams.
For instance, my job is to work the Circulation Desk (the main front desk where items are checked out and most customer-service problems are handled), the Exit Desk (we’ll get to that later), and the Reserves Desk (where professors put textbooks on hold for their students and where students can study from those books for anywhere from two hours to three days).
There are between twenty and thirty part-timers who work the same desks as I do, and we work under two supervisors. The other departments, such as Fales and Avery Fisher, have their own part-time help for their specific libraries.
In Circulation, the most complicated desk (in my opinion) in the entire library, we receive hundreds of returned materials on a daily basis. Some of these books are ILLs (Inter-Library Loans that need to be returned to their appropriate library), some are Transfer Books (from other libraries within the NYC Universities that we work with individually), some are Offsite Books (books that need to be transferred to our offsite facility, where many of our rarely-used materials are held), and most are circulating books that need to be returned to their shelves.
These books are placed on a cart, which we later sort onto giant shelves behind the Circulation Desk based on their call numbers. Bobst has 12 floors, 10 of which hold library materials. The shelves correspond with the floor. Once we finish sorting the books, another team of part-timers (who don’t work with us) pick them up to be shelved.
Still other books are placed on a Preservation Shelf to be taken downstairs (we have two lower-levels) for repair. These books can have bed-bugs, mold, pencil and pen markings, be ripped or torn, or have spinal issues. All of these are red flags for Preservation.
Sometimes, when books are turned in behind the desk, a receipt automatically prints for a “hold”. This happens more frequently in an academic library than in a normal, leisure-reading library. Many students are often vying for the same book so, often, when one is returned, another student will immediately need to check it out. The receipt that prints is placed in the book, and the book is shelved alphabetically behind the Circulation Desk based on the last name of the student waiting to pick it up. Between 100-200 of these holds come in throughout the day.
Aside from handling books that are returned, Circulation also handles check-outs. The loan time for academic books is much longer than the average two weeks given at local libraries for leisure reading. Academic loans can last anywhere from two weeks (in rare occasions), to 60 days (for most undergraduates), to 120 days (for most professors and graduate students).
Of course, those numbers are drastically different on Lower Level 2, in the Reserves Section.
As I explained before, Reserves is basically a resource for students to check out practice exams, classroom textbooks, collections put together by their professors, and dry-erase markers for study rooms. It’s the ultimate resource desk. Also, it keeps me (and other students who are aware of its existence) from having to buy any overly-expensive textbooks.
The Reserves Desk is significantly less hectic than the Circulation Desk. Most of the work involves receiving call numbers, finding the right materials, and delivering them to the patrons at the desk.
Even more simplistic than the Reserves Desk is the Exit Desk, located upstairs in the lobby. The job of the person in the Exit Desk is to check the stamps on all library materials before patrons leave through the revolving doors.
Hundreds and hundreds of students funnel through this single exit on a daily basis, but you’d be surprised at the amount of downtime the person working the desk actually gets. The first few weeks, I made the mistake of venturing out without a book in hand. Trust me, I regretted that decision.
I suppose this post didn’t really end up taking shape the way I imagined when I wrote the title. I won’t change it, because this is part of an “intimate” series that will take you through a week in my life. But I will say this. If any of you ever have any questions about what I do or how I spend my time, please feel free to ask in the comments. It gives me an endless stream of ideas for the blog, and I can always use those.