Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ask the Librarian - Joe Logue

We've been featuring a regular series of interviews with our fun and amazing library staff! Meet Joe...manager at the Collins branch and another one of the people who make our Cambridge libraries extraordinary places.

What’s unique about being a librarian at the Collins branch?
Collins is a very small branch, so there is a chance for us to become much more immediately responsive to patrons’ needs and requests. As Cambridge Public librarians we pride ourselves on our patron service skills, but working in a small library allows you to become a neighbor, too. However, getting a chance to come to work in a beautifully restored Arts & Crafts building that has historical significance is an unequaled pleasure every day of the week.

What made you want to become a librarian and what do you love most about your job?
When I was 15 I found school very depressing, and rather isolating – typical teenage stuff. I would go to the Main Library in Buffalo, NY and sit in the stacks for hours, or go into the Record Room and listen to LPs. At one point I knew all the lyrics to “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Not only did the librarians not harass me, but they actively encouraged my interests. The only thing I wanted to be at 15 was alone with books, but when I began realizing that those who were helping me were at their jobs and getting paid for their efforts . . . well, the die was cast. What I love most is that even though I put off becoming a librarian for thirty years, it is as rewarding and fulfilling now as I thought it might be then.

What is something that people may find surprising about your role as a librarian?How physically demanding the job can be. Retrieving or shelving items usually require squatting and stretching, twisting and turning, often in quick succession to one another. Daily deliveries need to be hauled and carried, and emptying the book drop requires balance and agility. It’s not all sitting and perusing publishers’ catalogues, though that is a lovely part of the job.

What do you enjoy most about the library in the summer?Seeing children rush into the library when there are so many other entertainments at their beck and call is a kick. It’s interesting to see how demand shifts, too. We field a lot of requests for books on CD, museum passes, and lighter fiction titles. This is not the time of year when patrons borrow Swedish dramas on DVD that are six hours long – though we have those, too. We have a Labor Day picnic every year that has been great fun, with games and songs.

How has technology changed your job? What is your opinion on e-books like the Kindle?Technology has made requesting and obtaining items for patrons exponentially easier. It has turned a 15,000-item library into, essentially, one with millions of titles available. Not everyone can make it to the library when it’s open. The ability to request one of our items online at home at 10:00 at night and to have it waiting for you at 10:00 the next morning is amazing to me still. It has its challenges: many librarians are chary of the rush to have Web-based experiences dominate library interactions. We fear that this might leave many feeling that they aren’t stakeholders in the library, that technology has frozen them out. This is where the expert staffing of the CPL enters the discussion, to make everyone welcome, to offer instruction, and to provide guidance. I offer classes in setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts at Collins, too.

I could not be happier with the advent of e-book readers and downloadable audio books. My husband and I travel frequently and with more restrictions on luggage, one e-reader carrying a dozen titles weighs a lot less than a suitcase with twelve books. What’s great is that he’s a Nook guy and I’m a Kindle guy so between the two of us we have plenty to read. The library even has Nooks to borrow, with pre-installed titles, which has been hugely popular with patrons.

Are you in a book club? If so, how does your group select the books?
The Collins Branch offers two book clubs: my group meets on the second Thursday of the month, and my colleague Lise’s group is on the third Thursday. I generally pick the title for my group, and we always participate in the CambridgeREADS selection. Fiction is our most popular genre, and we look for titles that are accessible, engaging, and illuminating. Everyone has busy lives, so don’t expect War and Peace at our group!

Tell us about an experience you were part of or witnessed at the library that has stuck with you over time.
A boy of 13 or 14 named Zhenghan used to come to the Collins Branch nearly every day for a year or so. I would talk to him and ask him about school. Chit-chat, really, but nothing prepared me for the note he gave me when his family moved back to China. In a beautiful script, he wrote, “Dear Joe, It's so nice to have you as my friend! You are my first friend who is a librarian! Thinking of you.” This had an emotional and professional impact I had not anticipated, nor will soon forget. The value he attached to his library visits completes the circle for me.

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