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What I Didn't Learn in Library School: Two Librarians And A Microphone Podcast

Season 4 is here with a unique look at lessons from #TheLibraryLife ! Two Librarians and a Microphone: What I Didn’t Learn in Library School.

Pretty sure 70s rockers, The Faces, had librarians in mind when they wrote, “Ooh La La”. In this season, we joined our experiences with those of our fellow librarians to discuss some of the things we never learned in library school. Time to share with the whole class.

How often have you found yourself discussing library challenges you wish you learned about in school?

Your library community represents a colorful patchwork of quirky personality types, which can often result in some pretty remarkable occasions never covered in the class syllabus.

Ep. 1 Preview:

  • Dentures by the copy machine
  • One word . . . smells
  • Debating a brain surgeon
  • How do you define porn?



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Jim Heuer [00:00:13] Hey everybody, this is Jim Heuer and you're here for Season 4, Episode 1 of our podcast series, Two Librarians and a Microphone. Thanks again for tuning in. I'm joined, once again, by my two librarian pals. First, Tricia Bengel. Tricia, welcome.

Tricia Bengel [00:00:32] Hi, everybody!

Jim Heuer [00:00:33] Also with us, Donna George. Donna, welcome to you.

Donna George [00:00:37] Greetings.

Jim Heuer [00:00:38] Alright. If you were listening to Season 3, which we hope you did and if you've not, go back and listen. In the fourth episode of Season 3, we were talking about an incident that happened at the Kansas City Public Library and during the course of that podcast, we said this, "Yeah, without a doubt, I would imagine that Steve Woolfolk, when he was going to library school, probably never thought that he would have to make a decision about allowing a patron to ask a question or spending time in the clink." That's a common refrain that we hear all the time, or a paraphrasing of a common refrain. "I wish I would've learned that in library school. Boy, that would've been nice to know in library school. If there was a class about that in library school…" We thought that this season of our podcast series, we'll do just that. We'll talk about all the things that you have told us that you've wished you learned in library school. We thought that we'll kind of look at these from a few different angles. There's four episodes that we'll have, eventually. So, when we talk about the things that we wish we learned in library school, we'll have themes like the unusual and the interesting, the awe-inspiring and motivational, the little things that make it worth it, and then the one thing that I would tell to the next generation of librarians, as they come up. That is the backdrop for this podcast series, this Season 4. As I mentioned, we're going to start with the unusual and the interesting.

Jim Heuer [00:02:19] I think that one of the people of Whatcom County, Lisa, might've nailed it when she said to me and one of our sales reps when we were out to see her. "Boy, the smells. The smells are things they need to teach you about in library school." But we'll turn it over to Tricia. Tricia, what are some of the things that you've encountered, some of the things that librarians have told you? You're a librarian by trade. Let's talk about some of the unusual and interesting things.

Tricia Bengel [00:02:48] Well, this has been such a fun topic of conversation and it's what I've been asking every librarian I've run into for the last couple of months and we've heard some really funny things. I talked to a librarian who said she'd never thought she would need a chauffeur's license when she went to her first job as a librarian. She became the book mobile driver of her local library and she said, what was even more embarrassing, was the first time that she had to learn to back up the book mobile. It started doing that beeping sound, like big trucks did, and everybody in the parking lot turned around and stared at her as she's trying to get this beast out of the parking lot. That was pretty funny. Also, I had another librarian that I talked to at a conference a couple of weeks ago who works as a director in a historical building. She said she did not think when she went to library school that she would ever learn how to either be a plumber or a roofer, but she's learned since how to do both after becoming director of this very historical building that has all kinds of issues and a very small budget. Rather than spending money on fixing things, she figured she could learn how to do it, half the time herself. That's been pretty funny. On a serious note that turned actually hilarious, I was talking to another librarian about how picking out library furniture is completely different than picking out furniture in your home. So, when you pick out library furniture,

Tricia Bengel [00:04:28] the first thing you want to do is you want to jump up and down on it, because you want to make sure it doesn't break. You also want to make sure that you cannot fall asleep in the library furniture. You don't want it to be too comfortable. She went on and on about her criteria that she uses when she's looking for library furniture. That was pretty funny, too. Donna, any kind of crazy toppers you have?

Donna George [00:04:57] Yeah, you bet. Like Tricia, I've been spending my time at trade shows and talking with customers, getting ideas, as well, and PLA produced a lot of stories for me. Paul from Free Philly mentioned Narcan. I asked him this question straight out "What do you wish you had learned in library school?," and he mentioned Narcan. I think we all saw in the news just recently about another librarian, I think in the Maryland area, who had to administer it and save someone's life. We've heard that from quite a few of our libraries. There have been several Narcan incidents and I think that's related to the fact, some of the stuff we talked about in Season 3, about being the civic living room. It's a place to come and have conversations, but it's also a place to come if you have nowhere else to go. A lot of those people may have those kinds of problems. I also talked to Corrine from Reading, Pennsylvania, and she had two hilarious stories. One of them was, one time she found a set of dentures by the copy machine. That's not something you would expect to find necessarily at all, much less by the copy machine at the public library. The other story she told me, and she told it so much better than I can, but she said that she was a children's librarian. Apparently, she was conducting story time. It was around Christmas and one of the families brought her a Christmas gift that was in a Victoria's Secret bag, which made for a few awkward moments.

Donna George [00:06:21] Ultimately, I think it was a necklace or perfume or something that was pretty innocent, but to be handed a Victoria's Secret gift bag at story time is a little bit odd.

Jim Heuer [00:06:34] That's a little bit unusual. The Narcan piece, I think is both a little bit sad on one level, right? I think the stories are all over. I think there's a children's librarian in Denver that had maybe an unusually high amount of lives that she has saved, right? I can't imagine that anyone got into this profession thinking that they would actually physically save someone's life, right?

Tricia Bengel [00:07:03] I always joke that I became a librarian instead of a brain surgeon, because I don't want to be responsible for anyone's life. I'm going to have to stop using that phrase.

Jim Heuer [00:07:13] Yeah. I would imagine that if we talked to a lot of our librarians, there's a lot of unusual things they've all witnessed in the library, right? We hear some of those stories, but this podcast does not have the "E" next to it. We can't talk about some of those explicit things, but I imagine a lot of you librarians out there can use your imagination and probably don't have to. Could just use some of the things you've already seen in your library, but a lot of really interesting and unusual stuff. I saw one that one of our collection development librarians had sent to us. She said that no one had told me the amount of time and energy she would spend on personal and interpersonal issues, concerns, problems, complaints. She said, luckily, she did have an undergraduate degree in psychology, but after 20 years in the field, she considers herself an expert at emotional intelligence and could probably teach a day-long seminar. I wonder how many other types of those topics do librarians become experts in just dealing with staff, with the public, with local governments, with administration, all kinds of things. Tricia, I'd imagine your days on that side of the aisle?

Tricia Bengel [00:08:28] As part of my job at the most recent library I worked at, I had to oversee the acceptable use policy. We often had patrons who violated the acceptable use policy on the computers. Eventually, if it was egregious enough and often enough, they would get suspended from the library. As part of the suspension part of the library, they had the right to appeal and have a hearing. Part of my task list was to listen to appeals from people who got suspended because they violated the acceptable use policy so many times. We actually got into these fierce debates about what was pornography and what was not. It's a very loosely termed definition if you read the supreme court ruling. We had a committee that actually had to create documentation and training for the staff. I sat around for many, many hours with some of my colleagues, including the head of reference who, like, read Homer for fun and played chess. A very serious kind of guy, very elderly gentleman, kind of not somebody I really wanted to sit around and talk about pornography with. We would have pictures and we would put check marks or X’s on them if they were acceptable or violated, so that we could do training for the staff. That was definitely not something I ever intended to do when I went to library school and I kind of hope I never have to do that again.

Jim Heuer [00:10:22] Donna, how about you? Any Judge Brandice references that you could throw in?

Donna George [00:10:27] Well, my story pales in comparison. The year was 1998. The month was April. There was a great tornado in Nashville. At that time, I was working at the Nashville Public Library. One of the most unusual things I remember happening is being in the old former main library at Polk and Seventh and we were all instructed to go down into the basement. I had worked in that building for years. I had no idea there was a basement, but we were instructed to go down to the basement. As we were kind of going down the stairwell on the first floor, I peeked out into the room that was on the first floor and there were these giant windows and they had this reflective coating on them. Since it was so dark outside, it really looked like mirrors at that point, when I looked. The tornado was imminent, and those giant windows were literally breathing. I could see them kind of moving in and out as we were making our way down the stairs. That is, by far, my most memorable moment in my public library career.

Jim Heuer [00:11:25] Wow, a bit unusual. I think the folks in Phoenix, Arizona might be able to relate. I was talking to one of their librarians. Right now, presently, the Phoenix main branch is closed, because they had a big monsoon come through. They had this really cool undulating roof. I'm making an undulating signal, which none of you can see, but I'm doing it anyway. The roof actually separated from the top of the building and water came rushing down the nine floors of the main branch in the Phoenix Library. I'd imagine that was a usual day for them.

Tricia Bengel [00:12:06] Especially in Phoenix where they don't get a lot of rain.

Jim Heuer [00:12:09] But now they all do. It's all in the library. Maybe they're figuring out a way to irrigate that out. These all sound like these are wonderful resume builders, right? A lot of these things, you can add, right? Maybe an irrigation farmer is also something that you can add to your resume. Alright, so, I think that's the end of what we're going to call Episode 1, Season 4 of the unusual and interesting things that I wish they would've taught me about in library school. Hopefully, you enjoyed it. Hopefully, there's things in here that prompted you to jog your own memory. Something you want to tell us, please let us know. You can actually send us some feedback if you want to head to our podcast landing page. I won't be an old guy and actually spell out things like WWW, but it is That would be the number 2, libs: L, I, B, S, and a mic(dot)com. You can let us know what you think. Please also leave us a review on iTunes. A: it makes us feel good if you leave us a good review. If you want to say something bad, you don't have to rush there. But if you feel like letting us know something that you think is positive, it actually gives us some good feedback. Hopefully we're bringing you content and information that you find helpful. If you are liking this, if it's fun, if it's entertaining, if it's helping you, while you're doing some weeding in the stacks or if you're cleaning in your house and listening

Jim Heuer [00:13:40] to the podcast...fixing the plumbing…or the roof!. Thank you very much. Right, perfect. Subscribe to the podcast and you won't have to worry about missing an episode. Share it with a friend or tell one of your colleagues. You can follow us on the Ingram Content Group Facebook Page. You don't want to miss out on any of this content, right? We did a bonus episode in PLA. We've got all kind of plans for the future. Alright, that'll be the end of Episode 1. Thanks, everyone, for listening.

Tricia Bengel [00:14:13] Bye!

Donna George [00:14:14] Bye!

Jim Heuer [00:14:16] Two Librarians and a Microphone is produced and directed by Rachel Cope. Sound engineering by Craig Simpson. Special help from Essence Brisco, Elizabeth Wilcox, and Candice Sweet. Our research done by our librarians Donna George and Tricia Bengle. I am the microphone, Jim Heuer. And thanks, most of all, to you for listening.