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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

12 Things Librarians Won’t Tell You (but Every Reader Needs to Know)

Avoid late fees, get the most out of your library card, and find out what's really in those book drops.

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Young man reading a bookfile404/Shutterstock

No, I haven’t read every book

Sometimes I recommend books I haven’t read. I don’t have as much time to read as you might think, and there are some genres I’m not interested in. I may suggest something based purely on a review.

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Librarian woman searches something in card catalogVereshchagin Dmitry/Shutterstock

I’m not just there to find books

Have a question about something other than a book? Bring it. We can help with background checks, genealogy research, and formatting résumés. One time, a little boy brought in a feather and was so excited when we figured out what type of bird it had come from.

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Two good looking women bloggers collaborating on new creative ideas and talking about prosperous studying website sitting in coworking space with notebooks and modern technology in universityGaudiLab/Shutterstock

You don’t need to be 100 percent silent

Go ahead and make a little noise. Just make sure you exercise proper cell phone etiquette. We allow cell phones and shush people only if we hear their conversation from more than three aisles away. Certain spaces are meant for mingling, like group learning and community events.

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Don’t trade accuracy for ease

As author Neil Gaiman said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” A big part of a librarian’s job used to be finding information—now much of it is sifting the reliable information from the slanted. However, there is one thing Google can do that a librarian probably can’t: find you a job.

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Tired elderly woman reading a book in the library.Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock

There’s one question I hate

I’m really, really tired of people asking, “Are libraries obsolete?” There are more libraries in the United States than McDonald’s restaurants—an estimated 119,487, including school libraries—and 53 percent of Millennials had visited a library in the past year as of 2016.

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Library Book Return BinsrSnapshotPhotos/Shutterstock

Book drops hide some real treasures

We never know what we’re going to find in the book drop. We’ve pulled out toys, trash, clothing, shoes, food, condoms, and even a dozen doughnuts. Once, there was a live raccoon in there. Don’t miss these 11 crazy stories of overdue library books that were finally returned.

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Photocopy machine.Suriyawut_Khongyuen/Shutterstock

Books are only the beginning

A growing number of libraries are installing “makerspaces.”These labs provide materials, technologies, and tools for do-it-yourself projects. Come in and use a 3-D printer, a video-editing station, a sewing machine, or craft supplies—all free.

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Girl with brown wallet full of moneyAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Yes, we probably can waive that fine—with reason

When it comes to waiving fines, most of us have unrestricted power. If there’s a good reason you’re late (say, you had a family member in the hospital) or if you’re especially apologetic, we can make them go away with the click of a button.

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Portrait of charming blonde student girl with short hair in casual clothes standing near shelf in library, reading book, looking through information about economic systems.Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

We are seen as a refuge

A lot of libraries are makeshift daytime shelters for the homeless, and we struggle with how to handle that. Some discourage it by banning sleeping; others have added social workers who can help.

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bookmark for books of the old dollarsavva_25/Shutterstock

We’ve seen some weird things in books

You’d be surprised at how many people use their credit cards as bookmarks. Other unexpected choices: unfilled prescriptions, Band-Aids, photographs, notes and cards, and dollar bills. Check out these other crazy things librarians have found in books.

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Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Young adults still see the value in libraries

Americans ages 16 to 29 are just as likely to visit the library as are older adults. Surprisingly, fewer people 65 and older report having visited a library within the past year than younger people. Plus, these cute mini libraries have been popping up around the country.

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Attractive young woman portrait wearing pink pale shirt with dots and fashionable glasses holding a stack of books in the library surrounded by bookshelves with colorful books.diignat/Shutterstock

We’re here because we care

I’ve been an AmeriCorps volunteer, and I’ve worked for a nonprofit, but I’ve never had another job where I felt that I was making such an immediate difference in people’s lives. Whether I’m talking to the 95-year-old man who comes in because he’s lonely or suggesting a new book to the child who’s obsessed with spies, I love being able to help people in a concrete way.

Sources: Librarians Jenny Arch in Arlington, Massachusetts; Brita Zitin in suburban Chicago, Illinois; Laura Lintz in Rochester, New York; Rita Meade in New York, New York; Nanci Milone Hill in Dracut, Massachusetts; a librarian in Florida; Pew Research Center;