Benbrook Library / Library programs

A Zany Day in the (Shelf) Life


Yours truly as Cat in the Hat with our Librarian Assistant, Phyllis, who makes a mighty fine Lorax.

The shelf life offers great variety, as the library is many things to many people. Staff members at BPL, including moi, wear a bunch of different hats on a daily basis, but never has that been quite so literally the case for me as it was this past Wednesday. On that day, which will surely have its own chapter in my eventual yet-to-be-titled memoir that I hope will take a place alongside Somehow I Manage in the Pantheon of great workplace-inspired books, my schedule was a gauntlet of programs and activities that pretty well encapsulate what it is to be a public librarian. Here’s a timeline of the madness:

10:30-11:00: I arrived at the library and looked over the discussion questions for my impending book club meeting one last time. After putting out snacks and preparing the conference room for the attendees, it was time to get on with the show.

11:00-12:15: I hosted a meeting of Coffee Break Book Club, our morning book club group. Our selection for March was All the Light We Cannot See, an excellent book that was well-received by the group. I’ve mentioned before that running book club meetings is my favorite part of my job, so it’s not exactly stressful for me, but at this particular meeting, we discussed a book set in World War II that obviously dealt with serious themes, so I had to be careful to strike a balance between respecting the gravity of the subject matter and infusing the proceedings with the lightheartedness I love so much. We had a good discussion and ended up running a bit long, as at the end I introduced our new reading list for the coming nine months, which of course led to new discussion.

12:15-12:45: This thirty minute interlude was spent sending e-mails and addressing minor odds and ends that could be handled quickly.

12:45-1:45: Lunch time. I enjoyed a gourmet meal of a turkey sandwich and a banana.

1:45-2:00: Every year, our children’s librarian, Miranda, throws an awesome program to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. What does that have to do with me, the guy with “adult” in his title? Well, for years I’ve been offering to don a costume, because it’s something I’ve done before and enjoyed (just ask the children of Arlington about my spellbinding performance as a giant bookworm). I was finally taken up on it and asked to play the quintessential Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat. After my lunch, I went to my trailer (aka, the meeting room kitchen) to get suited up. The getup involved what was essentially a cat onesie, gloves, and hat. Miranda added some authenticity to the look with some expertly applied makeup. Check it out:


2:00-4:30: Seuss party time! I wandered around timidly at first, unsure if the kids would be interested in my cat stylings. This worry shortly proved to be ridiculously unfounded, as I got all the interest I could handle and then some. After a brief serene period of waving and high fiving, a group of kids became very fascinated with my tail. For some baffling reason, the costume designers saw fit to attach the tail to the rest of the suit solely with Velcro, so of course it got ripped off within a minute of chasing and grabbing. I retreated, tail between my legs in my hands, to a closet to reattach it (and reinforce it with a safety pin) and take a breather. Once whole again, I returned to the party to caper, frolic, gesticulate, and generally amuse through buffoonery. Kids gathered around and repeatedly asked me to juggle and make balls disappear, neither of which I can do, but fortunately seeing me fail was entertaining schtick for them. We played hide and seek, hopped around like kangaroos, and embraced silliness. Things would eventually devolve into tail grabbing, so I retreated to the closet for quick “cat naps” a couple more times throughout the party to give things a chance to settle down and give myself much-needed breaks. As the party wound down, I shed my cat skin and furiously scrubbed my face to wash away the makeup.

4:30-5:00: My colleagues and I did some brisk party tear down and turned the library’s meeting room around for the afternoon’s computer class, which I would be teaching. The makeup thankfully came mostly off, but nothing could be done about my severe hat hair.

5:00-6:00: I taught an intimate class of two the basics of using Microsoft Word. We worked through my planned exercise of preparing, manipulating, and formatting text in a Word document, and I’m hopeful the attendees went away from the class with new skills and an increased sense of confidence in dealing with Word and computers in general.

6:00-8:00: Normally, 6 PM would be quittin’ time for me on a Wednesday, but due to schedule-altering obligations on Thursday, I had to swap days for my closing duties, so this Wednesday saw me on the clock until 8 PM. Being the closing librarian at BPL means Information Desk duty from 6 to 8, which puts you at the mercy of the public and its often unpredictable needs. Besides answering a couple of reference e-mails and placing an interlibrary loan request, most of my time on the desk was spent answering questions about and troubleshooting issues with the library’s MakerSpace equipment. It was an active night on our 3D printer and laser engraver, and I helped a couple of patrons with their projects.

8:00 and beyond: The end of a long-yet-fulfilling day finally arrived. After a packed shift of conversing with avid readers, costumed capering to entertain the youngins, teaching computer skills to novice users, and helping makers bring their ideas to life, I went wearily home to rest up for what would surely be another diverse, and hopefully just a tad less relentlessly action-packed, day at the library.

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