(originally written and published October 28, 2014)
I’m currently a reference librarian*. In my former life, I was in the hospitality business for over a decade. I’ve noticed many parallels between being a librarian and being a bartender:
1. Regulars. Yes, as behind the bar, those behind the library desk are familiar with those creatures called “regulars”. Every day, a few times a week, or the same day/time each week-both industries have their regulars. As a librarian or a bartender, you are the face of your establishment. You get to know your regulars. You might even worry a bit about them if you don’t see them for some time.
2. Life stories. Yep, just like a bartender sometimes has to play “therapist” for bar patrons, a librarian working with the public is often treated various and sundry anecdotes from patrons’ lives. Sometimes these stories are in the context of a question, but often these folks see someone behind a desk, ostensibly doing “nothing,” and decide to chat. Sometimes you hear things that are interesting or funny. Sometimes you hear heartbreaking slices of life. And sometimes, it’s just stuff you would rather not know!
3. Difficult people. Unfortunately, both industries deal with these folks, albeit in different ways. As a bartender, your difficult people are often tipsy or a little drunk. Your job is to cut them off and ensure they can reach their next destination safely. If not, it’s your ass on the chopping block. Difficult people in libraries are a little different. If they’re drunk, they drank before they got there, and if they’re disorderly, you can have them escorted out. If they are rude, impatient, or demeaning, sometimes you can call out another coworker to help or take over if you’ve reached your limit.
The above are only three of the similarities I’ve noticed between working as a bartender or as a librarian. Any time you deal with the public at large, there exists the potential for misunderstandings or other problems. But sometimes, you really get to meet some great people, or at the very least, engage in interesting conversations.
*Technically, I’m not a librarian YET. I graduate with my MLIS in May 2015, at which time I WILL be a librarian.