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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Librarian's job is more than checking out books and straightening shelves

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Martha Standridge, technical services director for the Sikeston Public Library, files information about a new book she is adding to the library's inventory. National Library Week is April 18-24.
SIKESTON -- When it comes to being a librarian, there's more to the job than checking out books and straightening shelves.

Librarians must be able to locate a periodical on demand and work a computer, among other things. Most importantly, they must be able to tell a patron whether the book they're checking out is worth the read or not.

And often times the librarians become so acquainted with their patrons, they may even set back a book or two they think a reader they know will enjoy, pointed out Sue Tangemann, director of the Sikeston Public Library.

"Mostly we get praise from the patrons. We get a lot of 'I'm so glad you suggested that book.' We do have people who would like us to do different things, but for the most part, the general public is positive," said Tangemann, who's been working at the library since 1992.

On the flip side, finding someone a good book can create a challenge in their jobs, noted Martha Standridge, technical service supervisor for Sikeston Public Library.

"You feel like you have to hurry up and find them another good book. So it becomes a challenge," Standridge said.

And through the years the library staff has gotten close with some of their frequent library card users.

"It's almost like they're part of the family. We know when they have births and weddings in their families," Tangemann said.

But they've also experienced several losses of patrons, Tangemann said.

"There was one lady who always came in with a little black notebook," Tangemann recalled. "She kept an alphabetical list of every book she'd read with information by each book such as the author and what she thought about the books. That way if someone asked her if a certain book was any good, she would just look at her notebook."

As children's librarian, Ann Thompson said she gets to have the most fun of all the staff. But, she also admitted, she definitely faces a challenge finding books for the young adults section.

"The Missouri State Library Association defines young adults as those ages 12-18, and I try my best to keep the books updated for them," Thompson said.

Although finding books for children is easier, things can get tough when children have favorite book characters and want more when the book is over.

For example, currently Thompson is having trouble locating a specific children's series. "The thing with children is when they read a series, the child becomes attached to that character and they can't get enough of it and they want more," she explained. "Then the hardest thing is to try and steer them into another series."

Generally the library staff at Sikeston adds approximately 2,000 books a year to the collection,not including the 110 magazine subscriptions, Tangemann estimated. Currently the library has 42,000 items in its collection.

First built in 1938, the Sikeston Public Library expanded during the 1950s. Then from 1995-1996 the building was renovated again. One of the biggest additions was the new computer program used to catalog books and library card holders electronically.

"When we got the new system, we were sitting here thinking, 'We can't do this,'" Tangemann recalled. "We had 7,000 patrons to enter in the computer and we didn't have a clue on how to do it. We had to call Sikeston High School's librarian to help us because they were using the same system we were."

Today Sikeston Public Library's 13,000 patrons have library cards and the staff has no problem using their computer system -- and they enjoy their jobs.

"I work with a lot of neat people. Plus, I get to see all the new material," said Standridge, who's been working at the library for 15 years.

And since Mary Carr joined the library staff as assistant director nearly four years ago, she has implemented a monthly book discussion group.

"We usually have about 6 to 10 people and the book is free. It's a fun thing," Carr said.

While patrons still utilize the library for great reads, computers and the Internet have become popular resources in public libraries everywhere. But Tangemann remains optimistic and insists there will always be a need for libraries.

"The library will always be a main source of information for communities," Tangemann said. "Of course the Internet is changing that, but there will always be that section of people who don't have the proper resources a library provides."