When people hear the word “library” a few things typically come to mind, namely librarians and books. But a library is run by people working in many different roles. They’re all helping community members with much more than book recommendations. Our series Spend a Day with a Library Worker takes you inside the lives of our library staff in different roles and follows them on a typical workday.
For Library Customer Advisor Tasneem Aijaz, a career at the Library happened by accident. While she’d been raised with a deep love for books and the imagination that was instilled by her father, working for a public library system wasn’t on her radar.
“After I finished my undergraduate degree in India, my friend suggested that I apply to library school,” said Tasneem. “Luckily, I was accepted and so began my journey. I was working at the library of a world-renowned research organization called Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, based in Hyderabad, India, before I immigrated to the United States. After coming to this country, I took a hiatus from pursuing my career for about a decade to care for my four young children.”
“I completed my professional certificate in Library Technology from UC Blue Ash in 2001 and had the good fortune of being taught by some great librarians. In 2005, I got a lucky break when Harriet Robbins hired me as a part-time Library Services Assistant at the Forest Park Branch.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Getting to Work
As a Library Customer Advisor and office manager, Tasneem’s day kicks off with her morning routine of clearing out holds, emptying the book drop, pulling holds, filling the copy machine with paper, and checking in daily newspaper arrivals.
“Pre-pandemic I would also check the back-end of our website for meeting room reservation applications, then I would evaluate the requests and approve or deny based on the Library’s meeting room reservation guidelines,” she said. “Another pre-pandemic routine was to count the money and do banking at least two mornings a week. Now that we have gone fine free until July 2021, opens a new window and are providing free prints to all the customers, the banking part doesn’t have to happen!”
“If I am not on desk or back-up, and not on the floor helping a patron on a computer or their laptop, then I am taking care of other things like ordering supplies, making display schedules, printing lists of missing, in-transit, on-order and other such items, and delegating some of the lists to the staff so we stay current on completing these lists every month. I am also the point person for ordering book club, opens a new window books for some of the book clubs in the Forest Park and Springdale areas."
Tasneem’s favorite thing about her job is the overwhelming sense of elation and satisfaction she gets after she has helped connect a library community member with new ideas or information.
“Every time a satisfied and grateful person walks out of our doors expressing gratitude and amazement at the quality and quantity of services we provide to them, it fills my heart with joy,” she said. “Some of the recent comments and compliments from our customers have been things like, ‘You guys do everything, from providing free meals, opens a new window to Homework Help, opens a new window, to Take & Make Kits, opens a new window, to helping with job applications, opens a new window, faxing to Job & Family Services and providing free copies and free faxing!’ It makes me so proud that I’m part of this amazing organization!”
Rolling with the Punches
Working at a library during a global pandemic has certainly presented unique challenges—ones everyone is striving to meet and overcome.
“We got a new software tool last year that allows us to help cardholders without sitting next to them when they need help creating an email or Facebook account,” said Tasneem. “It’s hard getting all the information accurately when you are trying to speak and both parties have face masks on and a plexiglass shield in the middle. I do miss the group of children who would flock to our branch after school getting Homework Help, which is now offered digitally, or just simply playing Roblox on our computers. I do miss the sight of a full house for storytimes and craft programs, which isn’t possible due to the pandemic but have been beautifully substituted with Storytime at Home, opens a new window and Take & Make Kits.”
“Oftentimes people comment to us library workers, 'Oh you work at the Library, you must read a ton of books’ and I would say to them ‘The duties of our job keep us so busy we hardly get any free time to read books while in the Library!’”
Even before the Library opens, Tasneem and her co-workers are bustling behind the scenes to make sure the branch is clean, safe, stocked, and ready for the community to come in and enjoy everything the Library has to offer for minds of all kinds.
Special hours for vulnerable populations are held on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. - noon. Learn more, opens a new window about our COVID precautions, curbside service, and drive-thru service locations.