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.
When our 41 locations closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak in Ohio, our Virtual Information Center, opens a new window (VIC) workers became one of the most important links to keeping the community connected with the Library.
Home to the My Librarian program , opens a new windowthat allows callers to schedule one-on-one (now digital) appointments with librarians for anything from employment assistance to help researching their family tree, the VIC has increased their call, email, and chat capacity to assist Library customers from afar.
Lisa Meeks is a Reference Librarian who started working at the Downtown Main Library in September 2006 as a part-time Library Services Assistant is Circulation. In 2009 she enrolled in Kent State’s Master of Library Science program and graduated in 2011.
“There were a few departments [at the Library] in which I was interested in working,” said Lisa. “However, I knew the VIC would be a great fit for me personally. I had picked up extra hours in VIC while attending school. I appreciated the uniqueness of the department. The VIC is kind of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our customers, and it was such a new concept in the library world. I was really excited to be a part of it.”
While Lisa’s work environment looks a little different these days, she’s assisting more customers than ever before from her at-home workspace.
“As a Librarian in the VIC, your day can be very diverse,” said Lisa. “Our primary duties are answering customer calls, managing the Library’s online chat service, responding to customers’ email questions, and providing downloadable material support.”
Her typical day starts with managing the chat service in the morning for the first hour or two. Then, Lisa turns to answering customers’ calls, which consists of a variety of questions or requests— they used to be about renewing items, placing holds, reference questions, etc. Now, many people call wanting information about Library services and policies during the shutdown. After spending time on the phone lines, she spends several hours answering customers’ emails.
“I love the variety of my job, and I really do enjoy helping people,” said Lisa. “I know it sounds cliché, but it really is one of the biggest motivators and reasons why we all work here, I think. When you answer that phone in VIC, you never know what question you’re going to get on the other end. The best part of my job is that you always have a story to tell. Also, I have great co-workers that help me get through the challenging times.”
However, no job is without its challenges. “I think one of the most challenging aspects of working in the VIC is dealing with an unhappy or unsatisfied customer. We are usually the first person to whom that angry or confused customer talks. I always try to remember that to them, we are the Library and I can’t take it personally when someone is upset.”
Currently, the biggest challenge in the VIC is working from home. “We are trying to serve our customers as best as possible, while dealing with technology and other issues that usually come at a time like this,” said Lisa. “However, we are making it work. And as much as I enjoy my co-workers, they can’t compete with my current co-workers—the cats!”
When asked what was the strangest question she’d ever received from a customer, Lisa said a customer once asked for a phone number of a priest who can raise Elvis from the dead. “Being a huge Elvis fan, I was all over that.”
The Library’s Virtual Information Center, opens a new window is currently open for chat and calls (513-369-6900) at 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sunday. You can feel free to send an email at any time and staff will respond as soon as they are able. We are here for you, opens a new window!
For the latest Library service updates and resources, please visit our COVID-19 resource page, opens a new window.