It may sound a bit odd to read, but oftentimes the public library is an emergency room. No one’s been shot, of course, and there’s no one having a heart attack or being treated for a broken arm. It’s just that, like in an ER, everyone wants everything “stat.” Immediately.
A student comes in wanting a book for an assignment due the next day (not understanding, of course, that waiting to the last moment has mean that other students already have the best titles). A parent needs a couple “really good books” for little Jimmy and little Jane to read on the plane … and they’re leaving for the airport in five minutes (we’d really like to talk to the kids since reading levels vary and they just might prefer to read something they’re actually interested in).
An adult needs to apply for a job, by computer, but doesn’t know anything about computers (much less have an e-mail address). Another adult needs an answer to a work-related question ASAP. Maybe he or she will get it quickly, but it may also mean a bit of Internet searching, perhaps a book, perhaps a restricted database search, and maybe a consultation with a better-informed colleague. Another needs an obscure title which only a university is likely to have … and they need it “stat.”
We’ll try our best, of course, but rather than treat the public library like an emergency room it may be better to treat it like a clinic. You want the doctors and nurses to know your medical history, if only so they can help you when you have a problem.
So may I suggest visiting your library and talking to the librarians and other staff members who work there? Introduce yourself, take a business card or two, and have a conversation.
You’ll learn what we can easily do, what will take a little time, and what will take a lot of time. You’ll save a lot of your own time in the long run … and our “emergency treatment” is likely to be both more accurate and more satisfying.