I haven’t worked in the public library a full year yet, but I’ve picked up on the fact that there are different types of library visitors that make the library space a bit like a zoo.
We have the retired routiners, who come in at about the same time every day usually just before or after they get lunch at the senior meal site next door. They’re sort of like the cats of the library. They require next to no assistance in finding anything. Very self-sufficient except on rare occasions. They really don’t like their routines disrupted, so having holidays, staff changes, or power outages are serious problems for them. Don’t mess with their routines and everyone stays happy.
We have our storytime families. These are the pack animals of the library: zebras, elephants, hyenas, they’re all in this group. These are families who have 1-3 preschool children and who come to our weekly storytime. Everyone at the branch knows that come Wednesday morning, there will be a rush of children and parents and grandparents in the door to get their books checked in. It’s loud, it’s crazy and it’s fun (for the most part). Lots of noise with parents and grandparents shouting across the library: “(child’s name) STOP RUNNING!” or “(child’s name) WAIT FOR ME!” In herds of various sizes and speeds, they make their way to the program room. Some of these families I’ve gotten to know well; some are not as well-known, but very excited to join in on the fun! I’ve learned that some of the families use storytime as a reward for the kids for having positive attitudes, not throwing tantrums, and generally behaving themselves. When the kids miss storytime, it’s a big deal to them, and I LOVE that.
We have the elementary and middle school students who come in mostly to look at comic books and use the computers. These are sort of like the monkeys of the library. They will come and ask questions quite a bit. Either about how to use the computer, how to find a book, ask how old you are, ask how the copy machine works, etc. Several of the elementary students still have the curiosity that they had as a pre-kindergarten kiddo, but they’ve got the trust of their guardians that allow them to be out of sight for a brief amount of time. I’ve seen kids helping some of our retired routiners on the self-check out machines (not that the cats want the help, but they’re too kind to snap at the monkeys), I’ve seen them explaining how to do puzzles to younger children. These kids have an ownership of the library space, for better or for worse. We do have to kick them out sometimes. The middle schoolers will be loud and crazy in the study rooms and sometimes they act like…well, monkeys, and it doesn’t always allow for them to stay in the library as long as they’d like. Monkeys can get outta hand, some days, but generally, they are a lot of fun to hang around with.
Lastly, we have the teenagers. These are the exotic birds of the library world. They come into the library sometimes solo, sometimes in pairs or small groups. Under no condition should you, as a non-exotic bird, approach them. You must let the bird come to you. If it senses any sudden movement toward it, it will be startled and fly away. If you happen to gain the trust of one or two of these creatures, you might suddenly find yourself having a conversation with one! This is a rare occurrence though, and as the exotic creatures tend to be extremely shy, you shouldn’t feel bad if, the next time they come in to the library, they ignore you. It’s just the way it goes.