GPL Blog

A Day in the Life of a Reference Supervisor

The work days of different library staff vary department by department. Jane is our Assistant Director and Reference Supervisor, and is sure to have a busy schedule every day. Take a peak into one of Jane’s typical days:

8:00 am: I arrive and set about doing the opening procedures with other Reference staff. We log into the public internet computers, turn on lights, wake up the public printers, and turn on the shared staff computers. We also keep an eye out for books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, scrap paper, and garbage that’s where it shouldn’t be and tidy things up. If it’s spring, summer, or fall, we empty our dehumidifiers.

9:00 am: I’m sitting at the Reference Desk (also known as Fort Reference, for obvious reasons if you’ve seen it) when Circulation staff open the doors to the public. Reference staff spend about half their working hours “on desk” and about half off. Especially if it’s a Monday, the phone starts ringing immediately. I check my email and there are usually requests from patrons that have come in overnight. Reference staff are on target to answer an average of almost 100 questions a day at the Reference Desk in 2022.

10:00 am: While answering the phone, responding to emails and chat, helping patrons with the public internet computers and printers, and faxing, scanning, and notarizing documents, I juggle work on PR for the adult programs that I lead. This includes writing blurbs for the library’s newsletter, scheduling events on the website, and creating attractive door flyers advertising the events. I may also draft discussion questions for one of my five discussion groups. So far in 2022 we’ve faxed almost 4000 pages, scanned almost 1000 pages, and notarized 500 signatures.

11:00 am: If things have slowed down a little, I may order books for the library’s collection or choose items that need to be removed from the collection because they are in poor condition or are no longer being checked out. I may also review items that are moving from our NEW areas to their permanent locations on the shelves. We like to keep a close eye on the items we’ve purchased to see what has checked out and what has not to guide future decisions.

12:00 noon: For me, noon almost always means lunch! Sometimes I bring a lunch and eat in the staffroom, but usually I go home or eat at one of the downtown businesses. Taking breaks is important in any stressful job.

1:00 pm: I head down to my office in the basement – did you know it used to be a storage closet? Actually, it still is a storage closet, it just also has desks and computers in it. In other circumstances, it would be the perfect place to take a nap – there’s no natural light, it’s always warm (it’s next to the boiler room), and there is a constant hum of white noise. But since I’m not there to take a nap, I read through and respond to email messages – I get about 100 a day.

2:00 pm: Several times during a shift in the basement office I find reasons to print things upstairs, go find a book, have an in-person conversation with a coworker, or otherwise get up and move. When walking around the library, even when I’m not on desk, I stay alert for patrons who look like they need assistance.

3:00 pm: I might attend a webinar on the hot new adult books coming out in the fall, politely put off a vendor who wants to sell us a resource we can’t afford, purchase ebooks for our Libby/Overdrive collection (I choose the mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, and sci-fi novels), or attend a virtual meeting with staff at other libraries. If the director is out of the office, I might deal with a leak in the roof, talk to a patron who wants to praise someone on staff, or confer with a plumber, an electrician, the state fire marshal, or someone else who has questions about the current building. I might change the batteries in the emergency exit doors, prune the trees in the parking lot, or pick up trash in the Storybook Garden.

4:00 pm: One task I definitely prefer to do off desk is to create the Reference employee work schedules. Making sure we have staff where we need them when we need them is one of the biggest parts of my job. I also confer with my fellow supervisors about the many issues that affect the whole library or multiple library departments.

5:00 pm: My day comes to an end – or does it? Evening programs include book and movie discussions and special events like forums and panels that might be offered in partnership with other organizations.