Other duties as assigned…

i want to be a librarianNot too long ago, a library student asked me about my job. I am closing in on my 20th year of library service and both Holly and I have done tasks along the entire library spectrum, from shelving to hiring and firing.  For a long time, I thought it was personality or training that made one successful in library service. Of course this is true to a certain extent, but I really think the test of staying power is the ability to roll with the changes and absurdity of this career.

Library school students: regardless of your fabulous portfolio, your success in library work will be more about your ability to manage that illusive “other duties as assigned” part of any job.  Both Holly and I are here to tell you that whenever you think you have actually heard it all or seen it all, you will most likely be facing something wholly unbelievable before the day is out. At the same time, your job will require you to answer the same questions over and over, and you have to make it look like it isn’t making you crazy. Holly and I have helpfully compiled a list of those duties that just don’t quite make it into those job descriptions.  I do not think our list is even that unusual for public librarians as I have heard similar tales from my professional cohorts. So newbies, as you contemplate your future career goals, consider the following “extra” duties in library jobs. For you library veterans, make sure you include these skills on your next performance review or resume.

Please share your own special “other duties as assigned” in the comments.

Peace, Love, and Stable Library Funding in 2018,


PS. Stay tuned for our Best of 2017 list coming soon!

Other Duties as Assigned


  • Vacuum the wall in the youth section to suck up all the box elder bugs that have laid claim to the wall and shelves of the picture book section.  At the same time calm parents and kids by assuring them that the library is not infested with biting poisonous bugs.
  • Have a meeting about bugs and write a procedure for vacuuming bugs and disposing of said bugs.
  • Deliver toilet paper to the men’s room as a 35 year old man has used his cellphone to call his mother and ask her to call the library and tell them they are out of toilet paper in the men’s room and he can’t leave until they do so.
  • Help clean up reindeer pee in the library after a holiday program.
  • Develop a urine procedure for the library.
  • Gently explain to parents that it wouldn’t be possible to have a separate toddler story time for “gifted toddlers” even if their child is way beyond finger plays and songs.
  • Tell a man to not adjust himself during story time.
  • Tell a man to zip up his pants.
  • Write a policy about inappropriate behavior in story time.
  • Pull a dead deer out of the parking lot before story time starts.
  • Shovel snow.
  • Shovel more snow.
  • Warn people about snow as they approach the building.
  • Write a procedure for staff about dealing with snow.
  • Remove a pony from the lobby.
  • Take a snake out of the book drop.
  • Take a mouse out of the book drop.
  • Help a child remove their hand stuck in the book drop.
  • Write a procedure about animals and children in the book drop for staff.
  • Promise a customer to discuss with the director possible solutions to removing the ghost hiding in the stacks.
  • Add an agenda item to staff meeting about ghosts in the library.
  • Explain to patron that we can’t remove the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition as it follows our collection development guidelines and is not considered p0rn.
  • Explain to p0rn guy that what he is viewing is most definitely p0rn.
  • Have a meeting about p0rn and write a procedure and update policy.
  • Help angry patron who is cussing at the online catalog and beating up the keyboard because he can’t find books on anger management.
  • Answer millions of calls about eclipse glasses.
  • Have an answer ready for patrons asking if the library can reschedule or add another session of the eclipse viewing party.
  • Have answers and sources ready for questions about wearing sunglasses or driving while wearing eclipse glasses.
  • Write a policy and procedure for all future astronomical events at the library.
  • If anyone calls asking for the head bitch in charge, pass it to your supervisor…unless you are the head bitch in charge.


  1. I have adored/laughed/laughed until I cried at many of your posts, but this is my all time favorite! 100% spot-on!!! I need to write the school librarian version of this. First time commenting, too… I just had to! Love your blog!

  2. Remove the dead roof rats from the patio
    Catch the live birds in the building before leaving for the night so we can set the alarm
    Catch the “vandals” putting rocks in the automatic book return

  3. I used to work as a library page in high school, and my youngest sister is a librarian, so I add…

    …finding the underpants in the toilet in the women’s room
    …finding sneakers in the dome light on the third floor
    …finding Mountain Dew hidden behind books on the second floor
    …finding out that someone years ago lit a book on fire and tried to put it in the book drop
    …finding food hidden in the shelves
    …having teenagers use the library as a hangout after school because they’ve got nowhere better to go
    …having the campus police at the college across the street question me outside the library while I was waiting for a ride home because some other doofus pulled the fire alarm

    1. I was definitely one of those teenagers using the library as a hangout (and occasionally sneaking in food/drink… ahem), sorry

      1. As long you were respectful and cleaned up after yourself, we were square, my friend. :^)
        I’m referring to that OTHER bunch…

  4. Yes to all of these!
    Catching the baby snake that slithered in through the crack in the emergency exit door in the children’s room
    Removing the drop ceiling panels in the men’s room because people were stashing library materials and/or drugs up there
    Finding the hospital’s phone number for a patron on the phone because they claim to have an “emergency” but refuse to call 911

    1. We found porn above the ceiling panels in the men’s bathroom when I worked at the public library! School libraries aren’t much better….. Hahaha

  5. As a school librarian, let me add: pull another device or device charger out of thin air. Babysit the Driver Education students who aren’t in the car. Help random after-school guest speaker (who usually arrives past the end of your contractual day and you have your coat and boots on and are barely out the door) set up equipment, connect to wifi, find the bathroom, add speakers, borrow dry erase markers, etc. Who knows where the FN teacher-sponsor is for this event, but they are NOT on hand to welcome and accommodate their guest!

  6. Show a man who peed in the stairwell video footage of him doing so because he was too drunk at the time to remember it.

    Develop a policy for how to respond to drug overdoses in the library.

    Pick up human poop in the children’s area.

    Explain to a patron that there are no photographs of Jesus, the Greek gods, or George Washington.

    I know this sounds horrible, but I absolutely love being a librarian.

  7. Clean fish tank
    Removed wrapped soiled diaper from children’s room
    Call bat man to remove bat that flew into the library
    Remove broken mirror shards from women’s toilet

  8. I was some sort of reverse *&^%ed up easter bunny. A colleague and I were hiding a rotten egg, a week or so after easter sunday, for a muslim kid not to find. The library decided to hold a competition to decorate easter eggs, something we’d not done before. It was also something we didn’t plan to much for, other than buy a couple of dozen polystyrene eggs and print up some posters and flyers. What didn’t occur, was to issue instructions in egg decoration. Or more specifically real egg decoration, as in not plastic, as in yolk. Some of the smarter among you will have realised what happens next. Some of you won’t. Some of you, like me, won’t have decorated eggs before and, also like me, wouldn’t have bothered to, or known how to, blow the contents of an egg out of its shell.
    I was chased around the library, looking for an egg sized, suitably odour secure, container by my fellow employee. An employee with a slightly manic look about their eyes, saying over and over again “Oh God! Smell it. Here…smell, smell it. It’s…oh God, here”. In fetid desperation, the sort of desperation borne of a stench so bad it threatened to permeate flesh and bone, we went outside. As we were finally depositing said stinky egg bomb in the middle of a local unsuspecting shrub. I asked if this activity would be included in the branch plan? More than that I said, which of the criteria, essential to my job description, is acting like some sort of reverse fucked up, you know the rest.

  9. Mary–I found that book–I Want to be a Librarian–at a yard sale and had it for years before passing it on to one of my younger colleagues here at LM 😉 Having worked in academe most of my career, I can’t even begin to top the “other duties as assigned” the way public librarians can, but my hat goes off to each and every one of you!

    Happy Holidays!

  10. Fish cardboard boxes out of a skip (dumpster) to put withdrawn books in.
    Write a poster asking that person not to pee against the toilet wall but IN the toilet, though not in those words.
    Check the mouse traps.
    Show the pest control man where the student saw a cockroach.
    Explain to a student that no, they can’t bring their kebab into the library.

  11. Really did Laugh Out Loud reading your list, thank you! (BTW: You should have waited after that deer peed in the lobby and shot it when it was beyond the car park). I have been lucky (twice, no: three times) just missing ‘Having to deal with reader who died in library’, but have called for Ambulances (and the Police) on more than one occasion. ‘Removing open potted meat jar from behind books’ was a memorable ‘Other duty’, as was ‘Protecting books from flood caused by toilet leaking in room above’. A library that was in the same complex as a swimming pool had cockroach traps in the stacks, but I never saw any. We don’t have deer here, but one or two nice library cats (not on the payroll, but come to visit, eat, drink milk, etc.).

  12. Shut down ILL for a couple of weeks after hearing about bedbug infestations in other libraries.
    Call pest control about the bedbug infestation in the upholstered chairs.
    Dispose of Popov bottles found in the stacks.
    Call emergency services because someone collapsed in the adult rest room and we can’t get the door open.
    Hear that the guy was dead on your next shift.

    And for the high school library:
    Remove boys from behind the ceiling panels in the girls room. (Adjoining restrooms)

  13. Explain to the woman who swears she does not own cats that she will have to pay for the cat urine soaked books that she just returned.
    Explain to same woman that if she leaves the library books outside in a bag on her porch and stray cats use it as a restroom that she is still responsible for paying for the urine soaked books.
    Explain that no, we can’t just dry them out.
    Remove a used condom used as a bookmark from a romance novel returned in the bookdrop.
    Call CPS because there is a child still at the library at 10pm on a school night and said child has been there since school let out at noon.
    Feed child.
    Tell child that they can’t back flip through the stacks as they almost just mowed over an unattended toddler.
    Explain to child’s parent that you are not stifling their child’s olympic dreams you are just making sure they do not kill a toddler.

  14. *Remove the slice of (bitten) pizza from a copy of Plato’s Republic.
    *Clean poop off the bathroom wall after a posting by an “Artiste de Merde”.
    *Find the children’s blocks arranged to read FUCK YOU BITH (sic) after ejecting some rowdy teen boys.
    *Break up a fight between a mentally deranged woman and her equally deranged mother, telling said ladies to “take it outside”.
    *Break up a fight between a middle aged man who shoved a teen boy after said teen boy flipped him off. Call police.
    *Clean up vomited red juice (WHY is it always red?) from brand new carpet in kids’ area.
    …and oh, so much more. This is why I retired early.

  15. Check mousetraps daily. [I see this in another comment, so to “Kathryn” I say that I feel your pain.]
    Clean up mouse poop as needed.
    Remove and replace books’ end papers to eliminate smeared boogers.
    Develop polite way of telling parents that a nosebleed into a library book does in fact necessitate paying for the book.
    Develop polite way of telling parents that children are not permitted to throw the library books around like playground balls.
    Smell test books for dangerous mold–if this causes an instantaneous headache, you found it.

  16. From another school librarian—Find a safety pin and attempt to rethread a back strap string through the bottom of a bikini top while sophomore girl sobs in bathroom about possibly missing a pool party (crisis averted, sewing skills are highly underrated.) Catch mouse in box so that it can be “humanely” released outside (in downtown Boston, surely it was later eaten by a rat.) Catch stink bugs for frightened teacher (involved climbing onto radiators.) Get black eye (and almost cause giant member of crew team to cry and/or faint) when he accidentally collapses flipped table leg into my face on first day of school. Gently remind students that phrases such as “ghetto” or “so gay” are likely to wound and that Pepe the frog is now a hate symbol. Try to identify and reason with students who just used an entire month’s worth of printer toner on mostly dense, black, illegible handouts for their school club. On the plus side: enjoy my students immensely 90% of the time and feel lucky to work with them.

    1. I’m guessing you’ve got a B&W laser printer? I’ve seen similar. It looks so good in color, but then turns out absolutely unreadable in monochrome.

  17. Shop Vac second floor of new building every time there is a storm from the north east. Now have rotator cuff tear! Library system so poor not filing workers comp.
    Save baby snake that washes into second floor.
    Watching grandma dragging adult son out of restroom.
    Write new policy about loitering in restroom.
    Being told by state to check original gender of people going into restroom.
    Complaining to state legislators that we don’t have enough funding to have full time restroom gender checker.
    Giving signs to helpers of disabled patrons to hang on restroom door when multiple genders are in restroom.
    I could go on.
    However our kids are improving in reading skills since I took over library. Must be doing something right.

  18. Explain to an older woman that I don’t have a way to find out what her deceased father’s new address will be when he comes back to life.

  19. Politely directing small person to refrain from putting head through stair railings.

    Politely receive complaint from parent of small person who is inquisitive and doesn’t answer to you as library staff.

    Politely offer to find oil, soap and water to assist parent in removing child’s head from the stair railings.

    Calm annoyed parents who just can’t get their child’s head out of the railings.

    Try not to look smug as you get small person to lie down on their side and wriggle their whole body through the railing with another member of library staff on the other side to catch them, whilst leaning over the photocopier as they do so.

    Apologise to patrons who have been waiting to borrow items list you’ve been rescuing stuck small person.

    Politely notice that branch manager receives gratitudinous utterance

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