Behind the Scenes

  • become a librarian 01


    True Confessions of Carla: I became a librarian by accident.  Not to say my ending up in this career ever surprised anyone.  I always loved reading and may have spent hours as a child organizing and reorganizing our family’s collection of movies recorded off television complete with an index and card catalog.  But, I planned on being an accountant…until my Tax Accounting class almost killed me.  Basically, at the time I was making the decision to go to graduate school, becoming a librarian just seemed like a good idea.

    Fortunately, it has been.  As I was thinking about that decision, I came across an article posted on the American Library Association website listing one librarian’s Top 10 Reasons for Becoming a Librarian.  I thought he had a pretty good list so I thought I’d steal her reasons and see how they fit with my career choice.  Here goes:


    I do love the fact that my job is different every day.  I meet different people, I work on different projects. I solve different problems.  We often joke that this job gives people Acquired ADD, which is totally not a thing.  But I think we do become very used to the variety and the expectation that you will never finish learning or growing into the job.  Being the perfect librarian is a moving target I love to chase!

    9: ROMANCE

    The original author of this list married another librarian. So that works for her.  I did not find my husband in a library.  But did find Captain Jack Elliot (THESE IS MY WORDS by Nancy Turner), Benjamin Weaver (CONSPIRACY OF PAPER by David Liss), David Martin (THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon), and a host of other literary crushes.  Romance is alive and well at the library and working here makes me very susceptible to it!


    I feel like I should be better at Trivial Pursuit.  But I am really kind of terrible at it.  I learn stuff and then I promptly forget it. However, I can find almost anything if you give me a chance to look it up.  Seriously, I am pretty good at it.  Also, I can multi-task most other people under the table, organize the crap out of almost anything, and carry a wicked stack of books without dropping any.  Skilled?  Yes!  Useful?  Sometimes.


    Um…not sure I agree with this one.  I’m not really a conference kind of person in general.  So I will instead interpret this as Great Interactions, because I do absolutely love that about my job.  Not every interaction is, admittedly, the best.  But, I have so many positive and fun exchanges with people!  Every day I get to talk with patrons about all types of things and 95% of the time, that conversation is delightful.

    6: TIME OFF

    I don’t think this is a universal reason to love being a librarian.  I do enjoy a healthy amount of vacation time, but I think what I love most about my time off is that I can usually leave the stresses and troubles of my job at work. Time off is just that.  I do, however, tend to take home a lot of books, audiobooks and movies, so I guess I don’t actually leave it all at the office.  But I choose to bring home only the good stuff.


    While much of my job is about books and reading, it is also about much more than that.  It’s about enriching people’s lives.  We definitely do that through books but we also do that with programs and services.  People would be surprised at how much time their public librarians spend trying to figure out what their community needs.  Our efforts cover a lot of ground but are all focused on helping, which is fantastic!


    Being a librarian will never make anyone rich.  But it definitely pays the bills and for that I am very grateful.  I also love that my career choice brought me to Utah County because I love paying rent in this community!


    Once, while interviewing a young girl for a job at the library, I asked her why she wanted the job.  Her reply was awesome.  “I want a job that requires I shower before coming to work, instead of after.”  I hired her.  She had previous worked at her university as a custodian or grounds crew, which explains her answer, but I’ve never forgotten it.  Some days, like when we are setting up a book sale, I work up a good hard sweat and need a shower right after work.  But in general I work in a very comfortable, not to mention beautiful, place.


    I wholeheartedly agree with this reason to be a librarian.  I have worked with some of the most amazing people you will ever meet.  Libraries attract employees that really care about what they are doing.  They are dedicated, creative, loyal, and love books and learning! Also, we are all at least a little bit nerdy which makes for a very fun environment.  Probably there are great people working in every library….but I’m fairly positive Provo City Library has the best!


    Honestly, I would rather stay at home in bed most mornings.  Unfortunately, that will not pay the bills.  I love being a librarian because, if I have to get out of bed in the morning, there is no place I would rather be or work I’d rather be doing!  I get to devote my efforts each day towards helping the people in my community!  I get to work with tremendously devoted people, in a beautiful building, in a fantastic community.  I’m not working to increase our profits; I’m working to improve quality of life.  That is definitely worth getting out of bed for, and so I do!

  • childrens book displays 01

  • librarians 01

  • Ever wonder what a librarian does at the desk all day? We do lots of things, but we spend most of our on-desk time answering questions. Periodically, we count up all those questions. Here are the results from one week in our adult and teen services department this summer!

    reference questions 01

  • volunteers 01

  • Day in the Life of a Librarian Collage1

    Have you ever wondered what librarians do all day? Well here is an inside look at what I do day to day. Working with the public ensures that no two days are alike and that’s one of the things I like best about being a librarian. So while there is no “typical” day, this represents what an average day looks like for me. The day in question was April 20, 2016; this post will be posted in two parts, so be sure to check back next week to see how I spent the rest of my day!

    (Pssst….notice that I didn’t get paid to sit and read quietly at any point during the day!)


    • I went to the Wellness Screening for Provo City Employees held at the Rec Center. I had my BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol checked. I’m healthy, yay!
    • I opened the 2nd floor desk by turning on the lights, counting the money into the cash register, and checking in and shelving the daily newspapers.  I re-shelved some of the current magazines that had been read yesterday, put some review journals in my co-workers mailboxes so they can select books to be purchased for the library, logged into the computers at the reference desk, and turned on the copy machine.


    • I made sure we had enough paper in the copy machine and our printers, straightened up the reference desk, logged into Mosio(the program we use to answer your questions when you click on “Ask a Librarian” button on our website), stocked the scratch paper holders at the catalog stations and helped a co-worker locate a flyer for an upcoming program.
    • I helped a patron on the phone who asked about a book on Yellowstone.
    • I put a book on display in the Oversize area, checked my email, and chatted with a few of our regular patrons.
    • I worked on adding some series information to our website.


    • I put new phone lists at the desk and worked on magazine claims and deletions.
    • A patron asked at the desk about Steve Jobs’ biography on CD. I directed him to the Book on CD area on the 1st floor.
    • A patron asked if we had a vending machine at the library…the answer is no.
    • I did a walkthrough of the 2nd floor picking up stray papers and books and straightened a few bookshelves.
    • I helped a co-worker get some colored paper for some signs she is making in the Children’s area.
    • I answered a question about our lab instruction time.
    • I helped a patron submit an Interlibrary Loan request and answered a question she had about items she had placed on hold.


    • I chatted with my boss Carla about a few questions I had regarding magazines and such.
    • I went to our Administrative offices to pick up the Sam’s Club card so I could run a few errands for the library.
    • I stopped at Sam’s Club to purchase candy for our upcoming school visits to promote the Summer Reading Program.
    • I picked up a framed picture from Michaels Craft Store that will be given to a librarian who has recently retired.


    • I went to Deseret Book to buy books and a book on CD to add to our collection. Most of the materials we purchase for the library come from a library vendor, Baker and Taylor. However, some things aren’t available through that resource. I purchase for the LDS Fiction collection and most of what I get for that collection comes from Deseret Book and other local publishers.
    • After I returned from my shopping expedition, I copied and turned in the receipts for the items I’d just purchased.
    • I straightened the Teen Book Display on the 1st floor. This month in celebration of National Poetry Month, it is filled with novels written in verse.

    And that takes me to lunch! Look forward to part two to see how I spent the rest of my day! Did anything surprise you about my day so far? Is this what your mental picture of a librarian’s day looks like? I’d love to hear in the comments what you thought librarians did every day before reading this post and if your perspective has changed.

  • Day in the Life of a Librarian Collage1


    Last week, I posted the first half of my day in an attempt to answer the age-old question: "What does a librarian do all day?" The day in question is April 20, 2016; we pick up shortly after my lunch break. 


    • After lunch, I took the materials I’d purchased at Deseret Book to our Tech Services department. They do all of the processing; putting the item on the catalog, giving it all of its stamps and stickers, and all of the other details that go into getting library materials ready for patrons to check out.
    • I updated my Excel spreadsheet tracking all of the books I’ve purchased for the LDS Fiction collection.


    • I got caught up on a few emails.
    • I updated my list of what I need to buy at Deseret Book the next time I go shopping. Some of the books I wanted to buy were not available quite yet.
    • I checked my library account and picked up my holds that were ready for me to take home.
    • I ran into a former co-worker from when I worked at the BYU Library (almost 8 years ago!) and talked with her for a few minutes.
    • I worked on scheduling Summer Reading visits with the middle and high schools in Provo.


    • I went out to the 1st floor reference desk for my last 2 hours of the day. When I come to the desk I always like to straighten it a little bit, putting the stapler and scratch paper holders back where they are easily reached by patrons and librarians alike.
    • I sent a book I’d placed on hold to Tech Services to be re-labeled. It needed the series information added to the spine label.
    • I shelved a Spanish Magazine that had wandered up to the 2nd floor earlier that morning.
    • I am the Serials team leader and have a team of 3 to process the magazines for the library. We check it in on the library catalog, give it the barcode and stickers needed, and then Tech Services adds the RFID tags, stamps, and tape needed before the magazine can go on the shelf. Carla and Erika recently did a blog post all about magazines. If you missed it, check it out here.
    • I had a big pile of magazines today, so it took a while to get through all of them! Of course, my main focus while at the reference desk is answers patrons questions, so that trumps whatever work I’ve brought to the desk with me.
    • When a patron asked about local bookstores, I pointed her in the direction of our Used Book Store and also gave her directions to Pioneer Book on Center Street in Provo.
    • I helped a patron submit a purchase suggestion.
    • I gave a patron a pair of scissors when he asked to borrow them for a moment.
    • I explained Freegal to a patron who saw the poster at our desk. I like to think of Freegal like the better version of iTunes; you get to keep the music you download forever, but you don’t have to pay for the download! You can download 3 songs per week and stream 3 hours of advertisement free music per day.
    • I helped several patrons make reservations for Book Club Sets and pulled a set from storage for a patron.
    • I signed up multiple groups for a study room and signed other groups out when their time was up.
    • I answered a phone call from a patron asking about checking out a Chromebook. We have 20 Chromebooks and they check out for 1 week. They are pretty popular, so you likely will need to place a hold for these.
    • I looked in the circulation room for a few items that had recently returned. The turnaround time for shelving items is pretty quick, but sometimes our patrons are even faster in looking for items that have been checked in!
    • I helped several patrons find their holds on our hold shelves.


    • I kept working on processing the magazines and checked my email once more for the day.
    • I helped a young patron find her mom. Sometimes parents get lost in the library!
    • One of our wonderful volunteers came in to help with a project so I got her started on the task.
    • I placed a book on hold for a patron, looked for some movies in the back room, and placed a few more holds.
    • I made another study room reservation. I answered a question about where to return books and how to pay a late fine.
    • I helped several patrons print from our computers.


    • Time to go home!
  • ill 01


    We have hundreds of thousands of items available at the library, but sometimes we still don’t have quite what you’re looking for. If that’s the case, don’t lose hope! There are other options!

    If an item was published in the last six months, it’s easy to submit a purchase suggestion to tell us you think we should buy the item. If the item is older than six months and/or we can’t buy it, the next option is requesting it through interlibrary loan, or ILL. We are a part of a large group of over 600 libraries across the country that all lend materials to each other. If another library in our group has the item that you’re looking for and it’s available, they can ship it to us, you pick it up here, return it here, and then we ship it back to them. That being said, there are some limits to what we can request and what other libraries are willing to send. We can’t get everything (we can’t get that +$100 text book you don’t want to buy for class), but we can get a lot.

    Because we borrow from all across the U.S., sometimes it takes a while for things to get here. I’ve seen some requests come the same week the item was requested (we love BYU!), and some have taken just over a month (looking at you, New York). Because of that, it’s important that you request ILL items well in advance if you’re working on a deadline.

    Other important things to know about ILL:

    Your library card must be active and in good standing to make a request.

    Patrons can only have three active ILL requests at a time. The request becomes active once you submit it, and becomes inactive once you’ve either returned the item, or we notify you that we cannot fill the request.

    The lending period is set by the lending library, not Provo. Sometimes you may only have a few days with an item, sometimes a few months. Requesting an item through ILL is free…BUT fines for late ILLs are $0.50 per day, and any fines or fees received from the lending library will also be applied to your account.

    So, the next time you’re looking for a book that we don’t own, consider requesting it through interlibrary loan!  

  • library school 01


    Next in our series of behind-the-scenes information about our library, we'll talk to Jackson H, one of our Children's Librarians, about his experience attending Library School. 

    When did you know you wanted to work as a librarian?

    I made the final decision about a month before getting accepted into the Master’s program and about a year before I got the job as a part-time librarian.

    You had different plans in college. What caused you to pivot?

    My degree was in teaching. I got to teach in a variety of situations and loved much of it but decided I wanted to shift to something that would be different but have many of the same elements.

    How long is your grad program? What's library school like?

    I will finish my program this December which will be 2 years and 4 months from my first day of classes, going year-round. Library school can be very different for each person depending on the path they choose. Some common threads between many students and professors that I have encountered are love of books, desire to serve a community, and conviction of the importance of universal access to books and information.

    Give a taste of what kind of classes you take for your Master's Degree.

    I have taken classes on reference work, history and genres of youth literature, web design, participatory learning including makerspaces, Web 2.0, library management, survey research, and information retrieval systems among others.

    What's the most difficult concept you've had to grasp while studying librarianship?

    There are about as many schools of thought about what role libraries and librarians should play as there are people. The most difficult and complex part of studying librarianship has been determining my own personal philosophy and then living by it. Some other less theoretical yet difficult concepts have been metadata and cybersecurity, privacy and copyright, and some of the technical aspects of information retrieval.  

    Has working at our Library helped you with school?

    Yes, it has. I am able to not only discuss real experiences I’ve had as a librarian with my peers and in assignments, but I am able to marry the practical with the theoretical in my mind.

    Have your classes helped you with your job here?

    Yes they have. In my job at the library I am able to use some very specific skills that I have acquired from school. I also am able to use some assignments in school as jumping off points for work assignments such as proposals.

    What do you think the library of the future will look like?

    That’s a loaded question. Libraries in different areas and in different situations will take different forms of evolution. However, in general I think that libraries will continue to increase technological offerings and digital access.  Programs and classes will become more and more important as libraries seek to provide services the community wants and needs. Physical books will also still be an important part of libraries for many years to come.

  • joella super


    Next in our series of behind-the-scenes peeks into the inner workings of the library, we'll talk with Joella Peterson, our Children's Services Manager. 

    You're the Children's Services Manager here at the Library. I know your job involves many kinds of work, but explain it as best you can.

    I make sure the Children’s Department– employees, programs, projects– happens. That means I am in charge of training librarians and storytellers to know what their jobs are and how they can best serve the library patrons. I need to make sure that people are here to answer questions at the reference desk or to make the programs happen. I basically am juggling a whole bunch of schedules and ideas and making sure everything happens to make the Children’s Department great.

    What kind of library jobs have you had in the past?

    I started off my library career here at the Provo Library as a page. That meant that I was tasked with putting books away. I have also worked in the mending and processing departments of another library. I was a graduate assistant at the Center for Children’s Books.  I have been a Youth Services Librarian for seven years.

    At what point did you know you wanted to be a librarian?

    When I was graduating from college with my Bachelor’s degree I decided to write a list of the 5 things I was looking for in a job—because when you are about ready to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English you start to wonder just what to do with that degree. Here are the five things I wanted in an ideal job: 1. To work with kids. 2. To have what I did change from day to day. 3. To somehow work with books. 4. To do something fun. And 5. To potentially dress up. It turns out that being a children’s librarian fits all five of those criteria. So after talking to an actual librarian, I started pursuing a library career.

    You were on the Odyssey committee in 2015, which judges the best audiobooks of the year. How did that impact your life?

    Oh, that was a crazy year. Basically I became a hermit for a year. I would go to work and then listen to audio books. I would listen to audio books on my commute to and from work, at lunch, and after work. I listened for anywhere from only 3 hours after work (on a slow day) to sometimes 10 to 12 hours on a weekend when I didn’t have to work. When reading a physical copy of a book you can skim or speed read and still get the gist of the book. With the Odyssey we were charged to find the best audio book. Which meant we couldn’t skip bits. We had to listen to the pace of the narrator, the pronunciation, if the breathing or pauses were too noticeable. Everything was determined based on the audio performance and editing. And that isn’t something you can just listen to a half an hour of and declare a winner. So it was hard. I turned down a lot of “extra” things that I normally would do. I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family, then went back to listening to audio books (I only took out my ear buds to eat the food with them). But at the same time it was an amazing experience. I feel like I have a greater understanding of what makes a high quality audio book and I think we picked a great winner (THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE) and honor (ECHO).

    How has this job changed the way you see the Library's role in the community?

    Before being the Children’s Services Manager I was a Youth Services Librarian for seven years. I knew the impact of my programs and of the library in general. But now I can see the impact of libraries to the whole. I moved from worrying about making sure that I had early literacy elements in my story times to figuring out how I could get those story times out of the libraries (Stories in the Park!) so that the kiddos who need the early literacy elements but can’t always get to the library can still benefit from what the library has to offer. Now my role is to think about the bigger picture and how to best serve the community with the resources and programs that we have.

    Where do you see the Library in 20 years?

    I believe the library will become more and more of a community center. The library isn’t just about books like they were 50 years ago. Now libraries are about information—both in print and digital. Now libraries are about technology and where people can go to have group meetings. The Children’s Library is about experiences and memories they can create—like story time, the Fairy Tea Party, or Make and Take Crafts. I think that will only build in the coming years.

    What about 50? Sorry if this is tough.

    Ha. I will have to find Hermione Granger’s time turner necklace to figure that out!

    Finally, what are you reading right now?

    I just started THE BEST MAN by Richard Peck. 

  • tori


    There’s a lot more to the Library than checking out books—and that means there’s a lot more to working here, too! Over the next few weeks, we'll be posting interviews with some of our Children’s staff to learn more about what it’s like to work here.

    Up first is Tori Pence, one of our storytellers:

    So you're a storyteller at the Library. What does that actually mean?

    Well, I get to sing songs and dance around and be a goof. But for real, it means providing an opportunity for children to come to love books and reading! It means staring at a computer screen pulling your hair out, spending hours trying to prep a 20 minute show. It means small hugs around your legs and being told you're loved. It means party times fun times with books! 

    How long have you been doing this?

    I've worked at Provo Library for two years as a storyteller, but I've been performing elsewhere for the better part of forever. I've volunteered at libraries since I was a kid.

    What experiences helped you prepare for this job?

    Being the Easter Bunny, true story. I was the Easter Bunny for my city for ten years until I turned 21 and came to Utah. Day in and out for one month a year I had kids put on my lap screaming and crying and had to figure out how to communicate with them through a fiberglass head without speaking. I was also peed on. Twice.  

    You're also a Famous Local Comedian. Has your background in sketch and improv helped with storytelling?

    Sketch has helped me immensely! Prepping a story time is pretty much like writing a sketch, especially the puppet show portion. It helps to know the basics of comedy, about what makes a show fun when you're writing a show. You want to teach, but no one is going to listen if it's not fun...Improv is super important as well, especially in the summer story time with older kids who want to chat. Kids are gonna say some weird stuff—which can throw off your groove— so it helps to be able to think on your toes, take what they say, and integrate it into your story time. Also, your kids are not bringing themselves to story time, their parents are. You have to amuse them too so they'll pay attention and engage with their kids, and knowing how to write for an older audience was super helpful for that.

    Reversal: has storytelling helped with your comedy?

    I have to write a story time show a week in the regular year and two a week during the summer. Having such a short amount of time forces you to streamline your process and be constantly thinking of ideas; it keeps my mind fresh and constantly creating. . .I actually have a sketch that was inspired by a real life story time, and it's one of my favs.

    What's the instance in which you've committed the most to your storytelling act (costumes, props, puppets, embarrassing voices, etc)?

    One time I jogged in with gym shorts and sweat bands carrying a fake Olympic torch and ran around the room until I stumbled to the floor onto my face and "passed out.”

    Your last day here is coming up soon. Any advice for your replacement?

    Have a party! It is all about the chilluns, and if you aren't having fun then chances are that they aren't having fun either. Story time is so important— you’re creating some of these kids' most positive experiences with books, so make them awesome!


  • journeyofabook


    Have you ever wondered how we choose what materials to buy or do you just trust in the magic of books, DVDs, and more appearing on the library shelves? Either way is fine, but if you’re curious about the process read on! Each of our librarians is in charge of at least one collection for the library. I currently purchase the Young Adult Fiction, LDS Fiction, and LDS Nonfiction books. In the past I’ve purchased for the 100’s (philosophy and psychology), 200’s (religion), 600’s (technology and applied science), Biographies, General Fiction, and Hot Young Adult Fiction (super popular titles).


    For the most part we use review journals to help us in the selection of items. Review Journals are magazines that compile reviews for books and media. The reviews are written by people who have evaluated the item in its entirety and then give their opinion about the item. If you are interested in becoming a reviewer, you submit an application and then wait to hear if you have been accepted or not. For example, I found the application form for Library Journalvery interesting in regards to what they are looking for. We also take purchase suggestions,  so if you are looking for something we do not currently own, fill out this short form to let us know. Librarians select titles from our various vendors or purchase things locally, particularly for LDS titles. After adding the titles to the weekly purchase order and making sure it is being ordered from the correct collection budget the librarian’s job is complete.  

    review journal


    Next, our Technical Services staff submits the order and we wait until the item is shipped to the library. Once the items have shipped to us, the packing slips are checked to be sure that what we have ordered is in the box. The barcode is then attached to the item so that it can be tracked through the rest of the process.



    At this point the item goes down one of two paths. If we don’t already have a copy of the item it is sent to the cataloger. The cataloger will then either download the bibliographic record from another library or create one from scratch. The bibliographic record lists the title, author, genre, and subject headings. It also lists information about the item like the ISBN, number of pages, length of DVD, publisher, etc.



    Once the cataloging is done, or if we already own a copy of the item and this is an additional copy, the item is sent on for processing. This is where the item is given a call number so you can find it on the shelf. This is also the time for the item to get all of its stamps and stickers. Books receive a plastic cover to make sure it lasts through the many times it will be checked out. On average it takes about two weeks for an item to go through the process of receiving, cataloging, and processing. If there is already another copy in the library, the item is on the shelf within a few days. Anything that is ordered as hot (remember that’s the super popular stuff) is expedited and is on the shelf the day after it is received or on the release day.

    DSC 3601


    Lastly, the item is checked in ready to fulfill a hold or be put on the shelf! Happy reading, everyone!



  • Ever wonder how something like a Fairy Tea Party comes together? Here's a quick video documenting some of our work setting up for last weekend's Fairy Tea. We only wish it actually went this fast!