“The Secret Statistical Lives of Librarians”

Growing up I always thought that being a librarian would be the coolest. I mean, they just hang out in libraries all day and read, right? Well, turns out that’s not really true. Last month I sat down with Sharron Smith, manager of bibliographic services at the Kitchener Public Library, to chat about what librarians really do while on the job. This story originally ran in The Community Edition’s March issue. 

I’ve always romanticized the idea of being a librarian. In my mind, librarians get to hang out in buildings filled with books, spend their days reading books and talking about books, and, most importantly, make their living off of being a book nerd. That’s what really happens when you sign up to be a librarian, right?

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I love used books!

I buy a lot of used books. Used bookstores are my kryptonite; I can’t go into one without buying at least five new books. Sometimes people try to tell me that buying brand new books is better than getting someone’s run-down, beat up, second-hand book, but I disagree and I’m going to tell you why.

Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

        Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

  • Used books hold more stories than the ones written on their pages. Think about it: who was its pervious owner? Where was it read? Has it been to more countries than you? If that book could talk, it would probably have an exciting memoir to recite.
  • Coffee stains on white pages got you down? Well, stop being so particular! If someone has stained their book it only means that they couldn’t take a five minute break from reading to eat, which has to be a good sign. If someone else couldn’t put that book down, you probably won’t either.
  • Used books are cheaper than new books! Sure, you could argue that e-books are (sometimes) even less money, and using a library card is always free, but sometimes you just need to own a particular book.
  • I might be pretty unique in liking worn out books — I make a point to destroy book spines — and many of my friends shudder when they hear me say I’d rather have tattered pages than perfect, straight ones. While most used books are old and loved, not all of them look it. A lot of used books do look brand new!
  • Sure, that new-book smell is awesome, but musty old books smell great too.
  • Getting lost in used bookstores is almost as fun as reading. They are usually organized in some way, but more often than not the shelves are stacked with more books than you could image. What’s wrong with wandering amongst shelves for an hour or so trying to find that next awesome literary adventure? Nothing.
  • If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some super old books it feels like finding an artifact from the literary world. A lot of old books have hand-sewn spines, beautifully illustrated covers, and hold so much history! These, friends, are the real treasures of the book world.
  • Sometimes used books have notes scribbled in the margins. This is awesome, as it gives you the opportunity to see what previous readers were thinking. Did they interpret that character the same way you did? Did they pick up on some foreshadowing that you missed? These notes will get you thinking about books in ways you might never have thought of!
  • Used bookstores are usually independently owned, and need your support! Plus, owners/staff are always super knowledgeable and friendly.
  • Buying used books is also environmentally friendly. Need I say more?