Therapy Provided to Overstretched Librarians

As the recession brings people back to public libraries, staffs are getting overwhelmed.

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The job of a librarian seems pretty mellow. You spend your day padding down carpeted hallways lined by blessedly silent tomes, while speaking in near-whisper and commanding sobriety from book-addled children. (That is, no doubt, a largely unrealistic image constructed from a patron's perspective. I've only been on one side of the sign-out counter.)

Nevertheless, the job of a librarian has been pretty well transformed by this recession. Public libraries swept smoothly into the digital age by installing public computers and training librarians in computer use. Now, the computers are hot in demand by a job-seeking public. Librarians are donning the caps of career counselor and therapist to come to the aid of the anxious and jobless. That means that many of these librarians may need access to therapists themselves.

A NYTimes piece reports as much:

Many say they feel ill-equipped for the newfound demands of the job, the result of working with anxious and often depressed patrons who say they have nowhere else to go.

The stresses have become so significant here that a therapist will soon be counseling library employees.

“I guess I’m not really used to people with tears in their eyes,” said Rosalie Bork, a reference librarian in Arlington Heights, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago. “It has been unexpectedly stressful. We feel so anxious to help these people, and it’s been so emotional for them.”


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