Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library
When people hear the word “library” a few things typically come to mind, namely librarians and books. But a library is run by people working in many different roles. They’re all helping community members with much more than book recommendations. Our series Spend a Day with a Library Worker, opens a new window takes you inside the lives of our library staff in different roles and follows them on a typical workday.
Visiting the St. Bernard Branch Library is a little like seeing a cross-section of St. Bernard itself. Kids are eating free snacks after school, teens are comparing creations they’ve made in the branch's Mini MakerSpace, and adults are browsing the collection. This town-within-a-town is filled with both abundant energy and pockets of calm – all orchestrated by CHPL staff including Justin Robinson, one of the branch’s Library Customer Specialists.
Putting It All Together
The St. Bernard Branch is a large building, but filled to the brim with materials, seating, meeting areas, computer desks, activity spaces, and much more – and as a Library Customer Specialist, Justin’s job is to ensure customers can access everything they need with ease. He starts his day early. He organizes returned materials on shelves, pulls materials customers have requested, and receives daily deliveries of books, movies, and more from across CHPL.
Justin’s favorite part of the day is in the early afternoon when St. Bernard Elementary School across the street ends its school day. “Typically, we have over 30 kids coming in so it’s pretty packed,” Justin says, “You’ll see them coming down the hill and streaming into the Library.”
That’s when it’s all hands-on deck.
Justin distributes free snacks for the kids and makes sure everything’s ready for the activities Library staff have created for them. Once most of the kids head home around 5 p.m. Justin assists the many remaining teen and adult customers and does one last round of pulling holds to make sure the branch is ready for the next day.
Breaking Down Barriers
Justin has been at the Library for nearly three years. “It’s been so rewarding,” he says, “Having a place where people can access community and educational resources is so powerful."
One life-changing service Justin brings to customers is sharing tips on how to use CHPL's extensive job seeker resources. Many customers come to the Library to find a new job or career: in 2021 alone, there were over 2,100 live interview coaching and career resource sessions across CHPL.
One customer who worked with Justin came regularly to the branch to print resumes, draft cover letters, search job boards, and receive feedback on her job applications. After weeks of work, the customer landed her job.
“That felt really great,” Justin says, “I remember how hard and diligently she worked. Seeing the relief that she had and the joy that it brought to her made that one of my favorite memories at the Library.”
Justin's love for connecting customers to new jobs, skills, and information is why he applied to work at CHPL. “I love being able to make customers feel more empowered. Their excitement of learning something new: that’s my favorite part of the job.”
All About the Customers
Everything about Justin’s day is centered around customers. He gathers the materials customers request, greets them as they enter the Library, assists them throughout their visit, and ensures they are able to find what they’re looking for. Justin’s goal is not just to tell customers how to do something, but to show them.
“We like to work with customers, instead of doing everything for them, leading them through steps,” Justin says, “You witness an amazing moment when customers go from hesitance to learning something to getting the feeling of ‘Oh, I do understand. I can do that!’”
Searching online for information, how to fax important documents, and setting up an email account are just a few of the technology skills Justin builds with customers. And with over 4.2 million research databases and digital resources accessed each year at CHPL, Justin is busy. “I love being able to make them feel more empowered and able to do some of the things we worked on together on their own.”
At the end of the day, Justin will have assisted dozens of customers, all with varying needs. This is when he feels the best – seeing what the Library does for a community.
“This place gives people a chance to see what they can be,” Justin says, “To see what skills or focus their life can hold. It all comes together in this building.”
It all comes together with conductors like Justin, orchestrating this building full of possibilities.
Interested in serving minds of all kinds at CHPL? Check out our current job openings, opens a new window.