We’re going through the process of hiring a few new shelvers at the library. This is something we do fairly regularly as shelvers either graduate and depart the area or move on to pursue other interests. Shelvers are the backbone of library operations. They’re charged with the essential task of getting the items back onto the shelves and keeping the collection in reasonable order.
The task of hiring new shelvers isn’t just a routine task to be taken lightly. Look for candidates that can offer the library something beyond the standard shelver skillset. Don’t only evaluate how they’d function as a shelver. They may have further potential in your organization down the road.
With some of our higher performing shelvers, we’ve given them the opportunity to start taking on front-line customer service at the Circulation desk. This is a win-win for all involved. The shelver gets to take on additional responsibility, gets to vary his or her duties and feel a stronger connection to the library. The library wins in this scenario as we get a trial period for a potential Circulation clerk, can provide a longer period of training into the complexities of Circulation work and can have an extra person around who knows the desk when things get tight. (I do make it clear to both employee and supervisor that we’ll be paying the person for the work he or she is doing on a given shift. That means we can’t pull him onto the Circulation desk if he’s working as a shelver unless he gets paid the clerk rate. I want to be certain that each person is being compensated properly.)
Work as a shelver can also be an introduction to the library profession. We’ve had a handful of library shelvers go onto to get their professional library degrees. They didn’t expect to take that route when they started working in the library but soon found it worth pursuing. It’s then really rewarding to see them move up within the organization from Circulation into the professional ranks of the Adult or Youth Departments.
I look back to my start in libraries as a library shelver at my local library. I had volunteered there two years before I was finally old enough to be hired and couldn’t have been happier to be an employee with the library. It wasn’t too long before my duties started to expand into new and somewhat unconventional directions. Fish tank needs to be cleaned? Teach me how and I’ll do it. Bookmobile needs to be washed? Sign me up! I loved the variety these tasks provided. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know the library from a variety of perspectives. Willingness to take on new duties with gusto is invaluable to employers.
The library shelver you hire today may one day be a youth librarian, corporate librarian or even a library director!