A Day’s Work: Librarian

Christine Pacuk

If you frequent the Saugerties public library, chances are you’ve come across librarian Christine Pacuk. She can be seen helping patrons with the computers, running teen programs, and working in the children’s library.  Pacuk grew up in a military family, and has lived in the area since 2000. She currently lives in Lake Katrine.

How did you get into this line of work? What type of education or training did you need?

I lived in Coxsackie and I was involved in their book clubs at the local library because I just loved books. When I was in ninth grade they asked me if I wanted to volunteer there, and eventually they started to pay me. I became a full-time clerk there and I really enjoyed the work. I ran certain programs for the teenagers and kids. So I decided to go to school to become a librarian.

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I went to SUNY Buffalo and graduated in 2011. I have my master’s in library and information science.

That specific program took about a year and a half to complete. From there I tried to get an internship. It made sense for me, at that point, to move back to the area. I was able to get an internship at the Saugerties Public Library. While I was doing that, a position opened up, and I took it. I’ve been there for about five years now.

What is your role at the library?

My title there is technically Librarian One. I predominately work with the teenagers, the technology and some of the volunteers. We only have three librarians at the library: the library director, the assistant librarian director and myself. Most of the other employees are clerks. The clerks tend to check books in and out and do the rote maintenance of the library.

We have two pages that work at the library and their main job is to shelve the books. We also have some volunteers. Most of what I am responsible for is programming and technology. The slide shows that you see in the lobby are my responsibility, as is the upkeep of the computers and iPads. I also take care of the website, advertising our events on the website and the coding involved with that.

In terms of programming, I set up the programs for the teens and plan the uncommon events, like the comic convention we’ve held for the past two years. I maintain the teen collection and help with the children’s programs that take place in the evenings during the summer.

What sort of person makes a good librarian?

It depends on where you work in the library, really. If you are upstairs working with the adults, you might not necessarily need to be good with kids. If you are down working in the kids’ section, you need to be able to handle lots of noise and energy.

To work with the teens, you need to be able to relate to them, which is an entirely different skill set. The teenagers care so much about everything. They really don’t have a halfway point. They either are completely indifferent or they care with their entire being. It’s great to have that type of passion around you.

You also need to know what type of books are out there. People ask for recommendations. It would be great if we could get paid just to read books, so we could recommend them! It’s also important to know who in the library might be best to answer certain questions. I am very knowledgeable about certain areas, but maybe not in the area you are looking for. It’s good to know your limits and where best to direct certain questions.

What’s a common misconception about the work?

That we are obsolete and all we deal with are books. Pop culture plays a part in that. People think you can only read quietly at the library but we are a great place for things to happen. A great meeting place.

We deal with books, e-books, magazines, newspapers, video games and board games. Go on our website and see all of the things that we have available. You can access Universal Class where you can  take online courses or access Consumer Reports.

It’s pretty amazing what we have available to us. Librarians are purveyors, distributors and collectors of entertainment, education, family and community.

What makes for a really good day at the library?

I love seeing the teenagers, even the ones who don’t attend the programs. If I can get them talking, they usually keep going. We know each other’s names, know what’s going on in each other’s lives, and they know they can talk to me if they need to.

Today we had a Dungeons and Dragons program and we usually get about ten or 15 kids there. It’s a great turnout. It’s good to know they are here doing something constructive. When we had the pygmy goats at the library, we had almost 40 teenagers hanging out, talking and learning about the animals. It was awesome.

What about a bad day?

When everything breaks. Sometimes the printers don’t work and the copier goes down. It makes for a rough day.

How has the job changed since you’ve started?

Librarians are usually at the front of a lot of technology, which is not something people might actually think about. Several times a month I have people come to me with questions about how their e-readers work or how their laptops work. We are a huge hub for people who don’t have Internet access. Often people come to use the Internet to apply for jobs because the applications are only available online.

Do you see yourself at the same job ten years from now?

Yes. Most of my life is here. When you see the same people all the time, they become your family. I’ve been meeting the same people and working with the same people for years.

What is your favorite book?

I am going through the Red Queen series, which is really good. I am listening to it as an audio book. I am actually reading books right now for the upcoming “battle of the books.” I have a middle-school and a high-school one. It’s a great event. Last year we had 26 libraries participating. Every library puts together a team, either middle school or high school. All the participants on every team read the same books; eight books for the middle school and five for the high school.

We meet all summer and train and ask questions and think about the books and talk about them. Then we all get together and have a Jeopardy-type tournament. It’s a lot of fun. So I am reading a book for that right now called the “The Heartbreak Messenger” by Alexander Vance.

Do you have any advice on how to encourage a reluctant reader?

I would say read whatever. If you’re reading fan fiction, graphic novels or audiobooks, it’s all fine.

If you are getting the story, that will form the character in your mind, get the plot going and create empathy in your mind. Sometimes it’s just finding what you like. If you are being forced to read something you don’t like, you may be reluctant to read at all. To encourage reading over the summer, we have a summer reading program. We have one for children, for teens, and for adults.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a librarian?

Do it because you love it. You have to love people. You’ve got to like books and like surrounding yourself with every possible piece of technology and every possible form of entertainment. I got a smart phone because it meant that I could finally know how to help people with that form of technology. This is your job even when you’re not on the job.

How’s the pay?

You don’t get your master’s in library science saying you’re going to make tons of money.

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