The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Library Superstar

The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Library Superstar


Bookish adores libraries. Our team members’ childhoods were shaped by library storytimes and the books our local librarians recommended to us. When visiting a library branch, we’re always on our best behavior. But we recently learned that some of our actions are actually creating more problems for our beloved librarians! What’s a reader to do? We reached out to Bookish reader and reference assistant Beth Gabriel to help us shape up! Here’s her list of ways to be a standout patron at your library.

Readers and libraries are a perfect match. But sometimes readers engage in baffling library behaviors that make staff scratch their heads and wonder, “Why would someone do that?”

Here’s an example: During the holiday season I spotted Bookish’s literary holiday cards. One of the cards indicated bookish behaviors that would land readers on the “Nice List,” including returning books in perfect condition and not judging others’ reading tastes, which of course, I agree with! What threw me for a loop was the inclusion of “reshelves library books.”

Gasp, I thought! Obviously that should be on the naughty list!

But is it obvious, or is it just obvious to me because I work at the library?

In the spirit of working together, here are some insider tips that’ll make your library experience exceptional for you, the reader, and us, the library staff!

Read on for the “dos” and “don’ts” of being a library superstar. I bet you’re still wondering why putting library books back on the shelf yourself would land you on the naughty list, so let’s start there.

Do browse, don’t reshelve!

Take books off the shelf, go sit in a chair, and browse at your leisure. But, please don’t reshelf the books. Why? You may think you know where a book belongs, but even a small error could make that book impossible to find or even get it marked as lost or stolen. Every library is different, and while you may be familiar with the Dewey decimal system or alphabetizing that doesn’t mean the item belongs in that section.

Plus many libraries, including the one I work at, record statistics on items used in the library but that are not checked out. If you put it back on a shelf, we lose that important data.

Instead of reshelfing, put your browsed library books in a stack and leave them on a table or on the specially designated book cart most libraries have for “room use” items. You’ll be a library star!


Do utilize the holds system!
I can’t tell you how many readers come in to the library hoping to find and leave with the latest “it” book. Odds are, if you heard about it on the radio/TV/your favorite website, so have a few hundred others. While it may be your lucky day, most likely you’ll be told you need to be placed on the holds list. Most public library systems have an online catalog where you can look up items from the comfort of your couch, and some even have an app you can use on your phone. We’ll then let you know when your book is ready for pickup, and it is often much sooner than you’d think. It’s library magic (just don’t rush it)!


Do ask the library staff questions!

Not sure where to put your return items? Ask! Don’t know the name of that book you might have heard about on that talk show, and maybe the cover is green? Ask!

And don’t worry, you are not bothering us. It is our job and true purpose, and we love fielding questions.

To those I’ve accidentally startled in the library stacks, usually when you appear to be looking for something, apologies!


Do ask for book recommendations!

Our favorite questions are always about books. Book recommendations from real live humans are an art form, and one I wish people would take more advantage of. Your library staff are a fount of knowledge, so talk to them when you’re looking for your next read. I guarantee it will make their day, especially if we’ve spent the rest of it un-jamming the public copier.


Do ask what we love to read!

I’m always reading at least two or three books and I keep up with the buzz for hot new releases. While I haven’t read all of the books in the world, I have a vast network of resources, other readers, and tools to help lead you to something you might enjoy. If our interests align (I’m known as the Outlander and romance lady at my branch), be prepared for some fan-girling.


Do read what you like, don’t hate on others’ taste!

We won’t “yuck your yum,” so it’s important to remember to extend the same courtesy to others! Literary snobbery is alive and real, but it has no place in the public library. Like what you like and don’t judge others for doing the same. All reading is good reading and the library is a no-judgment zone. You want books about astral projection? Awesome! We suggest browsing in the 133s. Want that super steamy one, you know the one, but of course, yes, it’s for your friend? Let us show you the way! Let me reassure you, we just are so happy you are reading.


Do check out lots of books! More than your arms can carry! Bring two bags!

Feel like you should only check out one or two books at a time to be a “nice” library patron? No way! Take two bags, please and thank you! It kind of stresses me out when people only have one book checked out. That’s your only book? What if you don’t like it! What if you finish it and don’t have another one to start?!

Fun fact: The more library books you check out, the more books we can hold in our collections. Library purchasing is based on circulation stats, so give those books some love.


Do take the books off library displays!

I see you over there, and I know you want that book. I know the display I created looks amazing. But don’t let its beauty detract you from taking books off of it. This isn’t a museum! Library staff adore when you engage with displays. We spend a lot of time making fun, topical, and sometimes just plain silly displays to help get you engaged and maybe prompt you to check something out you might not otherwise have noticed.


Do share your love!

The best gift you can give to the library is telling your friends, family, representatives, schools, anyone really, that you use the library and that you love doing so. All libraries have social media accounts, so go ahead and post that ‘gram of your latest #bookstack or #bookhaul and tag your state representative. We also really do “like” it when you like our posts!

Pssst: National Library Workers Day, part of National Library Week, is Tuesday, April 9 and Take Action for Libraries Day is Thursday, April 11! The theme of National Library Week 2019 is Libraries = Strong Communities, and we can’t do it without you!

And if you’re Leslie Knope, we bet we can change your mind.

Come on in and check us out!

An avowed bibliophile since reading Emily’s Runaway Imagination in the 1st grade and now a voracious reader of all genres, Beth Gabriel currently masquerades as an Adult Services Reference Assistant at a busy branch of an urban public library system. Job perks include tending the book collection, planning programs, providing reader’s advisory, and leading a Book to Art Club. All of this answers the question, “What do you do with (two) History degrees!?”


  1. That’s good to know about leaving books on the table after I browse them but don’t check them out. And I have felt guilty for borrowing as many books as I could carry, so I’m glad that is a good thing for the library! Thank you for sharing!

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