The Free Library has been expanding staffing efforts throughout the library system in recent months. With all the hiring excitement, there’s a mix of both new and familiar faces in all of the branches, and you might be wondering what some of these folks do. "Faces of the Free Library" is an interview series intended to introduce library staff to the public and highlight the important work they do every day.
Rasheem has been with the Free Library for nine years. He worked at Bustleton and Northeast Regional libraries before landing at Parkway Central Library, where he is now. At Parkway Central, he worked in the Art and Literature Department prior to his current role. Rasheem describes himself as a hobbyist who enjoys collecting action figures.
What is your role with the Free Library of Philadelphia?
I am currently the Library Assistant 3 here in the Central Children’s Department. I supervise five full-time and one part-time Library Assistant 1s. My role includes producing a daily duty schedule, shelving and shifting, and handling the send list. On occasions I may help the librarians with storytime or cover the reference desk for them while they have meetings or when they are short-staffed. Recently, I ran two summertime "Fun in the Shade" programs in Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the work you do?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is when an adult or a child comes up to me and asks me for my recommendations, even though I am not a librarian. I tell them about books I've read to my four-year-old son and based on how many times we've read it — if it is a good read or not. The best part is when they return the book and they also enjoyed it and ask me for more recommendations. It feels good knowing that you don’t have to be a librarian to help people pick out a good book.
What are your favorite library resources, services, or programs that you think more people should know about?
Some of my favorite services and programs have to be the Interlibrary Loan service, storytimes, and job seeker assistance. I think a lot of our patrons do not know about the interlibrary loan service. They think if we don’t have a book in our system, they will have to buy it, and that isn’t the case. I use this service for picture books, graphic novels, and non-fiction books. Storytime gives adults with kids a place to go and be entertained. And it even sometimes leads to friendships being built, both for children and adults. And job seeker assistance is an important key to helping people get back on their feet. It helped me when I first moved to Philadelphia landing my first job here attending a job fair at Northeast Regional.
What do you believe is the most significant role that libraries play in our community?
I believe the most significant role that libraries play within the community is that they provide a safe haven, not only for the youth of the city but the adults as well. Most people come to the library to escape their real lives by picking up a book and taking them to a place that they can only imagine. Also here at Parkway, we have the Field Teen Center, which is a space designated and designed for teens ages 12–18, where everyone is welcomed and accepted. Plus even the littlest Philadelphians can come to the library and have storytime, programs designed just for them, and most libraries have a preschool area.
What are your favorite genres of books to read?
My favorite genre of books to read is graphic novels, crime drama, and picture books (I have a soon-to-be five-year-old at home). I grew up reading comics but stopped when they changed Peter Parker Spider-Man. But recently I have picked up reading comics again with Sam Wilson: Captain America, Loki, and yes Spider-Man. When I got older I was reading a lot of Tom Clancy until my father-in-law told me about James Patterson and have been reading him ever since. My four-year-old always asks for new books from my workplace so I usually bring home about three–four books a week to read to him.
What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
The last book that I read that I couldn’t put down is Secret Secret Agent Guy. It is a picture book that I got from the library. My son loved it so much that the kid was sneaking throughout the house. The character's parents are a mixed couple, like his mom and dad, so I had to buy it. We read it at least twice a week. And I always have to remind him not to go creeping through the house when we are sleeping.
Do you have any tips or advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in library services?
The advice I would give to someone looking to get into library service is don’t believe what you see on television or in movies. Library work is more than sitting behind a desk and telling people “SHHH” all the time. We do a lot more than that. Library Assistants, we do all of the shelving, processing of new books, making library cards ... the list goes on and on. We also have to complete annual training and have meetings, lots of meetings. This is a very fast-paced career with room to grow.
What do you love most about living in Philly?
With me being from New York, I love the fact that the cost of living is cheaper here. But I live in the Northeast part of the city so there aren’t many corner stores up there.