A slightly scruffy, youngish guy (about my, age, I suppose), let's call him Shaggy, comes up to the information desk and asks...
"Where do I sign up to become a librarian?"
"You can send your CV to the Library Manager. If a position comes up, and you're considered a potential candidate, she'll give you a call to come in for an interview."
"Oh, you mean you can't just come in and help out?"
"No. All the various library assistant and professional librarian jobs are filled through normal employment channels. The library advertises, people apply, someone gets the job. That sort of thing. It doesn't hurt to have your CV on record - it shows you're keen."
"So you're saying..."
...Shaggy was obviously struggling with the concept....
"...that you get paid
to do this?"
"Yes. In fact, a good proportion of the staff are professionals. You need a Masters Degree in Librarianship to become a fully professional librarian."
"Really? Just to shelve books and stuff?"
Shelve books, and stuff. There are times, as one of those fully qualified professional librarians, that you really want to smack people with an older edition volume Sa-Sm of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
"Yes." I tried to glower at him. "There's a bit more to it than shelving."
"Oh yeah, sure, I mean I can see that
. There's the check-out, and, ummm..."
Shaggy looked around, looking for more clues as to what it was that we were paid to do all day.
"...I suppose someone has to do all the sign-ups, and, uh, the..."
He ran out of ideas at this point.
"Would you like a brochure about the Library School?" I suggested. We keep a few behind the desk for just this sort of person.
"How long does the course take?"
"Have you got a degree already?"
"Well, probably three years to get a degree to start with, and then another year or two to get the Masters."
Shaggy blanked out for a second, then...
"What? Really? Four or five years?"
Couldn't fault his maths ability.
"Just so I can work in a library?"
"Oh no, anyone can be a library assistant, but they do tend to give preference to people who are studying to be librarians."
"Man. You're sure I can't just help out, for free? I'd really love to get some experience."
Cute, kinda. Maybe I could give him a call when I was on shelving and pop out for a coffee while he did my work. A library slave. Very tempting.
"Well, like I say, you can send your CV to the Library Manager, maybe adding a note that you're happy to work for free. I'm not sure if we're legally able to employ people without paying them, but it doesn't hurt to try. And library assistant jobs do come up pretty regularly, so if your CV's in the pile, you might get a look-in at a regular job."
"Oh no, man, I don't really want a regular thing. I was just kinda hoping I could drop in and do some stuff when I got the urge, you know?"
"Um, yes. Well, I'm sure there are plenty of other community-based organisations that would be happy to have your help."
I gave him a couple more information pamphlets about ways he could use his irregular bursts of volunteering enthusiasm to assist some organisations that really needed some help, and gave him the old 'will that be all?'
Shaggy slowly looked around, obviously still a bit disbelieving that I wasn't about to let him get stuck into sorting out the recently returned pile or something.
'Yeahnah, cheers,' he finally muttered, and shambled away.
Shelve books and stuff. Really.