Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Big Rush; Or, How Cruise Ship Libraries Differ From Your Average Run-of-the-Mill Library

Wow, the last couple of weeks have been busy!  As I sit now, I will be winging my way to San Diego exactly three weeks from today.  From there, I will get on a big ole' ship and start my first post-graduation job.  For six months, I will sail the high seas and provide books and information to an ever-changing group of people.

That's going to be the weird part.  Although I have been assured by different mentors that this job will help me obtain a professional librarian position elsewhere at some point, I am worried that there's a lot of differences between your average public library and a cruise ship library. 

First, I will not be serving a diverse population

Oh sure, I expect to see patrons from all sorts of countries and from various parts of the U.S., but the average age of those who cruise with Holland America tend to be older.  Furthermore, these are people who can AFFORD to sail on cruise ships, so I will not be serving the economically disadvantaged.  I doubt anyone on the ms Statendam is going to be particularly smelly or mentally unstable (although mental issues don't go away just because you've got money, there are plenty of crazy rich people out there I'm sure) or unemployed.  Retirees perhaps, but unemployed or underemployed, not so much.  People won't be asking me about how to apply for a job or file for government assistance.  At most, I might have to worry about having books in other languages for our international guests.

Second, I will not be actively looking to promote or market the library

Face it, I'm sure Holland America would like for their libraries to be used, but it's really just a service they provide and it's no sweat off their nose if passengers do not step foot in the library.  Holland America has their money regardless.  I'm sure I will be promoting the book clubs discussions that I will be leading on the longer cruises, but that's about it.  This is so unlike public libraries that are trying so hard to stay relevant and become an integral part of the community so they can continue to receive funding.

Finally, I will not establishing long-term relationships with my patrons
Cruises, by their very nature, are a revolving door.  The longest cruise on the itinerary of my ship will be 19 days.  Every 7, 14, or 19 days I will be seeing a new group of passengers as the old group disembarks.  Unlike a public library, there will be chance to really get to know my patrons' reading habits, no way to anticipate what they should read next, or just to get to know them as people.
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However, there are some points that I think will really work in my favor.  Those include the ability to work long hours with no days off, running a library completely on my own, working with my employers to develop the book and resource collections, devising library programming including book club discussions, and teamwork with other members of the Entertainment Staff.  That's right folks!  I'm in the Entertainment division!!

I promise to update again one last time before leaving for San Diego and I will start posting pictures as soon as I can!  Thanks for sticking with me and I hope to provide a clear picture of what life is like working on a cruise ship.

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