Meet Barbara Ackerman, whose keen sense of humor and charismatic demeanor work wonders at the Check Out Desk. With countless friends, a contagious laugh, and a wealth of wit, she makes coming to the library – and working at the library – downright fun. Here's what she has to say in the first part of a two-part interview.
Q: How long have you worked at the Princeton Public Library?
A: I began working here part time in September of 1985 and then full time in 1987. I was probably the last person to be hired by the legendary Bob Staples who retired later that fall. So doing the math, I have been working here for 26 years.
Q: What do you like best about working in Lending Services?
A: I love suggesting good books and good movies to customers who ask my opinion, or even by commenting on items they are checking out, like, “Oh this is a fantastic book!” What I really love is when the customer comes back and says, "You were right about that book. It was great, thanks for the tip." That really makes my day. Also I like getting a chuckle or a good laugh out of people and often really try to help them leave with a smile. Sometimes they are leaving with what they came for, and sometimes it’s that – and a joke. I enjoy greeting people by their names, and entering their name or getting their reserve book for them without them having to ask. I also like being the font of useless info like Prospect Ave being in the Borough and Township or that the town actually ends before you reach Lake Carnegie or where the closest notary public is. And don't forget about a really good hamburger, reasonably priced.
Q: What was the public library like where you grew up?
A: I grew up in New York City on the Lower East Side in the fifties. I don't remember being especially enthralled by the branch of my local library but I did take books out. I do remember feeling a little nervous, but in those days one's library decorum was different and the place felt a little like church: quiet, reverent, no loud talking or giggling, but sort of peaceful and scary. The place had a nice smell. There was a limit to the number of items you could check out, maybe three per trip.
Stay tuned for more from my conversation with Barbara Ackerman.
Photo by Leticia Braga