Oberlin Blogs

Getting Paid To Do My Homework...Kinda?

March 31, 2022

Phoebe McChesney ’25

I admit it, I hesitated about getting a job the summer before my first year at Oberlin. I spent drawn-out, lazy days going on runs, long walks, listening to music, learning how to drive, and skateboarding. All the while, my sister very shrewdly decided to seek employment at a wonderful establishment, the one and only Chipotle (not sponsored).

Most of my friends had gotten jobs too, primarily as camp counselors. I was the lone individual who, alas, had not. Instead, my work was very chill. I did some independent projects and took a few online classes with Oberlin over the summer.

So I’m working during the school year at…. drumroll please …Oberlin libraries. I am a Circulation Assistant (circie) at both the Science Library and the Conservatory Library. If you ever stop by to visit, you might find me sitting behind one of the long, imposing desks next to the entrance (they’re not that scary, I promise!), typing away at my laptop or taking notes in a journal. Maybe you’ll find me in the stacks, staring intensely at one section of books and muttering to myself (shelf reading), or hear the jostle of books as I move a feather duster back and forth and in between volumes. You may see me working on a shelving project, standing on my tiptoes to put a book back on a shelf, or hear the squeaky sound of the book truck as I wheel a cart back to its rightful position behind the desk. 

As a circie, my job is to help you and other borrowers who come into the library, find things, look up books and scores in our online database and then show you how to do it too, check materials in and out, direct you to various locations inside and near the library (or to the map where you may find the appropriate information), navigate the movable shelving, answer printer inquiries, and just generally be there should you have questions. 

What’s awesome about working as a circie is that you get to learn a lot, but you also have time to do your own work. There are almost always lulls sitting at the desk, so in the meantime, you can pull out your Geology 121 or Politics 110 and just read, study, take notes, quiz yourself. Of course, be available and attentive to borrowers, but you also spend a lot of time doing assignments. So you’re getting paid to essentially …get homework done. If you’re not a fan of homework, you can draw, or play with the fidget cube we have behind the Conservatory Library desk. Orrr, make origami! I’ve personally been able to make a paper crane and a heart so far. 

Some people started to draw cats on post-it notes and stick them to the computer terminals. While there once seemed to be a bit of a cat art competition, they have since been relocated to a new home. Nevertheless, circies find all sorts of ways to occupy themselves when not doing circulation-related tasks. 

And shifts are usually about one hour at the Conservatory Library, so it’s something you can definitely fit into your busy schedule very easily. If you can’t make a shift, you can post for a substitute to take it.

As for the Science Library, shifts are a bit longer here, about two hours, but it’s a good time to get library work done and some for yourself too. Shifts are usually pretty quiet, but there are frequently available communal snacks in the breakroom. You may also get assigned your own little section of the library to lovingly look after. You can dust like Mrs. Doubtfire, rearrange books so that they’re totally straight, and make sure everything is in order. You’ll get trained on shelf-reading via a certain special wizarding program! So if you’re a Harry Potter fan like me, you get to geek out a little bit. You may also just be lucky enough to play a professional botanist and water the many plants scattered around the library.

Want a job that's relaxing, enriching, and makes you smarter? You honestly can’t go wrong with either of these fine institutions, or, to be honest, any of the libraries on campus.

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