Gems is a column devoted to spotlighting the various denizens who contribute to the rich mosaic that is the South Seattle area.
Who: Drina Turner
Avocation: Library Assistant
Favorite Area of South Seattle: Skyway
Where You Would Know Her From: Perched vigilantly behind Skyway Library’s front desk, ready to combat belligerent loudness and delinquent book returns.
What’s your favorite thing to do in South Seattle?
Working as a Library Assistant. It’s not a passive job as some might think. It’s actually quite dynamic. You get a diverse range of thoughts and ideas when you’re helping people with their problems. The clientele changes throughout the day. In the morning you have job seekers and people who work nights, along with the elderly. The library becomes somewhat of their social scene and a place for entertainment. Then in the afternoon, you have students coming from school and in the evening you have people just getting off from work, so throughout the day you have various needs being met. You many times become, “that person,” for people to talk to when they don’t have anyone else. Sometimes just “being there” helps them a great deal.
So what is the difference between a librarian and a library assistant?
It can be confusing! A librarian is someone who has their master’s degree in library science. A library assistant is someone who has at least a high school diploma.
Are there any amusing stories you can share as a library assistant?
One that stands out had to do with someone forgetting their library card and not having any identification. Usually when people come up to the front desk and need their library card, but don’t have any way of identifying themselves we ask them a series of questions to ascertain that we are giving the correct person the correct information.There was this young lady who came to the desk and didn’t have any identification but she said, “but my name is tattooed here!” and then proceeded to pull her shirt down to reveal this large tattoo of her name on her neck. I was thinking, “Well you more than likely are who you say you are… but that doesn’t exactly meet our verification criteria.”
How do you get on a library assistants good side besides being a lover of silence in the library?
One of the things I find extremely helpful when you visit a library is to just approach whoever is sitting behind the desk as someone who really is there to help you. The best thing to do is not assume that you’re going to be met with resistance or negativity, that way your interaction goes lot smoother. That’s works so much better than giving them a hard time for no apparent reason. And yes, as librarians and library assistants, we do understand that there are policies in place that we may not all agree with, but they’re in place for a reason, and part of it is to protect your own confidentiality. If we just gave your information out to anybody who just knew enough to get it, then you would be here for a completely different reason and not a good one. It’s important to assume first that you can get help if you ask for it, and there’s never a need to escalate a situation if you are not getting the help you want.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever received at the library?
Well, this is a broad answer, but people tend to think that we know everything, as if we are a walking Google (laughter). So, people think we have mastered the most recent version of Microsoft Publisher, or that it’s second nature to us to decipher complex federal and county law, so request can run the whole gamut.
What 3 books do you recommend people read right this very moment?
Good Lord Bird by James McBride, which is going to be made into a movie starring Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s son).
Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell, about a young man who can hear the conversations of the women who live above him, with many of them being true to life.
Giant George by Dave Nasser, about a Dog who is larger than any great dane
How do you think South Seattle can be improved?
I think that there is a lot of potential for development here. My feeling is that areas go through periods of time of vitality and depression before they are revitalized, and I have a feeling that this area is on the upswing.
I’m hoping that when people see the new (Skyway) Library being built that it will draw more commerce to the area of Skyway, so that people have more choices for shopping needs and anything else. Many of the residents in this area are at a financial disadvantage in comparison to other areas, and as a result of that there are several services that are lacking. I hope that the county finally decides where this area belongs, as right now it is unincorporated, neither tomato or tomatoe, in not belonging to Renton or Seattle. There is much more that can be done in this area and I’m hoping it will soon experience a growth spurt.
Finally, people should go to the library because?
There’s a lot that the library can provide,at no cost to you other than having an ID card. All we ask is that you have picture ID if you are 18 and over, you can come here to request movies, books (in various formats), as well as having access to different programs we offer that are inclusive to young and old. We are currently making a push for health and trying to offer classes and presentations, where people are here to talk about what you can do to get healthy, foods and exercises. We try to challenge the thinking that the library is just a place where you can come and be quiet. We have a game day that is geared towards young teens and programs for small children. This is your tax dollars at work for you. If you need help and there is no place that you think you can go, come here and find out. The library of your youth, is not the library of today!