Deanna from Toledo, Ohio

That piercing, rhythmic beep – it was the alarm, and it was 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

I went to the kitchen, shared a quick hug with my dad, and ate breakfast. Then it was upstairs to brush my
teeth and “get ready” – that phrase encompassing a 17-year-old’s routine of hair, make-up, and choosing clothes to wear.

I was back downstairs by 8:40 a.m. Just enough time to
start the car, back out of the driveway, make my way
through downtown, and turn onto Route 64.

After the 15-minute drive, I arrived at the Waterville
Branch of the Toledo-Lucas Country Public Library. I
parked around back and opened the door that led into
the library’s machine room, the loud humming of the
fan system filling my ears.

I opened another door and stepped into the library.

It was dark and empty. Not one patron here. Only we
staff members were inside this early.

It was my first job – a page at the Waterville Branch.

Until then, I thought a page was either a type of
haircut or a medieval messenger for the king. But at
the library, a page was responsible for sorting and
shelving the books, videos, cassettes, CDs, computer
software, and magazines patrons returned.

It wasn’t the typical teenage job. One of my friends
helped to run a camp for children. Another staffed the
local ice cream parlor. They worked with their peers,
preened for the boys that came in, and were on the
front lines of the businesses.

Me? Most of my coworkers were married with children.
Two or three even had grandkids. I wasn’t the person
at the counter – I was in the backroom, meticulously
organizing books on carts according to the Dewey
Decimal System, before I went into the stacks to file
them.

I wasn’t there to be noticed or flirt with boys. I
didn’t even know how to respond if someone came up and
asked, “Where would I find …”

But I learned a lot more than how to keep kids
entertained or how to swirl soft-serve ice cream just
so in a cone.

I discovered details matter on the job. If I didn’t
file the book on frogs right where it should be,
someone could go home without a resource for a school
project.

The job also taught me that everything matters to
someone. When I forgot to put the day’s paper on the
shelves, an elderly man would come and ask for it.
Even though the paper was trivial to me – someone with
carts of books waiting to be filed – it was likely
that man’s only outside excursion each day.

Being a page helped me realize how “cool” it is to
work with people who are older – and wiser – than you.
So we couldn’t compare notes on boys or teachers. But
I found things to admire about the staff. From the
numerical precision of a circulation clerk to the
soft, gentle voice of the children’s librarian, I saw
how everyone’s strengths kept the place running and
the patrons coming back.

I also gained a work ethic. Getting up at 8 a.m. or
earlier on Saturdays to go to the library was a major
feat for this teenager. So was working from 5 to 9
p.m. after a long day at high school. Gradually, the
whining voice of “Why do I have to do this?” in my
head was replaced with “I’m looking forward to work
today, and they’re counting on me to be there.”

Through the job, I learned how to organize my time.
This straight-A perfectionist first balked at working
20 hours a week – how would that affect my grades? But
it was no big deal after all – I learned to manage my
time, carving out space for work, school, family, and
friends.

The library was a magical place for me, but not
because of the books I read or the imagination it
inspired. It transformed me from a girl with little
responsibility into a woman ready for the workplace.