The other day I set foot in a good old-fashioned mall for the first time in several years. It was almost lunchtime on yet another 90-degree day, and the mall was relatively empty save for a handful of folks meandering in and out of the stores. I basked in the air conditioning while strolling past old teenage haunts like American Eagle, Finish Line, and Abercrombie & Fitch (ugh). While standing in the Verizon store waiting for a phone repair, a sign near one of the mall entrances caught my eye: “We are committed to making our malls a greater part of each community they serve.”
The first thing my librarian-in-training brain did was to replace the word “malls” with “libraries.” Which then made me think, how similar is a mall to a library?
Well, both are free for people to enter and look around, both are spots for congregating or hanging out, both revolve around customer service, and both are mainstays of their communities. People frequent libraries and malls to find a specific book or item, to browse or window shop, or to do personal or market research. When I sat back and thought about it, the number of similarities surprised me.
So why don’t I save some tuition money and just apply for a job at the mall? I suppose I could. Frankly, I’m sure that a lot of cynics would urge me to abandon my library studies to pursue a job in retail. But for my skills and interests, I think I am much better cut out for librarianship than retail. Personally, I prefer to help people who are looking for books and information rather than clothes and appliances. Despite what libraries and malls may have in common, their differences make all the difference. For me, a library job is better than the mall, and the best job of all.