Monday, July 3, 2023

The Details


Down in their hearts wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others. ~Elbert Hubbard 

When we are planning anything in life, we are thinking of the destination and goals that we want to achieve, but it is truly the little things in place that get us there. A girl has to pack her socks if she wants to be ready to wear her shoes for the mountain climb. All the big plans we hope for are full of smaller details that cannot be forgotten. 

All those pesky little things, life is full of them! To do lists, errands, dry-cleaning, doctor appointments and the list goes on! So many of the seemingly mundane tasks occupy our day and fill our baggage, but in our life, there are many other details that have more significance in the big scheme of things.  

When I first applied for a job in the Harris County Library system, I tried to think of what skills I had that made me an asset to be considered for hire. I had a cleaning business for over 20 years, and I knew that one of the main attributes a house cleaner must have is an attention to detail. Seeing the cobwebs and stains on the countertop requires a closer look from possibly another angle. I knew that I wanted to point that out in my interview or on my application, but when I actually started working at the library helping customers, I realized there was another element to the concept, attention to detail. 

It isn’t just about seeing when a book is out of place on a shelf or knowing how to properly send a document to print for a customer, it is actually much more personal than that. When it comes to customer service, sometimes the needs that come up are much less technical, and much more intimate in nature.  I am talking about emotional needs that sometimes arise that we need to be aware of in the usual situations of helping customers.  

People come into the library for many reasons, and sometimes it is simply to get the next great book on their list, but other times it could be stressful in nature, like getting information for medical help for a terminally ill loved one.  That being said, we may never know the details of what they are facing, but we can be attentive and mindful when someone seems to be frustrated or having a bad day. I have had several instances where it was obvious that someone needed some extra help and support to get what they were doing accomplished, and sometimes that included being a listening and caring ear in the process.  

The details are more than orderly shelves, the correct copies, and requesting that hard-to-find book.  Sometimes the truest details are in the very people we are trying to help. Taking the time to notice the sadness behind a smile or reading the body language of dismay from a difficult day and responding accordingly can make all the difference for that person in need of a few copies at their local library.  

 Yes, life is full of small details that are part of the bigger goal each one of us is trying to attain. May we all try our best to remember the details that matter most.  


© Carrie Van Horn 2023


  1. With your warm heart, you will be perfect in that job, Carrie. Libraries have been important to me for over 70 years. Every week since I was five, I have brought home a big stack of books, feeling rich beyond compare. Books have companioned me through a lot of ups and downs. They are doing so still.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that Sherry, Yes books do enrich lives for sure. I have actually been working in the library system for 17 years now. It has been a blessing indeed.

  2. It's the little details that add up to the whole.

  3. You are so kind and warm-hearted and a definite asset at the library to be sure! I read once that everyone is wrestling with their own bag of snakes. And it's true, you never really know what someone is going through. I like that quote by Dickens, too--true stuff.

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer. Yes that is a good analogy; everyone is wrestling with their own bag of snakes.


"Our best thoughts come from others." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson