I am the second-youngest librarian on staff, saved from being the youngest only by our newest staff member, who is only slightly (like, I suspect, months) younger. Usually, this works either in my favor or does not register with patrons at all. However, twice this week, while working on the desk with one of our veteran librarians, I had the patron insist on asking the “older” librarian, because she knew more.

The “older” librarian did not, in fact, know how to answer the patron’s question any better than I did, but that’s not what upset me. The problem is that the two veteran librarians on staff have, for years, cultivated the air that they are experts in their particular areas and no one else can know things the way they do. I have no problem with expertise, and consider several areas to be “my” areas, but I do not, and would never, tell a patron that I am the only one who can help them in that area. I might know more about online reference sources than my colleagues, but they also might know some resource I don’t, or, you know, they could learn!

Being told by a patron that Veteran Librarian over there is the only one who knows historical records questions is annoying and insulting, because, 1. Veteran Librarian is currently busy and so Young Snarky Librarian is the one available,  2. Young Snarky Librarian does in fact know her way around the local history room, thank you very much, and would be more than willing to help, and 3. Young Snarky Librarian also knows that Veteran Librarian just wants you and everyone else to think she’s important. And she is, but not because she hordes information.

Monday morning is teaching me that some things never change: over-helping co-worker still over-helps patrons and makes the rest of us look bad when we uphold the policies; poisonous co-worker is still poisonous, demonstrating a particular lack of respect for me as she passive-aggressively refused to help me find something I needed in her department; the atmosphere of communication-breakdown-as-policy continues as people push their feelings onto others instead of being invested in finding a solution – sending an email is not the same as having a conversation!

I’m obviously having a frustrated morning. Perhaps it is because there are so many wonderful things about my job that the difficult things stand out? More than that: I want things to get better because I am committed to this place, but I really need everyone else to understand that just doing our jobs alone means not contributing as much as we are capable of contributing together. And wow, look, I sound like a training manual! Which, interestingly, is also something we are lacking!

Keyword: bacon

March 25, 2008

One of the things they don’t teach you in library school is that the reference desk has tax season. I can’t tell you the number of circular conversations I’ve had with patrons about what I can and cannot tell them about their taxes – essentially, we can only provide the forms, but even that isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, because not everyone knows what forms they need, or how to ask for the form they need. I anticipate the number of anxious and angry patrons will only increase as the deadline approaches. Thankfully, there’s an H&R Block right up the street.

And just a teeny Today I Have:

  • ordered a bacon cookbook
  • had a patron tell me he invented the idea of “pay it forward”
  • had several people shout at me re: see above
  • joined a social networking site for knitters and crocheters
  • been thankful many times over that I’ve already done my taxes

You’re a can of soup

March 20, 2008

Today I have:

  • looked up for a patron how to tell if a can of soup (without an expiration date stamp) has expired
  • read a passage from the Encyclopedia of Communes aloud to a patron over the phone
  • been invited to a TV premiere party at a patron’s house
  • shelved, shelved, shelved, and shelved

Now I think I’m going to go browse shelve in the knitting books.

Today I have (wrapped up a week of crazy and):

  • been reminded that telemarketers have gotten ahold of the phone number to the emergency phone in the elevator.
  • helped someone navigate through Yahoo Italy (“Does that mean log-out in English?”)
  • helped a patron look up info on a potentially antique glass bottle
  • participated in some remote reference for a friend in California about a wine from the 1970’s
  • had chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and onion rings for lunch (OMG, I know.)
  • tried to determine why specific passages of the Bible had been highlighted in blue

How did you do that?

February 21, 2008

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is when I answer a question for someone and they respond with, “How did you do that?”

Today, I had a patron ask for our phone book to find the address to a store. It wasn’t in the phone book, and so I offered to look it up in Yahoo Yellow Pages, and in Google Maps. We found the address, and looked at the map to determine a cross street and how long her walk might be. She was astounded that all this information was in one place, and she asked, “How did you do that?” And so I showed her how to search Google Maps. It was fantastic.

Being a librarian isn’t just about having the answers. We shouldn’t hoard information. It’s just as important to answer a question as it is to show someone how they can use our awesome information-finding tools, too. It’s a great and very rewarding part of the job.

How do you spell “pedia”?

February 12, 2008

Today I have:

– had a patron call and say, “So I need to build a bar in my basement.”
– helped someone figure out the difference between “acclimation” and “acclamation.”
– used NoveList to figure out where a book was in a series (my favorite NoveList feature, seriously.)
– found a book a patron was desperately searching for (but could not remember anything about) using only the search terms “mango” and “sail.”
– endured a conversation about Wikipedia between a patron who had no idea what it was and a librarian who understood even less. The subject line of this post says it all.