You Young (Librarian) Thing

April 23, 2008

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.

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One Response to “You Young (Librarian) Thing”

  1. thedonofpages Says:

    I’m a senior citizen. Sometimes people prefer to ask me a question because of my age. Try walking into a hardware store with a question. Would you rather ask the young kid who looks like he just landed the job, or the old guy who just sucessfully answered another person’s question? After all, which one is more likely to have seen it all? One factor against you is that your elder may have been there for years, and helped many patrons during those years. Those patrons, if they come through your library door will happily recognize the elder that successfully helped them in the past. Naturally, based on that past, they will prefer to place their question before the recognized elder rather than some young unknown. Sorry, but that’s life. Just remember that every person that you successfully help will accumulate over time. Eventually, there will be that patron who recognizes you, and prefers not to deal with a younger staff member. The younger staff member will conclude it’s because you are older. Acually, it’s because you will have a better reputation. Patience, kid, a good reputation takes time.


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