Okay so… normally I’m not as snarky as the title of this post would seem to indicate. (N.B.: this may or may not be true.)
But really, I’ve been terrible about blogging about my library school experience. My apologies. I’m not going to bother taking the time to rehash the semester; perhaps I’ll do that in a series of posts over the next few weeks. Instead, I’m going to take this time to discuss some interactions I’ve had with both librarians and libraries – note, those are not the same thing. Bear with me, if you please.
of the not-so-positive variety.
(and if you’re considering TL;DR … here: poor customer service.)
I needed to have a form signed in the presence of a public notary. I’ve only been in NY about 10 months, and haven’t had to deal with this before, so I was at a bit of a loss as to where to find one – preferably at no cost to myself. In Ohio, we had about 7 notaries on staff at my library branch, so I immediately think “yes! the library”. I call my ‘home branch’ here in NY, which we’ll call… HomeLib. On the phone, I am informed that HomeLib does not have any notaries on staff, but OtherLib does. OtherLib is a fairly sizeable library, in a relatively economically stable part of the greater CNY area. It’s out of my way to go to OtherLib, but I figure I’ll just factor it into my commute home. So, on the way home from a long day at work, I go to OtherLib.
Having never been inside, I’m surveying (and a bit lost) when someone approaches me. “Can I help you?” “Oh, yes, please. I need a public notary; I was told you have one.” “Okay, wait one moment please”. HelpfulEmployeeA walks away and… leaves me standing in the middle of the floor. Do I follow her? Is she coming back? I didn’t quite know, so I surreptitiously stalked her across the library. She’s on the phone for a minute or two, at which point she says, “sorry, none of them are here the rest of the day”. I’m disappointed. “Oh, the staff at HomeLib told me you’d have one here…” “No, they’ve both left for the day. You missed them.” Hmmmm, okay. “So, can you tell me when they’ll be here tomorrow? I work during the day, so it’s not like I can just stop by…” “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. You’ll just have to call ahead and see if someone’s working.”
It was this line that gave me pause. Now, a few weeks removed from the situation, I can deal with it. But here’s a customer/patron/user/member who is asking for a service, and asking to be informed when that service might be available, and the response is “ask us again when the service will be available”. Perhaps I shouldn’t assume such things, but since OtherLib knows the individual staff members that are notaries, and considering their schedule has to be somewhat set in stone in order to properly staff OtherLib each day of the week, somewhere it must be known that “Notary 1 is here tomorrow until 4. Notary 2 is here Thursday in the evening hours.” I don’t think it’s completely outside the box and overwhelming to take a moment and locate that information and share it with a patron. However… I’ll let it stand.
The bigger problem was the attitude encountered, which is impossible to convey here, other than “Stop asking questions; I know better/more than you.” Now, as an INTJ, I’m unlikely to adopt this attitude well. As a librarian-in-training and former public library employee, I’m tempted to out myself just to see the reaction. We’re moving on from this story. Moral: you’re not above your customers/patrons/users/members. I think most librarians I know embrace this fully.
of the very positive variety. (TL;DR: affirm us as future librarians.)
Yesterday, a number of people involved in the library/information profession in some way were visiting my place of employment (the iSchool). As shocking as it may be to some, the I in INTJ doesn’t mean “standoffish in the corner”. While I am, at heart, an introvert, I love conversations and chatting with random strangers.
I introduced myself to a trio of older gentlemen yesterday. I knew 2 of them by name and association. The third I did not. However, within 90 seconds of conversation, I stated my ultimate goal of being a “rockstar school librarian” – my catchphrase – and was informed by Unidentified Gentlemen that he was most certain that I would, someday, achieve such status. Now that is something I’d like to hear more often. We libraryschool students thrive on being told by others in our field that we’re going to go accomplish great things. Trust me.
Another conference attendee that I interacted with had a short exchange with me that truly summed up why we do what we do.
“Thank you, you’ve been so helpful today!”
“Well, isn’t being helpful a defining trait of a librarian?”
“Why…yes. You’re so right.”
If I didn’t, on some level, want to genuinely help people in whatever ways I can, I wouldn’t be in this field.
also of the positive variety. (TL;DR: engage your community.)
I won a book on Facebook today. My HomeLib in Ohio posted a trivia question from their Facebook account, and stated that the first person to answer correctly would win a copy of a children’s book. I, having just logged in at that particular moment, jumped on it and managed to win a copy of a Scooby Doo book. (My nephew will be the direct beneficiary of my actions this morning). I hope the library system continues to engage their public with such contests. A great follow-up would be “didn’t win a copy of AmazingBookX today? Here are the branches that currently have copies. Here’s a link to the catalog. Ask us for help in requesting a copy!” or something to that effect.
Which brings me to my concluding point (you didn’t think it would ever end, did you?) — relationship marketing. Figure it out. Read up on it. I highly recommend “The Thank You Economy” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Get it from the library; buy yourself a copy; borrow it; do what you need. But… grasp the concept. And then run with it. Start making relationships. SMILE at people. Seem genuinely concerned for their well-being – and BE genuinely concerned with their well-being.