Friday, November 11, 2005

The Well Dressed Immaculate Assistant

You rang?
A new order of the Catholic faith? No dear gentle reader. This is your daily dose of graceful librarianship.

Yes, I am a part of the library world. I have my degree, and I am ready to personally aid you in your research needs. But do I? No. Why do you ask? Or shall I que you to ask? I am an Assistant. The Immaculate Assistant. This you may have garnered, is not the title I use on my resume, but nevertheless, I am the Immaculate Assistant.

My job is to make your job easier. No money left in your travel & conference account? Call Matthew. Haven't heard back from Executive Management? Call Matthew. HR never returned you call? Ask Matthew. I wave my magic wand, and create the paperwork necessary to set afloat your sinking ship.

How, do you ask, do you manage day after day to make everything so rose colored and set all my soldiers in a row? The answer my dear friends is not quite so magical. It is all about interpersonal relationships.

It helps to know who in accounting is a soccer mom, and who in HR has an ailing mother, and who in community relations likes cats. Social candor can lead to miraculous accomplishments. A quick exchange of a quiche recipe can result in getting two weeks worth of paperwork signed off on in less than 10 minutes. If you care, they will care back. It works like a charm.

Yet this behavior can not be feigned. You must take a serious interest in your co-workers to make this happen. I intended to write a post about being a "personal librarian", and realized this too happens because of a)proximity to information and b)knowing where to find it. It is my role as the Immaculate Assistant to plumb the depths of human information repositories.

Think of it as calling Great Aunt Agatha for that missing bit of information in your family tree. She isn't going to just tell you. You need to ask over her sciatica, and further carry a small arsenal of intimate questions to the table. She wants to tell you about her canary Peter, you should ask her about him BEFORE she is able to steer the conversation in that direction. Its all about anticipation. You need to know before they know they even want to tell you.

Its that whole clairvoyance thing they never offer a class on in Library School.

So it is this vein of information you must be adept in tapping. The reference interview doesn't have to happen behind the reference desk. It should be happening in your everyday life.

I mention this because I have been told:

"Well, you were the only person that could have fixed this situation"
"You're the only person who knows X- in accounting so well"
"No one else likes to talk to her because she cut to the chase"
"You are in a position to get this information, one of the few..."
"They only told you that because you've formed a relationship..."
"People don't know how the organization works - they know you do"

To this I say "poppycock and rubbish". Yes, I do say that.

I am admittedly a people person. Yes, some of our most valuable resources are our co-workers. While I am not going so far as to say "EMBRACE THEM", I am saying "get to know them."

The Immaculate Assistant knows they are a key resource. They enjoy the attention that they receive because they know that no one else will take the time they take to groom relationships. I am sure many of you have taken the time to get to know the Director of Finance's personal assistant. Rather, do many of you even know this person? What about the Director of Property Managements Administrative Assistant? Both are wealth's of knowledge.

In an organization as small as (and I say small, even if you are 1000 employees)you can't afford not to let the right hand touch the left. Breeches are created when resources can't be found. They are all there, and unlike reference materials, can talk. They can verbalize the answer. I am not saying that the Assistant to the Children's Services director knows the blue book value of a 1975 Chevy - I am saying that you'll never know unless you ask.

Moral of this blog: Reference 101 isn't all about books & databases. Its about learning who you work with, and what they know - or don't.

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