Friday, January 06, 2006

Well Chosen Titles

what did you call me? Gentle readers, I am not talking about a well thought out collection. While every library should have one of those, I am talking about "titles" as in "job titles". Director, Security Officer, Head Librarian.

I suppose I do read to much Agatha Christie and P.D. James, but in all those novels, the characters are referred to by their complete title..."Chief Detective superintendent", "Officer", "Director", etc.

When I was in college, I referred to all of my professors by their appropriate title: "Dr.", "Professor" - only my advisor insisted I call her by her first name. I've never been pulled over, but my boyfriend has. Several times for speeding *tsk tsk*. He always refers to the policeman as "Officer". I sometimes wonder if I am the only person that still uses titles like Aunt and Uncle. I can't imagine calling my doctor by his first name. "Hey Moshe, could you look at my knee? It's a bit stiff." Frankly, so is that whole statement.

Imagine this: Introducing Elizabeth.

Not quite the same as "Introducing, Her Royal Majesty, The Queen of England".

I think that the library would be a tremendous place to start calling people by their titles. "Good Morning Director ________" would only result in a bunch of raised eyebrows. I would hate to be called Librarian __________, but would not mind Mr.

America seems to be unusually causal with strangers. We chalk it up to customer service, but really it is a lack of propriety. I lived in England only a handful of years ago, and there I greeted everyone with titles, even my housekeeper.

My foreign exchange student in high school was baffled when the clerk at the grocery store said "How are you today?" He was confused because he did not know the person, and wondered why she even cared. I tried to explain to him that the shopkeeper didn't actually care, but was only saying it to be nice.

He insisted that anyone who asked that question wasn't nice if they didn't really care. I found deep logic in that. Its the same old "How are you today? you ask people as you walk past them in the hallway. You don't really care if they answer, you only say it out of convention.

People also argue that titles make things less personal. I am the first to note that I do not bring my personal life to work, yet everyday everyone I work with calls me Matthew. Fine. I can deal with it. I have my own way of dealing with it.

I always refer to the Director of Finance as Mr. ______. I am tempted to start calling him Director ________. After all, hasn't he earned that title? His business cards say it. Plus he is nice. A respectful title reflects my notion of respect, no?

American libraries, like many other customer service oriented organizations are bent on informality to increase customer relations. When working with patron conflict resolution, I always refer to them as Mr. & Mrs, or Miss.

Just looking back at old library records shows that once upon a time everyone was called by their title. Perhaps it was just the easiest way to record them in print, but I have always believed that text is a reflection of societal standards.

I would love for someday to be greeted as I walk into my library as Director. I would not want this to make others feel subordinate, but sadly, in this day and age it would be the unintended effect.

I do enjoy calling coworkers by their first names, but I always feel a bit of guilt. It seems more appropriate during breaks and off the floor. Nevertheless, it is an invention of 21st century formality, or lack there of.

So, I'm prissy. I've recently come to grips with the fact that women no longer wear gloves, or carry handbags. Men don't even wear handkerchiefs in their breast pockets. I will remain an island unto myself - the world I live in is better, even if it is imaginary.

Moral of this blog: You can't call me Al.

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