Friday, October 20, 2006

Shadows, Me and my

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?Ahhh, the burgeoning librarian. Still in school, with aspirations to achieve the lofty heights of librarianship. I have been fortunate over the last five weeks to have been shadowed no less than 4 times.

Apparently, it is "that time of year" when the Professors give out their assignments, and one of them is to shadow a Real Librarian™. For four hours at a time, the Real Librarian™ educates, elucidates, and shows off the glamorous world of reference. Some have been afraid, others fascinated by what this job entails. Be forewarned, oh dear Shadow, this is not for the faint of heart.

Most all of the shadows seemed to know what being a librarian meant to them. One was still forming that opinion.

I seemed to gravitate towards the shadows that really lived up to their name: they stuck behind me when I went to the shelves, stood over my shoulder while going to e-reference databases, and took notes and recorded my "results" to the customer. The customers seemed to feel their energy as well, coming up to the desk and asking them for help... good. Half the battle - presence as a librarian, or information giver. I hesitate to say "look the part", because there is no look to being a librarian - although I do encourage regimented hygiene, well pressed clothing, and a subtle yet pleasing perfume or cologne.

One gal pretty much hid in a corner, seemed horrified that we had to deal with the public, took notes from a far, and seemed panicked that she would have to use reference material - in any form.

Oddly, during these shadows we didn't need to fill out an assessment for their professors. I'm glad for that. A four hour shadow doesn't really seem to mean anything unless you really dig in and get your hands dirty.

Some pointers to shadows:

  • Bring a notebook & pencil: and use them. They are not decorations.
  • Make eye contact with the librarian(s) you are dealing with.
  • Ask questions! This is your chance!
  • Dress the part. PLEASE don't show up in sweatpants and sneakers. On the same token, this is not a night club. Please do not show up looking like a hooker. Unless you are one, and are making a career transition. But plan to take the night off from your "day job".
  • Bathe. Do something with your hair.
  • Confused? Say so.
  • We have to work. This is not 4 hours of play time for the librarian you are shadowing. We can't sit and shoot the breeze.
  • Note what services the library offers. Take free literature from the shelves. This may inspire you to write a paper, or be fodder for a paper you don't know you have to write yet.
  • Be on time.
  • Give yourself enough time before you come to try out the catalog, the databases, and walk around the building. Once you are shadowing the librarian - you are literally a shadow. You'll have to follow that person around. I don't leave my assigned floor when I am working.
  • Do not call and say I would like to shadow someone today, say around 6 pm? Ask when you can come in.
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR KIDS. This is like work. Only you are not getting paid.
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR BOY(GIRL)FRIEND OR HUSBAND/WIFE and have them sit at a table watching you the whole time. This is called spousal abuse. And it's just weird.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR A BREAK. You are only there for 4 hours. Feel free to excuse yourself to the powder for a few minutes if need be. I don't want to have to search for you. You are my shadow. This is not a game of hide and seek.
  • Take good notes. You only get to do this once - plus you can ask questions to supplement what you are writing down. No notes = you don't think I do anything.
  • PLEASE don't act surprised when we get up and leave the reference desk. We do that. A lot. (if your librarian doesn't get up at all, you've had a bad person to shadow - I stand by that)
  • PLEASE don't act surprised that your librarian is a male. Not all of us are women.
  • Share a little about what you'd like to do. Perhaps we can tailor the evening towards that - or show you things you might like to know.
  • If you have special needs, let us know before you show up. Like a seeing eye dog, a translator, or a crate so you can see over the reference desk. No one likes surprises. OK, some people do. I don't and this is my blog.
  • Don't come on to the librarian you are shadowing. That is not professional, and it is weird. Don't come on to the customers either. or cleaning people.
  • Don't keep saying "I love books, your job must be sooooo fun", because we do more than work with books.
  • Don't compare us to a "better library". You should have called them for your shadow.
  • Send a thank-you note the next day. I haven't received one yet. tsk tsk.
  • Put your coat and purse and keys and cellphone in a locker, or on one of the librarian's desks in the back. Please don't carry them around with you. No one is going to steal your things.
  • Don't ask if you can make a couple of quick phone calls, or check your e-mail 5 or 6 times. Or glance at your beeper every few minutes. We will think you are a drug dealer.
  • Don't show up drunk or under the influence of drugs. That is just good form.
  • No one wants to see pictures of your kids. Put them away.
  • Please don't ask for legal or medical advice.
  • Don't ask if you can "burn a cd real quick".
  • Use librarian etiquette. If a customer smells, don't scrunch your nose up, or say "what is that smell?" while fanning your nose in an animated fashion with your hand. Do like the rest of us, and wait til they walk away, and go in the back and complain to various coworkers.
  • Don't say things like "now what?" or "what's next" when we have two calm minutes. It won't be that way for long.
  • Allergic to anything? Make sure you have on your med-alert bracelet. Nobody wants to plunge an EpiPen® into your thigh only to find out you have an intolerance for epinephrine.
  • Are you making "the change"? Shave and wear good foundation for the duration of your shadow. Don't become the "5 o'clock shadow" shadow. Plus, that would be weird.
  • Do you have halitosis? Bring some Altoids and use them.


I could go on, but you get the idea. Shadowing can be fun for everyone involved, if it's done right.

Moral of this blog: Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men.... The Shadow knows! (ok, so none of mine did... but whatever)

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