Monday, January 29, 2007

Chango, Presto

Poof, your a librarianWhat do librarians do? This is a magical question. I say it is magical because you will never get the same answer from two librarians.

Because you asked, I will break down the responses by type:

a)"The Librarian who is assuming you are questioning their integrity" response
b) The "Well, since you asked - pull up a chair" response
c) The "We're magic" response

I don't know why this happens. Librarians are generally a very gentle breed, friendly with children and often have favorites. They do tend to snack and or graze frequently. Studies show that Librarians hoard chocolates,candies, and mints in their desk drawers. Sadly, many are drawn to unflattering holiday sweaters - which can usually be corrected by rubbing their noses on the offending item.

But back to what I was telling you about, gentle readers.

Librarians seem to be awfully protective about what they do. This may stem from where the question comes from. When placed in a review - often there is a visceral reaction. Faster than a frog at Calaveras County Fair, a Librarian can leap to unimaginable conclusions. This librarian might feel their integrity is in question - and rather than explain what they do, they defend what they do. This behavior is often accompanied by severe migraines, snappish behavior toward innocent by standers, and coffee breath.

Then their is the librarian who loves what they do - as it could and should fairly be said. Most librarians love their jobs. When asked what they do, this librarian explains to you the history of written language. Further, they might even bring a website up to illustrate their point - carefully describing everything from cuniform tablets to Melville Dewey. This librarian misinterprets the question as "what have libraries and librarians done throughout history?" - still not answering the question "what do librarians do?" These librarians are often have a gentle sparkle in their eyes, tend towards having a small bit of spittle in the middle of the top lip, and keep band aids in their pockets.

The third librarian is a challenge to the profession. When the question is posed, suddenly the subject changes altogether - the weather is fine today! Why don't you take a seat while I do this for you? They tend to click faster than the customer can comprehend, don't relay sources to the customer when giving information, and retrieve materials from the shelve without walking the customer to them. This librarian is under the impression they are helping the customer. When confronted with this behavior - teary, doe eyes appear and true shock sets in. Iterations of "But I was just helping the customer" can be heard throughout the building. This type of librarian is characterized by slightly sweaty hands, quick movements, and a full knowledge of the collection they deal with. Very non-agressive, usually passive - may have a penchant for houseplants or older paperback books.

Why the secret kids?

In my esteemed opinion, it should be our job to put ourselves out of work everyday. There should be no mystery to the profession. While the above librarian types are all paid actors, they may seem familiar.

Many librarians seem to think that if they spill the proverbial MLS beans, no one will ever come back to ask them a question. Some face this with anger, some with confusion, some with dillusion.

The fact of the matter is, the more we teach them, the better user they will become. The questions will be formed better before they hit the desk - allowing us to give better responses. Our answers will be better because we are teaching the customer to speak our language. Administratively, talking about what you do lets the management know that you aren't blogging from work, creating naughty avatars for Second Life, and generally moving up the Literatti championship ladder.

In fact, if anyone, the bosses should know what you are doing. But group these things into nice packets - do not note "sent 43 e-mails Monday, weeded 236 titles from collection (PS if you did HURRAH!!), etc." They want to know things like "Sent out materials for Grant Proposal, completed 2 staff trainings with handouts, etc".

And last, your co-workers. Librarians should always tell their coworkers what they are doing. This is a must, and it is more than good librarian etiquette. You will assist in eliminating duplication, confusion, and overall hatred of yourself. No one wants to work with the mystery librarian.

You ask, how do you know all this, you are so young (some might even add "and evenly complected"). To them I reply,openly, and honestly - I read it in Chan's Guide to Cataloging.

Moral of this blog: Don't question the librarian

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