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Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes.
November 26, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

In economic hard times, public libraries generally get a lot busier. With that in mind, here's a handy list of the top 20 things librarians in public libraries wish patrons knew or did (original article here).
posted by The Card Cheat (115 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
We will not prevent a six year-old child from checking out Nightmare on Elm Street

For real?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:28 PM on November 26, 2008


If I had written this list, #3 would have been #1...but if you want to call *me* a sexy librarian, that's cool.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:33 PM on November 26, 2008


Unfortunately they are closing the library near my son's school, one of about a dozen that are being closed in Philadelphia due to the crummy economy. They sent his library card home with him as the kids will no longer be able to walk to the library as they used to. I suppose this means other branches of the Philly public library will be busier.
posted by Mister_A at 12:34 PM on November 26, 2008


Having spent 15+ years working in public libraries, I'd say this is a pretty good list. It is sad how some of the items such as "We like it when you thank us," "Hang up your cell phone when come to the desk," and "Practice good hygiene" aren't exclusive to library patrons, but more applicable to polite behavior and humanity in general. That's all stuff I hope I wouldn't have to ask anyone over the age of 10 to do.

The question I really hated was: "Is this a volunteer job or do you get paid to do this?"
posted by marxchivist at 12:37 PM on November 26, 2008


Unfortunately they are closing the library near my son's school, one of about a dozen that are being closed in Philadelphia due to the crummy economy.

This sucks big time, and though I pay plenty of taxes in the city I don't live there. I'd write to Mike Nutter but I doubt it would help.
posted by fixedgear at 12:38 PM on November 26, 2008


They forgot the only rule that matters.
posted by lukemeister at 12:40 PM on November 26, 2008


> They forgot the only rule that matters.

#3 is the polite version of that rule.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:41 PM on November 26, 2008


Those top 20 things seem so obvious to me. I'm reacting to it in much the same way that I used to, back when I used to own a condo, react to newsletters from the condo management office asking residents not to urinate in the stairwells. Namely, I'm thinking, I thought I lived in a society, not among barbarians.
posted by orange swan at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


They don't want people to make sexy librarian jokes, and then they put a picture of a sexy librarian (from the website biblioharlot !!) adjacent to the list?
posted by desjardins at 12:44 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hear hear. Thanks for this.
posted by Rykey at 12:45 PM on November 26, 2008


Libraries are wonderful. They are both essential to democracy and my erotic fantasies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:47 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


In other words, no, I will not stop making sexy librarian jokes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


desjardins: "They don't want people to make sexy librarian jokes, and then they put a picture of a sexy librarian (from the website biblioharlot !!) adjacent to the list?"

They said they're tired of hearing all the same old jokes, not that librarians aren't sexy.
posted by team lowkey at 12:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes.

Fine. I guess it's back to the "dowdy spinster" standard, then.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:53 PM on November 26, 2008


On behalf of library patrons who pay their fines regularly and follow all the rules, I'd like to ask a favour of librarians: please don't loudly comment on the title of the embarrassing self-help book I'm checking out in sheer desperation. Thanks.
posted by peggynature at 1:00 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jokes? What's funny about a sexy librarian, is what I want to know.
posted by everichon at 1:01 PM on November 26, 2008


At least they didn't put up the ones we can mutter to ourselves:

Please do not go around unplugging various bits of equipment.

Please do not take the ball out of the mouse (deprecated: we moved to optical mice due to this).

Please do not take off your shoes, get set for a nap, and begin drooling on the chairs.

Please do not expose yourself to other patrons unasked.

Please do not urinate in the elevator.

Please do not move in and build yourself a creepy little nest of newspapers and bottles of Mountain Dew, reminiscent of Eugene Tooms from The X-Files. (Corollary: especially not in the dropped ceiling or in poorly-trafficked construction zones, gah!)

If you really must use that computer way in the back to view porn, please do not throw yourself on the monitor to hide the porn when we walk by; we can show you how to minimize the window.
posted by adipocere at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


They don't want people to make sexy librarian jokes

Perhaps the solution to this is fewer sexy librarians?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:07 PM on November 26, 2008


Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes. We've heard them all before. Be original and tell us a new (clean) joke. You have a better chance of making us laugh this way.

What if the librarian is sexy? [NOT LIBRARIANIST]
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:08 PM on November 26, 2008


Holy crap, what a horrific load of petty, passively agressive bullshit. Shameful. Libraries need to spend more time developing services that appeal to a wider swath of their service populations and stop wishing that people would be nicer to us. Please be patient with us? Please thank us? Please listen to us? DON'T STINK? Heck yeah, we all love the nice patrons more, but the world has its share of assholes, smelly hoboes, and people who think books are boring and it's their library too. Setting rules or standards that people should meet if they are going to interact with a librarian is self-important unprofessional lame-ass whining and I'm ashamed of my industry to be spewing garbage like this in public.

Too many librarians only want to provide good service to people who approach them the right way and look like people they'd have over to dinner. If you're the type who frets about the decline of manners in society and just wishes that everyone could be nice, respectful, prepared to properly leverage your expertise, and sweet-smelling but not too much, taking a job at the public library is not a good idea. Can you imagine a Nurse's association putting out a list of rules like this? Libraries and hospitals have the same audience: EVERYBODY. We're here to serve everybody, whether they are nice, prepared, ebullient, irascible, stinky, loaded, clueless, delusional, rude, delightful, horrible, ugly, adorable or just plain mean. Or all of the above.

And how can we best embrace the opportunity of increased use that economic downturns present to our profession? A big list of rules on how to properly treat the mighty librarian AIN'T IT.

grar.
posted by ulotrichous at 1:16 PM on November 26, 2008 [11 favorites]


Look, I'm sorry I keep returning the DVD case without the DVD. Blockbuster gets the same treatment, OK? And I always bring the DVD back. So just take it easy. I'm sorry. Really.
posted by GuyZero at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heck yeah, we all love the nice patrons more, but the world has its share of assholes, smelly hoboes, and people who think books are boring and it's their library too.

What? I don't go to a football match and spend all my time complaining that football is boring. Or go to my local authority-funded gym/sports centre, and then spend all my time complaining about how I hate taking exercise, and what they need are a few subsidized lap dancers to liven the place up.

The stinky people don't bother me at all. The hobos also have every right to be there. But if you don't like or aren't interested in books, GTFO of the library and find something you really are interested in, instead of just being a pain in the arse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


We will not prevent a six year-old child from checking out Nightmare on Elm Street

For real?


Depends, but in a lot of places, yeah for real. Serving minors is a touchy issue in the public library world. The American Library Association advocates not discriminating on patrons by the basis of their age (I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically correct). This is not a binding point. Many libraries do have certain categories of users that have differing privileges with the internet and/or "adult" materials. Other lirbaries do not. This becomes an issue when....

- people flip out because they think MPAA ratings are laws and think libraries are breaking something that is no more than a merchant agreement by checking out an R rated movie to a fourteen year old [this is more likely, really, than a six year old]
- people flip out because kids can look at and check out books with tits in them [graphic novels, Joy of Sex, etc] and people think the library shoudl be making content decisions, not parents
- the very real issue that if a kid loses a library book that parent is financially liable for that book and yet sometimes confidentiality laws prohibit a library from telling the parent what the kid has checked out.

Every state in the US has patron privacy laws and many protect the privacy rights of minors in addition to adults. Not all libraries think this is a good idea and many libraries have local legislation that may determine things like internet access to teens and children. You can read more about the Bill of Rights at this stupid URL or check out the wikipedia LBR talk page for an inkling of why this is controversial and how people deal with this (or what I mean by "freakout")

Hassles over being sexy are really the least of our worries.
posted by jessamyn at 1:41 PM on November 26, 2008 [9 favorites]


What's lamer than not understanding what passive aggressive means? Aggressively not understanding what passive aggressive means, that's what!
posted by aspo at 1:42 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


> Those top 20 things seem so obvious to me.

Don't spend much time in public libraries, huh?

> DON'T STINK?

The list (rightfully) doesn't say anything about that.

We're here to serve everybody, whether they are nice, prepared, ebullient, irascible, stinky, loaded, clueless, delusional, rude, delightful, horrible, ugly, adorable or just plain mean. Or all of the above.

Wrong. Libraries generally have standard of conduct codes which specifically bar rude and/or otherwise disruptive behavior.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 1:46 PM on November 26, 2008


20. Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes. We've heard them all before. Be original and tell us a new (clean) joke. You have a better chance of making us laugh this way.

I don't tell sexy librarian jokes to the librarian to make her laugh.

I tell them to the librarian so she will stop in the middle of what she's doing, look over at me with smoldering eyes as she sees that I'm completely serious about her being all sexy, leap onto the counter, fling her panties away and wrap her legs around my waist, and then shriek TAKE ME NOW, SUB-CREATURE as she rips open her shirt to expose her heaving bosom.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:50 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


The 'sexy librarian" complaint is also kind of mooted by the three sexy librarian pix on the page.
posted by yhbc at 1:53 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wrong. Libraries generally have standard of conduct codes which specifically bar rude and/or otherwise disruptive behavior.

Urban libraries often do. Suburban libraries sometimes do. Rural libraries almost never do. They're also hotly contested and usually only written by libraries under consultation with an attorney. It's a big deal to tell people what they can and can't do in a public space and most of the things that ulotrichous indicates are not things that will get you banned form the library unless they become chronic problems. Seriously, people sue over these sorts of things, libraries do not enter into conduct policies lightly.

I'm not sure whether this has not been your experience in your own library Stonewall Jackson, but I work with 8-10 small libraries in Vermont and none of us have a conduct policy at all.

I think the larger problem happens when management has expectations of how we are supposed to serve patrons that puts front line staff in awkward or otherwise unsafe-feeling positions, or just makes them confront their own ideas of what is rude or unacceptable and how people need to interact with other people. Often when this sort of thing is communicated badly, people feel squeezed in the middle between an obnoxious seeming patron and a directive by management who doesn't have to deal with them.
posted by jessamyn at 1:53 PM on November 26, 2008


I prefer Conan's approach to managing a library.
posted by scarello at 1:54 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, the number one thing I'd like patrons to know is that Librarians are specially trained professionals. I know it sounds snobby and elitist, but I worked hard to get my degree, and I am passionate about Librarianship as a profession. Parents are still surprised to find out that I am as least as educated as their kid's teacher and not just a nice mommy who likes to read stories in her spare time. It's like they assume I must be akin to the school cafeteria workers or the lady at Gymboree or the person they hire to dress up as Elmo at their kid's party - people they also probably don't respect very much. The reverse of this is also true - people always assume that the little old lady with the due date stamp must be in charge, even if they just say through one of my story hours.

Oh, I'd also like them to stop getting suntan lotion on the books when they go away for the summer. It reacts in a seriously grody way with the plastic jacket covers and then we have stinky, oily, gritty books. But maybe that's just me.
posted by Biblio at 1:56 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Too many librarians only want to provide good service to people who approach them the right way and look like people they'd have over to dinner.

Are you completely insane? Have you ever been in a library?

Wait, you're a robot designed to make me hate you, right?
posted by lumpenprole at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


We will not prevent a six year-old child from checking out Nightmare on Elm Street

For real?


For real.
posted by bradth27 at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2008


The San Francisco list would need to include:

Please don't wash your feet in the sink
Please don't wash your feet in the toilet
Please don't mutter threatening things to the other patrons
posted by Nelson at 2:00 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


> Can you imagine a Nurse's association putting out a list of rules like this?

I used to volunteer at a free clinic that had a list of ground rules pretty similar to this, although frankly they were a lot more strongly worded. They threw people out pretty regularly for willfully (i.e. absent psych or tox issues) disregarding them. Never seemed unreasonable to me.

From a purely self-interested perspective I think it makes sense for librarians and libraries to enforce certain minimum standards for patron behavior. It's sort of a movie theater situation: if you don't discourage people who are being obnoxious, you're going to drive away a lot of well-behaved customers/patrons. Eventually, you'll be left with nothing but obnoxious people. Although long before that happens, the taxpaying public will simply stop supporting libraries.

It makes good sense for libraries to ensure that they're pleasant places for as many people as possible to be, and if that involves tossing out people whose conduct is thoroughly outside the pale of a polite society, so be it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:02 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


ulotrichous, if you read that list, it's a list of suggestions and wishes, not rules. I find them fairly unobjectionable in the following breakdown.

Five wishes are really for the benefit of the patron:

19. Ask us for what you really want
18. Ask us what we read
16. Come to our programs!
11. The library has almost as many DVD's as your local video store.
1. Use us!

I see four for the benefit of other patrons:

10. Let your librarian know what materials you'd like to see on the shelf.
9. Practice good hygiene. Let's not spread a cold virus.
6. Tell us what you like.
3. Be respectful of other library patrons.

I see four for the benefit of other patrons under "If you waste the time and resources of the library, you're wasting time that they can spend on other people":

12. Hang up your cell phone when you come to the reference desk (or circulation desk).
8. Please listen to us the first (or even second) time we say something.
7. If possible, check out all materials at once from the circulation desk.
5. Return your items on time.

I've got two under general society and support of the library:

4. Pay your fines.
2. We support Intellectual Freedom.

There's a good legal one for:

17. Do not leave your child (or children) unattended- for their safety.

This leaves us with a whopping four wishes for some common courtesy:

15. Please respect the desk barrier. Although, arguably, this could be for the privacy of other patrons.
14. We like it when you thank us.
13. Please be patient with us.
20. Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes. This, also arguably, could be asking for some freaking originality and/or not getting sexually harrassed at work.

I do not find it terrible that someone, really anyone, might merely wish for these last four items as they work, nor horrible to contemplate that they might pass along these thoughts.
posted by adipocere at 2:07 PM on November 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm a librarian and we is freakies.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:07 PM on November 26, 2008


15 sucks.

Just sit there, and wait for the black box to give the results. Please do not look behind the curtain.

No, just no. I come to the library to learn, and that includes research techniques. I want to know how the librarian got the information she/he did, what tools they used, what parameters they gave to those tools, so that I may learn how to use them myself.

I can understand if you have personal websites that you want to minimize and such, but at least show me what you are doing.
posted by zabuni at 2:15 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm - no mention of online catalogues and being able to put holds on books over the internet? That's the thing that's really upped my library usage. That and superquick self-selvice checkouts. It limits my interaction with actual human librarians a little though.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2008


Can you imagine a Nurse's association putting out a list of rules like this?

Um, you do know that there's a shortage of nurses in this country that isn't likely to end soon, right? Do you have any real idea of the efforts to improve treatment of nurses on the job?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2008


Librarians don't know everything, but they're trained to find the information you're seeking. Want to know how? Sign up for the courses. I'm sure most librarians would be willing to walk you through the steps they took, but frankly, would most professionals be expected to provide a service *and* train you how to do it yourself? Training other people to do something, while noble, takes more time than just doing it oneself.

I don't trust myself to be impartial since I've been hearing about the front lines from a librarian for years. Some thoughts:

1. Librarians not want sexual harrassment any more than [insert name here]. 'K?

2. Stinky +/or homeless people are not summarily evicted from comfy chairs. The library serves the public, and homeless people are part of the public -- even the crazy ones. People who mutter violent intentions, follow children around the building, grope themselves in public, scare local dogs merely walking by, induce vomiting in front of the staff break room... these people probably need help librarians aren't trained to provide. Fortunately, savvy public librarians cultivate good relationships with the police and social services departments, also funded by local tax-payers.

3. Would you leave your child unattended on a busy, public street corner? No. Yet parents somehow think "libraries" are a mythical safehaven. They're not. See above.

4. Public librarians do way more than their Library Science degree covered. Dealing with stopped up toilets? Scooping up dead racoons? Finding a cache of used needles, or a gang fight in the parking lot? Dealing out ass-kissing to egotistical politicians and self-righteous volunteers? Check, check, check et cetera.

5. Public libraries are awesome. You want to read? They *want* you to read! They host community meetings, provide resources for people of all ages, from drooling kids to drooling geriatrics. Those resources get cut in hard times; no matter how hard your day's been, pls try not to snap at the info / circ staff. A lot of them are doing their best and facing job cuts, too.
posted by woodway at 2:26 PM on November 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Most of these suggestions are common courtesy, I'm a little suprised to see anyone upset by them.

(Most of them seem blindingly obvious as well, but I guess I may be wrong about that)
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2008


Yeah, the upswing in popularity of the "sexy librarian" archetype has meant that my librarian girlfriend both has to deal with the sexualization of her profession, the concurrent "dowdy" image, and jerks who think it's OK to talk about her body at work.

So, while I love my sexy librarian, I'm kind of annoyed at everyone else for fucking it up for me.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2008


If you want to know how the librarian got the information--tools, parameters, etc.--why not ask them to show you how to do a search, or ask them to turn the monitor so you can see it as they search? I don't read #15 as a Great-and-Powerful Oz commandment, I read it as a request for personal space. I used to work at a video store, and some people would come around the counter and stand right beside me while I was searching for a movie or checking their movies out to them. Proximity does not make me work any faster, and it usually creeps me out (kids excepted).
posted by epj at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2008


Also, do you really think that #17 is part of the "horrific load of petty, passively agressive bullshit", ulotrichous? Because if you think that that's an unreasonable demand, or that it doesn't happen (quite often, actually) in public libraries, then you've either never worked at one yourself or you've led a blessed life. Aaah, I'm not gonna waste any more time with you.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2008


"People who mutter violent intentions, follow children around the building, grope themselves in public, scare local dogs merely walking by, induce vomiting in front of the staff break room... these people probably need help librarians aren't trained to provide. Fortunately, savvy public librarians cultivate good relationships with the police and social services departments, also funded by local tax-payers.

Oh, god yes. There's so much involved with the problem of anti-social behavior in the libraries, from decreased public space and slashed mental health budgets, to the competing goods of serving all of the public (including special needs) while making sure not to alienate primary patrons, to the fact that it shouldn't have to be the job of librarians to deal with these people. They're an incredibly difficult and complex problem, and something that every librarian I talk to brings up.
posted by klangklangston at 2:31 PM on November 26, 2008


Those top 20 things seem so obvious to me.

I completely agree. Someone who asks "where is the history section" is either a child or not a "patron". If you've been to the library more than a couple times you can either find it yourself (card catalog much?) or know enough to ask a specific question. Not to mention the many Dewey Decimal posters that dot most libraries.
posted by DU at 2:32 PM on November 26, 2008


Too many people confuse libraries with hospital emergency rooms, and too many librarians think they are nurses who are there to "help" people. Note to librarians: You are not there to "help" people. You are there, first and foremost, to control people's behavior. That means saying that one word you are so terrified of being associated with: "Shhh." (Your next job is to make sure that the lame-brained high school kid shelving books after school are putting them in the proper place.)

If you're sick and tired of stinky, noisy, CD case-clattering public libraries, full of bratty kids, bums, and porno-surfing perverts, and librarians who believe that the purpose of a library is to be all things to all people and to stand for nothing but resistance to impulse control, I offer you the General Society Library of New York, a little oasis of sanity in a world gone mad. Yeah, you gotta pay for it, but it's worth subscribing.
posted by Faze at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2008


Oops. I'm pretty terrible on #4 - If I pick up <$1 fines here and there I tend to ignore it until it actually gets to be $10 or more, which is rather easy to do due to the wonders of human interaction free checkout. I wonder if that's actually bugging anyone.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2008


I think the larger problem happens when management has expectations of how we are supposed to serve patrons that puts front line staff in awkward or otherwise unsafe-feeling positions, or just makes them confront their own ideas of what is rude or unacceptable and how people need to interact with other people. Often when this sort of thing is communicated badly, people feel squeezed in the middle between an obnoxious seeming patron and a directive by management who doesn't have to deal with them.

Hit the nail on the head. This is actually making me consider leaving the field. The position that that management takes is "we are here to serve everyone". That is right and good, but it is not feasible or practical if "everyone" includes one or two people who chase everyone else out.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:49 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


> I'm not sure whether this has not been your experience in your own library Stonewall Jackson, but I work with 8-10 small libraries in Vermont and none of us have a conduct policy at all.

That's interesting, didn't know that. I used to work as a page/circulation dude in an urban system, at a number of different branches, all of which had the same code of conduct system. I always regarded the code as less of a protection for the staff (although it is that, too, of course) than as a system designed to benefit *everyone* who used the library; i.e. if you're yelling and screaming (because you're acting like a dick, not because you're crazy) or otherwise stirring shit up for no good reason, you're negatively impacting the ability of other patrons to get the most out of the library. And if that's the case, you should be asked to tone it down or leave.

Do I think every library on the planet has to be the Harvard Reading Room? No, but I don't think it's unreasonable, even in this day and age, for fellow patrons and staff to expect a certain level of noise (i.e. lack thereof) and decorum when they come into a library. Not because making a ruckus is going to piss off the staff, but because it makes the library a worse place to be. For everyone.

Basically, what Kadin2048 said.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 2:49 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Libraries need to spend more time developing services that appeal to a wider swath of their service populations and stop wishing that people would be nicer to us.

Every librarian in my system spends far more time doing the former than doing the latter. I'm not going to apologize for wishing. And yes, I serve my least favorite patrons every bit as I serve my most favorites.

On review, yeah, what Kadin2048, Biblio, and Jessamyn said.
posted by Rykey at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2008


The top #20 libertarian wish-list:

#20 - close all libraries...
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on November 26, 2008


Faze: "Note to librarians: You are not there to "help" people. You are there, first and foremost, to control people's behavior."

I think you may not know what a librarian is. That's okay. Ignorance isn't anything to be ashamed of. I'm sure if you asked your local librarian for help, she would gladly educate you on what it is a librarian is supposed to do.
posted by team lowkey at 3:49 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Most of these are stuff for any public place. They also, except one or two, focus on the smallest group of employees in most libraries - the librarians. Most patron contact is with the circ desk (yes, I've checked out _Nightmare on Elm Street_ to 6 year olds. You'd be surprised how many parents don't want to come in to the library, and will send their kid in.).

My list would be different, contain a lot more swear words and be mostly aimed at library administration. I work *for* the public. The library administration works *against* me.

As for the public? Don't treat my circ staff like shit. Bother the librarians, that's what they are there for. Tell us what you want, but take no for an answer. And stop peeing on my books. Really. I'll look the other way at bathing in the bathroom if you do.
posted by QIbHom at 3:53 PM on November 26, 2008


21. Learn how to read before checking out books.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 4:17 PM on November 26, 2008



Keep up the great work Librarians!
posted by drezdn at 4:41 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


We will not prevent a six year-old child from checking out Nightmare on Elm Street

For real?


It depends on the library.
posted by Zambrano at 4:50 PM on November 26, 2008


We will not prevent a six year-old child from checking out Nightmare on Elm Street

Come on, they can't just go straight to Anthropopagus. You start with baby steps.
posted by lukemeister at 4:55 PM on November 26, 2008


Man, being a librarian sounds kinda like being a retail clerk.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:57 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid, my small town library used to keep the "sex" books behind the circ desk and you had to ask for them in person. Pretty dreadful for an 8th grader! I ended up having to buy my own copy of The Last Picture Show and keep it under my bed.

I always thought of my library fines as a continuous donation (though not very large, I realize). Apparently just a bad excuse for laziness.
posted by artfann at 5:10 PM on November 26, 2008


Why don't more libraries have self check out?
posted by fixedgear at 5:36 PM on November 26, 2008


Infrastructure costs, I would have guessed.
posted by Artw at 5:40 PM on November 26, 2008


Reading this thread, I guess my '#21' would be this: librarians are human. They all received (probably) a master's degree, but that doesn't mean they all have the same opinions.

Some think a six year-old should NEVER be allowed to check out Nightmare on Elm Street, some think sex books should never be in the parenting section or behind the desk but rather freely available, some think a combination thereof. What, hopefully, guides them is the ALA's Code of Ethics, but, being *human*, they have to work on it sometimes (especially when something is controversial, like viewing porn at the library).
posted by librarylis at 5:42 PM on November 26, 2008


Faze: "Note to librarians: You are not there to "help" people. You are there, first and foremost, to control people's behavior."

No. We are not there to control people's behavior. I didn't get a Master's degree in "shushing people"

That comment really got my blood boilling and I'm just wondering if it's worth answering it. Just being told your years of education and expertise are just not worth it. Motivation for the profession's promotion right there.

But back on the topic. When I saw the title, I though it would be a list of things patrons don't know about the library, not a list comprised mainly of rants against misbehaving patrons.
posted by domi_p at 5:47 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


And stop peeing on my books. Really. I'll look the other way at bathing in the bathroom if you do.

What happens to those peed-on books, QIbHom -- or do I just not want to know?

I will also say that I'm a regular patron and have had to ask where certain sections are the first time I want to go to them. Does it make it OK if the sections are separated onto different floors?
posted by Airhen at 6:04 PM on November 26, 2008


Why don't more libraries have self check out?

The machines are

- really expensive
- proprietary for the most part meaning you have to buy in to the vendor's whole RFID deal
- need to be made worth it with the number of people that they "free up" for other work (or more to the point who maybe become open positions that don't need to be hired for)
- require a certain amount of patron saviness or else people don't use them and you don't save much money/time

Only the biggest systems can afford both the cash outlay to buy them, the tech back-end to support them and the "rah rah" attitude to sell people on them in the first place. I love them, but it's not just a self-check system it's really a whole new way of managing inventory that needs to be brought online for them to be cost-effective.
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 PM on November 26, 2008


The librarians and patrons alike in Longmont, Colorado have always been friendly, and the patrons have been helpful. They're not quite as friendly in Boulder, but equally helpful. There is a patron in Boulder who's there every day and studies flies through a magnifying glass, but he seems harmless.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just not aware of the subterranean currents of madness coursing through these seemingly benign places.
posted by lukemeister at 6:37 PM on November 26, 2008


When I was a little kid, the San Francisco public library was a great, huge hallowed hall in which everyone automatically shushed -- whisperers were looked askance at. And the thing that really strikes home when I call up my memories of that seemingly sacred building (it seemed Cathedral-like in its architecture) was the massive, imposing wall of wooden file drawers with little brass handles, holding index cards, arranged via the seemingly utterly byzantine Dewey Decimal System, a Thing Not To Be Understood By Snot-Nosed Children, or Other Mortals. The librarians were not sexy -- they were imposing, stentorian figures of composure who exuded an aura of daunting, like school principals. I saw them as wielding great power and authority, and I felt their scorn whenever I fell under their gaze.

Even though it may be mostly a figment of my vivid imagination, I think we need more libraries like that.

I'm sorry. The snot nose was because it was cold outside there, like all the time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2008


I thought it would be a list of things patrons don't know about the library, not a list comprised mainly of rants against misbehaving patrons

Exactly! This is what made me go grar. I have worked exclusively in Public Libraries for over 10 years, and although I'm not a librarian, I've spent plenty of time on the front lines and helping people on the front lines escape bad situations. I know what goes on, and I also know just how horrible professional librarians can be when they get bent out of shape about getting no respect. There are absolutely some perfectly reasonable things on this list, but the primary challenge of libraries in this century is a marketing challenge, and too many of these are about deferring to the librarian before you get service. That is not good service, and it's not a positive message to send to someone who has never used a library, or was scared off by the archetypal librarian who shushed them in middle school and hasn't been back because they think nothing has changed. This list shows that for some librarians, nothing has changed, and they are still the be-bunned schoolmarm expecting respect without giving it out and hiding behind some antiquated notion of authority that they refuse to believe has slipped from their grasp. The value of librarians in this century is about skills and knowledge, not authority.

I fully admit that my reading of this otherwise kind, polite, and gently wishing list is bent by my continuing experience in this industry, but as I travel around talking to librarians, I come across this mindset -- that everything would be wonderful in the library if only the patrons came prepared to utilize the librarian while showing the proper deference -- all too often, and not just from the veterans who have already put up with a career's worth of shit. Being a librarian on a public desk is tough work, and there are many, many librarians who do an amazing job for everybody day after day. That's why I get so bent out of shape when such a petulant message emerges from the profession. The problems of libraries are not about patron behavior. Patron behavior will always be a spectrum with some really wonderful people at one end and some borderline or outright dangerous people at the other. As Jessamyn said, all urban libraries have rules that give them some policy backup when dealing with dangerous situations and actually lay out processes by which problem customers can be legally banned from a public building. But this isn't about that. This is a list of things that librarians wish patrons knew, and for that message to mainly be "we wish you knew the rules and followed them and showed some common decency to boot" is simply wallowing in self-pity instead of taking the opportunity to increase awareness of the set of services that is increasingly only available at the library. Wishing that people were nicer or more considerate of others does not move the profession forward.

Reaching the people who need our help and our services and welcoming them into the building, no matter what their upbringing or station in life, is a library's reason for being, and I am tired of watching ostensible professionals draw ever-more exclusive lines around who they want to serve. There are libraries that close after school rather than serving urban teens. There are libraries that have bullshit rules about 'no camping gear allowed in the library' just to keep the homeless out. There are libraries that place the novel so far above any other forms of information that they become little more than private book clubs for the niche of recreational readers in their community. All of these are failures of the librarian culture and allowing the regressive, self-centered wistfulness for the fedora era to be the message that comes out of the profession is setting aside the fact that having these problems in the first place is an indicator of the success that libraries have had (even if by default) in reaching a broader spectrum of humanity. We didn't used to have these problems because only bookworms used to come to the library.

Most librarians understand that the library is for everyone. Most librarians understand that there are all kinds of people and you never know who's going to come up to the desk next. Most librarians believe in freedom of access to information and will fight for your rights to knowledge. Most librarians knew exactly what they were getting into and take the good with the bad. But some librarians just can't get past the fact that not everyone is a nice person, and they wish that only nice people came to the library. That's a nice wish, and I know that just because they wish it doesn't mean they don't still strive to give excellent service to jerks at the desk, but the emergence of this message shows a total disregard of the perception of the library that keeps nonlibrary users from coming back in. Nonpatrons think librarians are fuddy-duddy, irrelevant busybodies who are stuck in 1963, and it makes me go grar when librarians willingly fulfill that stereotype and undermine their worth to their communities. That's all.

And finally, I'm not trolling, I'm not a jerk, and I'm not a robot sent to make you hate me. I'm a library geek who cares a great deal about the future of libraries and gets a little too upset when the profession insists on living in the past. My apologies if I've offended or insulted anyone, and I'm sorry I posted angry.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:06 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Reaching the people who need our help and our services and welcoming them into the building, no matter what their upbringing or station in life, is a library's reason for being...

No, my dear ulotrichous, that's what churches are for. Libraries are for books and quiet reading. Anything else is superfluous to the library's function, and should be jettisoned. People should not feel "welcomed" in a library. They should feel that they are in a formal space, and that they need to be on their best behavior -- and be quiet.
posted by Faze at 7:14 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I meant the librarians have always been helpful.
posted by lukemeister at 7:19 PM on November 26, 2008


Jacket and tie or you don't get in!
posted by Artw at 7:20 PM on November 26, 2008


As somebody whose first real job was as a lowly page in the Pennsylvania State Library, and who often has books out of five or six different libraries at the same time, for research and other purposes, I had a great time reading Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, an account published earlier this year of what life is really like for an Anaheim, California librarian. (I kept thinking, while reading, that Jessamyn must know the author Scott Douglas.)

In Douglas's view, these are the corny, sexist things not to say to your librarian. (The second one is so stupid it made me laugh out loud.)
posted by LeLiLo at 7:22 PM on November 26, 2008


that's what churches are for

Wow. Churches are for everyone and libraries aren't? We're just gonna have to disagree on that one.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:45 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Reaching the people who need our help and our services and welcoming them into the building, no matter what their upbringing or station in life, is a library's reason for being, and I am tired of watching ostensible professionals draw ever-more exclusive lines around who they want to serve."

No, reaching people who need the library services is not the reason for being; providing those services is the reason for being. Subservient to that is reaching people and bringing them in. And yes, the explicit mission of churches is to welcome everyone. They, like libraries, often fall short.

While Faze is being a bit of a hyperbolic dick, something entirely novel to his long posting history on Metafilter, he's articulating just as valid a viewpoint regarding libraries as your civic locus conception. And you're being a bit of a hyperbolic dick in regarding this list as the petulant mewlings of a be-bunned marm.

Look, in talking to my girlfriend, she noted a couple of things—First, there's no such thing as a Platonic ideal of a library. Everyone here is arguing based on the premise that the library they like the most is the best model for a library, when libraries really do have a wide range of remits and services. (She particularly wanted to grouse that the librarians are forgetting their time in MLS classrooms, where she says that you'd always get bizarrely polarized arguments between public librarians, academic librarians, catalogers, etc.) When you discuss a library, you have to define your terms both in scope of library and population served.

Second, she noted how odd it is to have the tone of your professional interactions based on these varied conceptions of what a library should be, which vary from patron to patron. Faze'd be freaked out by group study in a library that served undergrads, or in one of the modern multi-media public libraries. Whereas there are populations that are well-served with only, essentially, a bunch of fiction.

Finally, and this is more something she agreed with than suggested, librarians are essentially unnecessary for the vast majority of library experiences, especially in a public library. They're indispensable if you want to do research or learn a lot about a certain topic, or even get a sense of what books are prominent in an unfamiliar field. But pretty much anyone who can read can find something to read in a library (or find media or access information). It's only those who aren't savvy enough or who are looking for something specific who need the help of a librarian.

Metafilter users tend toward the LibraryPro spectrum, where they're really looking to maximize what they can get out of a library, and for that a librarian is invaluable. But that also really impacts how libraries and librarians are conceptualized, in a way that may or may not be in line with the needs of the actual population they serve.
posted by klangklangston at 9:13 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


They forgot:
21. Whisper.
posted by madajb at 9:24 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: The petulant mewlings of a be-bunned marm
posted by lukemeister at 9:26 PM on November 26, 2008


Finally, and this is more something she agreed with than suggested, librarians are essentially unnecessary for the vast majority of library experiences, especially in a public library.

In the 4+ years I've been going to my current library, I've not once spoken to a librarian.
(Unless the people standing next to the checkout machine are actually librarians, which I doubt, since they're really wasting that degree if that's the case.)
posted by madajb at 9:28 PM on November 26, 2008


20. Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes.

Seriously. Also, don't be a creep. A (single) former colleague used to wear a wedding band while working Reference hoping to deter a certain kind of patron. The kind who would say, "I love that your hair is in a ponytail" or "Nice glasses, Tina!". Ugh.
posted by mlis at 10:25 PM on November 26, 2008


"Jacket and tie or you don't get in!
posted by Artw at 7:20 PM"

I have jackets, but I do not have any ties. Would a tasteful scarf be OK?
posted by Cranberry at 11:44 PM on November 26, 2008


11 Things Librarians Could Do To Make Me Stop Hating Them

1) Please do something about the stanky and crazy people. I realize it's a public building, but so is the Legislature, and that sure as shit didn't look like Hooverville last time I went there.

2) If you aren't going to get rid of the stanky and crazy people, please hire security guards who have seen their feet in the past decade and/or have both their arms.

3) Please knock down the walls of your delightful little pocket park behind the library so any activity within it is visible from the street. You know, that place where they found a fucking body last year? And where that dude attacked people with a pipe on two nonconsecutive occasions this summer? I know that means the aerosol huffers, potheads, brown baggers and the delightful young thug who called me an asshole and yelled at me to be a man after I wouldn't give him a cigarette would need to find another part of our city to enrich with their presence, but it beats my life being in the hand of a man who can't even clap, let alone keep my sorry ass safe.

4) It's great that you have a comic section, but please shoot whomever had the bright idea to put it next to the place where the stanky and crazy people sit. You're really not doing the medium any favours, nor anyone who likes comics and prefers to breathe through their nose.

5) Please get more self-checkout kiosks.

6) Please make sure the self-checkout kiosks work.

7) If the self-checkout kiosk isn't operating correctly, please train your librarians to respond with more than 'Meh?' when I tell them there appears to be a problem with the self-checkout kiosk and then do absolutely sweet FA about it.

8) When the self-checkout kiosk isn't working AGAIN and I have to get my books checked out by that surly little shit with the centre part, please tell him to pay attention after scanning my card:
"You owe $3.45 cents."
"Really? I don't think I do..."
"Yes. Three dollars and forty five cents. Late fines."
"I'm pretty sure I don't..." [Leans over counter, turns monitor so I can see the screen.]"... Nope, that's not mine. Try scanning my card again, maybe."
[Surly little shit snatches card from my hand, rescans it. Pause.]
"Oh. So, uh, no late fines."
"Didn't think so. Computers get goofy sometimes, I guess-"
"It's never happened before."
"First time for everything, I guess." [Collect books, prepare to leave]
"Well, how was I to know that that wasn't your account or your fines anyway?"
[Pause.]
"Do I look like my names's Margaret?"

9) Please tell that surly little shit that he is not in a barbershop quartet and he should stop centre-parting his hair. If it turns out he actually is in a barbershop quartet, well... he'll get his.

10) When you are having a used book sale and the miserable boot at the counter tries to charge me the hardcover price for the 28th Anniversary 1974 Deluxe Edition of Gun Digest when it is clearly a softcover, tell her not to fight me on it.
Because it will not end well.

11) Face it, you are in customer service. You have far more in common with the cashier with the perpetually runny nose at The Bargain! Shop than the scriptorium monks in The Name of the Rose. If I really wanted attitude and haughtiness from people whose job is - with a few exceptions - just as menial as my own, I would start drinking coffee.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:15 AM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


feel good gettin' that off your chest?
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:34 AM on November 27, 2008


And how!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:44 AM on November 27, 2008


Why don't more libraries have self check out all the coolest stuff we wish they had?

Remember all those tax cuts Americans keep voting for?
posted by Rykey at 5:10 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


7) If the self-checkout kiosk isn't operating correctly, please train your librarians to respond with more than 'Meh?' when I tell them there appears to be a problem with the self-checkout kiosk and then do absolutely sweet FA about it.

I hate to break this to you but, in all likelihood:

1. there is a big sign on the kiosk explaining the problem and asking for your patience;
2. you are the 31st person to mention this problem anyways today;
3. the staff couldn't do anything about it if their lives depended on it as they aren't kiosk repair people.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:59 AM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you are a fancy library in a well-off town that has a less well-off town nearby, either serve people from that town like normal patrons, or don't offer any services to them at all. Don't create a special lesser set of privileges for people who live five miles in the wrong direction. You classist fucks.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:36 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


. . . nor anyone who likes comics and prefers to breathe through their nose.

So half the browsers are okay with it, then? As free jerkables go, they are not entirely without merit --

Library of the Damned
posted by Countess Elena at 7:10 AM on November 27, 2008


You classist fucks.

Wow. Can you just attend the school in the next town too if their school is better than yours?

The library situation is weird. Most public libraries are nominally locally funded [even moreso in the US than in Canada, but it varies] which means that even as information is getting more and more dispersed and distributed, the libraries have a local funding base and oftentimes some sort of mandate to serve the people who pay to keep it open moreso than the people down the road who don't. This is a problem, in many ways.

In Vermont all the teeny libraries basically let anyone get a library card [even you Alvy, ya grouch] but the bigger libraries in the fancier towns don't. They have more bills to pay and can't become the lending library for the entire county when they're only being financially supported by only the people in the town [who pay much higher taxes than the people in the other town]. So, in Vermont what they do is allow people from the other towns to either

- get library cards for a price roughly equivalent to what the people in the town pay per capita for taxes to keep the library open [ranges from like $10-30 in the state I think]
- let the smaller towns and the larger downs create "regions" where everyone from both towns pays for the upkeep of both libraries. Small town people's taxes go up a little but they have free access to both libraries. Big town's taxes don't change much.

In some areas the smaller towns either shut their libraries entirely [sort of a shame, depending on your viewpoint] or become branches of the larger library.

The bigger problem of course is one of attitude as Alvy points out. Library work in small towns is "clean" work meaning you don't have to come into contact with manure (farmer) and you don't have to drive your car all day in the worst possible weather (post office, delivery people) or carry a gun (cop) or get up at the crack of freaking dawn (teacher) so people who get those jobs, which often pay okay relative to other local work, keep them. This means that if they've gotten or developed crappy attitudes they often keep them too.

I worked at a public library in Vermont a few years back and I was known as "the librarian who smiled" which was an embarassing thing because of what it said about the other staff. It also meant that I got hit on all the time but I sort of expect some of that. I was the only staffer with a nametag with my name on it too. The director did great things for the library but just wasn't very personable and so personableness took a back seat to other skills when she passed her vision down to the staff. It's a damned shame. I hate to be all defensive and "there's a REASON for why all those things happen" to Alvy's list of scorn, because people hate that sort of thing too (and some of that shit sounds pretty awful) but as government work goes (and librarians in Canada are a lot more like gov't people than they are in the US) librarians are pretty socialized and personable.

Librarians are, however, involved in a crisis of meaning where expectations like Faze's [I want a good quiet place to read a good book] and Alvy's [I want technology that works and staff who know how to work it] come head to head with both people thinking it's okay to be dickish about their own idea of what a platonic library is. Meanwhile most staff are caught in multiple layers of administrative bullshit which is not, in my own opinion, an excuse, but at least sometimes an explanation for why things don't move as rapidly or as smoothly towards a better tomorrow. The downside of democracy, to me, is that the real true idea of serving and helping *everyone* means that you wind up being some sort of a social/class/culture referee and sometimes this also means finding some sort of middle ground on this stuff where no one's truly psyched about it.

I wish it were otherwise, but when you don't have homogeneity of culture -- which I generally thing is a net positive, diversity and all that -- democratic institutions reflect that unease and clash.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 AM on November 27, 2008 [10 favorites]


Happy Thanksgiving, jessamyn!
posted by lukemeister at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2008


Oh dear. Now I feel very spoiled; we have a self-check kiosk and nobody every uses it. My husband and I don't because we almost always have reserve books and the self-check station won't check out reserve books.

I have a few things I would like to say to my own library branch:

1) Please empty the book return bin more often. I have very rarely attempted to use the sidewalk return bin when when it wasn't overflowing and the bins inside are just as bad.

2) Speaking of returns, I know I am not to put Books on CD or magazines in the return bins, but I always feel a bit awkward about just leaving them in a a random spot on the circulating desk. Could you have a designated area, please?

3) Please don't cater to the lowest common denominator; it makes me sad to see that the shelves are stuffed with 2, 3, or more copies of every single thing that Danielle Steele has ever written while poor old Charles Dickens only has about 6 books on the shelf. And while we are on this topic, about a third of the new fiction seems to be serial detective mysteries. Is there that much demand for the 4th installment of the Scrapbook Detectives?

4) Bring back the Short Story Collection area. Now that you are shelving them in with all the other fiction, it makes it hard to browse for short stories.

5) I know it is too late to bring back the old card catalog, but I do miss it-- there was something very satisfying about riffling through it, and it made serendipitous discoveries much more likely.

6) Your book clubs are atrocious. The regular book club sometimes chooses to read young adult fiction as well as serial detective novels. Your new "Inspirational" book club is unspeakable.

7) I'm sorry that you have changed the interlibrary loan system. Since you keep and shelve the books received from other branches, that means sometimes old favorites go missing The big red book, the collection of horror short stories that I read several years ago? Yeah, I don't know the name and it is gone now.

8) It is wonderful how you keep up with all the new books-- you have saved my husband and I hundreds of dollars. However, the old classics seem to be very much second banana in your system. If there isn't a single copy of "The Old Curiosity Shop" in the entire county system, maybe you should think about buying one.

9) When my fine is $.45 and I give you a dollar, I would be happy to give you the change if you had a donation box or coin collection. I might even give you the odd dollar or $5.00 when I am feeling particularly flush.

10) You all do an outstanding job. There is rarely a wait to check out because there are so many clerks and librarians who rush to man all the check-out stations if a single person is waiting. I also love that I can reserve piles of new or old books from any branch without cost. The self-help reserve shelves where we can find our own reserves waiting for us was a brilliant stroke of genius. Thank you. You guys are great!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:04 AM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I never use the self-checkout kiosk, I think for 2 reasons -- I usually have fines. The library is not on the deep work/home rut I've dug for myself, and books will sit in my car for a week or two past the due date. I pay those fines whenever I check out new books. That, and I prefer human interaction over a machine beeping at me, even if it is from a surly little shit or a be-bunned marm. These folks need jobs, and I'll be damned if I will see a whole 'nuther class of specifically trained people replaced by machines.

Austin's central library is a post-modern architectural abomination that was already too small the day it opened, and it's perpetually flooded with the homeless & mentally ill. My hat's off to anyone willing to work there, be they stentorian, disaffected, disillusioned, or happy. It seems like thankless work to me whenever I'm in the place, so I smile, and say please and thank you, and "How much was that fine again, and do you take checks?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:18 AM on November 27, 2008


3) Please don't cater to the lowest common denominator; it makes me sad to see that the shelves are stuffed with 2, 3, or more copies of every single thing that Danielle Steele has ever written while poor old Charles Dickens only has about 6 books on the shelf.

Well, there's reason for this that goes beyond catering to any denominator and as it so often does it comes down to cold, hard cash; quite often, funding for public libraries is tied to circulation figures. More circulation = more funding. So if Danielle Steele is more popular than Charles Dickens, well...

Besides, I don't think we're really supposed to be in the business of taste-making. When I was in library school I recall a spirited debate over whether childrens' librarians should be pushing "good" books on kids (as opposed to, say, Goosebumps paperbacks or whatever); one side argued that you've got to get them reading quality lit before it's "too late", while the side I was on maintained that sure, you can make individual efforts to steer patrons, young or old, towards books you enjoy and respect, but heaping derision upon what people actually like to read is only going to backfire and turn them off reading altogether.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2008


-there is a big sign on the kiosk explaining the problem and asking for your patience
If there had been an out of order sign, I wouldn't have tried to use it - wouldn't have been able to, as they tape the signs over the touchscreen of the kiosk. Had the same problem when I went back the next day. No work, no sign. Hence, sweet FA.

-you are the 31st person to mention this problem anyways today
Then perhaps they should have put an out of order sign up after the twenty-seventh mention? Just puttin' that out there.

-the staff couldn't do anything about it if their lives depended on it as they aren't kiosk repair people.
I'm not a plumber, but if I was told that a washroom toilet wasn't working when I worked in a restaurant, I would take the two seconds needed to put a freaking out of order sign on the stall door. Even if their lives depended on it, your peers couldn't write something on a piece of paper and tape it up? Tragic.

Hate to break it to you - and I can appreciate where you're coming from after spending seven years working in that restaurant - but a large part of what is presumably your profession is customer service. No, the customer is not always right by a long shot, but a bare minimum of effort and a non-jerky mindset can save everyone a lot of hassle.

Of course, I should have mentioned that any present librarians were excluded from my little screed. And thanks to the moderator who smiles for the thoughtful comment.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2008


AGain, I;m finding the level of bullshit entitlement here jaw dropping.
posted by Artw at 8:28 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, all the moderators here smile and I can't speak to the rest of the team but one reason I smile so much is that I'm working here instead of the public library (except one day a week when complaints like these are my row to hoe).
posted by jessamyn at 8:30 AM on November 27, 2008


I'm pretty sure cortex rolled his eyes and sighed the last time he saw one of my flags in the queue, but that's a petty grievance I'll save for another FPP.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:39 AM on November 27, 2008


I guess, in a nutshell, (public) libraries are presently trying to work out exactly what they are & how they serve the public best - and this process is endlessly frustrating for both staff and patrons. Hopefully it'll get figured out before patrons all stop coming & staff all quit.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Alvy,

You know who else rolled his eyes and sighed the last time he saw one of your flags in the queue?

Me neither.
posted by lukemeister at 8:55 AM on November 27, 2008


Plus how to magically make money come out of their buts, and cure mental illness with a touch.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on November 27, 2008


Since I'm already godwinning this thread:

Nothing helps the reading experience like receiving a gold bookmark from your mistress after you've suffered a devastating defeat on the battlefield.

*reluctantly returns to writing paper with inflexible deadline dictated by British editor unaware of American holiday*
posted by lukemeister at 9:11 AM on November 27, 2008


librarians are essentially unnecessary for the vast majority of library experiences, especially in a public library
I agree, but it always amazes me how librarians at different libraries to the one I work at always manage to pull something up either from memory or using a different search string when I approach them after doing my own search.

Good point, stinkycheese, succinctly said.
posted by saucysault at 9:19 AM on November 27, 2008


Alvy, the problems you're having have nothing to do with librarians.

That's also a fairly huge misconception (and source of strife in many libraries, internecine)—not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. You're essentially having trouble with apathetic support staff, and, well, given the way you presented these complaints, I'd probably ignore you just so you wouldn't come back. The homeless sound like less of a pain in the ass.

"8) It is wonderful how you keep up with all the new books-- you have saved my husband and I hundreds of dollars. However, the old classics seem to be very much second banana in your system. If there isn't a single copy of "The Old Curiosity Shop" in the entire county system, maybe you should think about buying one."

Heh. At our libraries, almost all of the classics are kept in the Young Adult section. It makes me feel weird to be there, but that's where Moby Dick and The Sun Also Rises are stocked.
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


We got around the low-circing classics problem by taking most of the classics out of circulation-- and putting them onto an "Honor Classics" shelf, where people may take them as they please, and bring them back when they are ready. It hasn't caused our classics to disappear-- people either don't borrow them, or we get new donations of classics (usually from people who give them to us after not reading them for a class). This, to me, says a lot about the state of reading among the public, at least in our area (mostly upper-middle class, college-educated). But it's awesome for those of us who dig their classic novels.

librarians are essentially unnecessary for the vast majority of library experiences, especially in a public library

Like klangklangston says, I suspect you're talking about the librarians actually staffing the reference/information desks, but trust me, actual librarians are absolutely essential to the library experience.
posted by Rykey at 10:38 AM on November 27, 2008


ugh! My husband and ME
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I checked War & Peace out of the Lake Wales, Fla. library in 1981, back when they were still manually stamping return dates on a card inside the book cover, it apparently hadn't been checked out since 1973, and before that, 1967, and before that, I think 1963.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:54 AM on November 27, 2008


My own list of Facts Librarians Should Already Know, the converse of the facts patrons should know:
  1. If you have a free interloan service, do not be surprised when your neighbourhood branch has one patron who files three dozen requests at a time. In other words, do not act as though interloans should be requested only at large branches, only by some unspecified other kind of patron, or only rarely.
  2. There is no minimum loan period, only a maximum. I can and will return an item an hour later or the next day if I’m done with it. This also applies to interloans, no matter how much trouble you believe somebody else went to in order to get the item.
  3. If your renovated branch has a men’s room, a ladies’ room, and a wheelchair-accessible third washroom with a baby changing table, you may not attempt to prevent individual men from using that washroom. It is, by definition, for everyone. (Applies particularly to men’s rooms with not enough room to walk in while wearing a backpack and, importantly, that also lack an exhaust fan.)
  4. Your RFID system probably sucks, and sucks even worse in Urdu.
The foregoing represents almost my complete gripe list with the otherwise superb Toronto Public Library (it’s also massive – 99 branches). Their Web site and catalogue suck, of course, and they need to get on LibraryThing. But that’s for another thread.
posted by joeclark at 12:47 PM on November 27, 2008


I used to tell patrons that if they really wanted to help the library, check out 3 books they didn't plan on reading every time they came in. They could toss them in the bookdrop on the way out, but, please, get our circs up. Bonus points if it is a classic.

Airhen, I know what library you are talking about (I work there, as you know), and I can't find the many sections. You have to ask at that library. That is why the first thing you see is a desk with folks who are tasked solely with giving directions.

RFID and self-check...they take more of my bloody time than the rest of my job combined (well, besides that crap PC reserving system that no one who has the authority to replace will admit doesn't work). The vendors are a bear to deal with, and every one of the little sweeties is very different. They are also hugely expensive. And they don't work very well. Any of them. Unless you jump through hoops and recatalog multivolume sets and multipiece items just as that system expects them to be (cataloging standards be damned).

If you want boatloads of tech in your library, you can pass the next library milage. Next time you are in your local PL, ask where their funding comes from and how much they spend per capita. Unless you live in a large city, I can pretty much guarantee you'll be stunned.
posted by QIbHom at 3:13 PM on November 27, 2008


Why use RFID for self-check anyway? Most modern libraries have a UPC barcode on the books that the staff uses—that's how the LAPL handles its self-check out.

And I'm surprised there's no open-source cataloging standard (maybe link into Worldcat) that could be tied to RFID codes.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on November 28, 2008


20. Enough with the "sexy librarian" jokes. We've heard them all before. Be original and tell us a new (clean) joke. You have a better chance of making us laugh this way.

They say this and then 3 of the 8 (4 if you count Nancy Pearl, phoar!) pictures provided are of sexy librarians.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:19 AM on November 28, 2008


Wow.

Yeah, I was a little pissy when I wrote that, and reading it back I sound fantastically unpleasant and entitled. Apologies. I had some unpleasant experiences with some very snobby circ staff at Canton and I let it get to me.

in Vermont what they do is allow people from the other towns to either

- get library cards for a price roughly equivalent to what the people in the town pay per capita for taxes to keep the library open [ranges from like $10-30 in the state I think]


I was going to say Canton doesn't offer this, but they've changed that policy since the last time I checked. $170 per annum, which seems a little high, but Detroit has a similar fee of $100, and Ann Arbor's is $150, so I guess it's standard for the state.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:55 AM on November 28, 2008


Canton, MI's library has always been notoriously snobby and nasty, Lentrohamsanin. Now I understand your comments. They also stopped being reciprocal with neighboring libraries because "they might take all our books."

Both Ann Arbor and Canton are much higher than state average for non-resident borrowing. Check, for example, Troy.

Former Westland resident.
posted by QIbHom at 11:08 AM on November 28, 2008


Oh good (well sort of). I didn't think I was imagining the attitude, but it's nice to get some confirmation.

We're actually blessed to be part of The Library Network's fantastic and efficient interlibrary loan system here in Belleville, but one big gap is that most of the member libraries don't loan out A/V materials. Canton filled that nicely for a time.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:17 AM on November 28, 2008


AGain, I;m finding the level of bullshit entitlement here jaw dropping.

Assuming you're including my comment in that, I really don't think I'm being all that entitled - almost all of my points boil down to the library being a safer environment and it's employees more professional. Hardly asking for the moon. Well, except for the thing about how the guy parted his hair, which I thought would indicate how seriously I was taking myself.

Oddly enough as I was passing through the pocket park on the way to work yesterday, paramedics were treating a man who was all wrapped up in a blanket. The previous night was a very mild 0C, so I'm guessing he decided to sleep rough and woke up with 4 cm of snow on him the next morning. Again, local library: Tear down those walls!

klang: Fair point about the clerks vs. librarians, but it's my understanding that due to the smaller population and therefore fewer job opportunities here, a person needs at minimum certification from a two year Library Sciences college course to get an entry level position. Which probably contributes to the negative attitudes of the staff, who've presumably invested several years and considerable expense to be qualified to shelve books.

given the way you presented these complaints, I'd probably ignore you just so you wouldn't come back

What came first, the bad service or the complaint? Your chiding point doesn't make any sense, and I would think you of all MeFites would be able to appreciate that a snarky comment on the internet probably isn't representative of how people would articulate themselves in the appropriate setting.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2008


RFID and self-check...they take more of my bloody time than the rest of my job combined (well, besides that crap PC reserving system that no one who has the authority to replace will admit doesn't work).

Whoa, QIbHom, I had to check your profile to make sure we weren't working in the same system. Word.
posted by saucysault at 12:57 PM on November 28, 2008


Alvy, most of the libraries where I've worked, you didn't even need a high school diploma to work the circ desk. I've met exactly one person with an associates degree in library science in the 15+ years I've been working in public libraries.

I'm the first to admit that you'll get nasty service in some libraries. In my experience, places where the director works a regular shift at circ, where they take care of their people and where everyone gets input in to how things are done, those places have good service.

In the mirror universe libraries, where circ staff are screamed at by MLS librarians, administrators, patrons, their bosses and the roaches under the desk, the service tends to be nasty.

Lentrohamsanin, I have many fond memories of visiting Fred Fischer with my grandmother. You might want to consider writing a polite letter to their library board on AV reciprocity (it has been a huge issue at TLN since it was WOLF and I worked there) and on the types of AV materials you'd like to see. If the director is who I think it is, you'll be listened to. You might not get what you want, but she'll take you seriously.

saucysault (hmm...Sault Ste. Marie?), I really hope that two systems don't have the identical brain-damaged tech setup.
posted by QIbHom at 4:15 PM on November 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


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