Office pitfalls…except when they’re not

3 Apr

Gossip, fraternization, and politics.

We’ve all been warned about the dangers of these pitfalls, and given reasons we shouldn’t participate in them.  Conversely, we’ve all been given legitimate reasons we should engage in these behaviors.  So what the heck?

Every person you’ll ever meet will have an opinion about pretty much everything.  But here’s how I see these three big office “no-nos”:


  • Idle gossip is pretty useless to the work place.  But gossip that’s come down from the grapevine about institutional changes, or staff turnover, or policy problems?  That I definitely want to hear, and I’ll share it with people who are impacted by it.
  • If there’s going to be staff turnover, and gossip tells me the likelihood of that is high, I want to have a head start polishing my resume if need be.
  • Big change, such as weeding a lot of the collection, or changing LMS systems?  I want to know so I don’t inadvertently create more work for myself in the near future.
  • A new policy being implemented, or an old one removed or revamped?  I’d like time to figure out how that changes my job, if at all, and to think about the impact on existing policy.  Just because I’m not an administrator doesn’t mean I don’t have a stake.
  • Serious personal problems for a staff member?  I don’t need to know what it is, but knowing something is going on will help me being forgiving if they make some errors.  This one is iffy, for so many reasons, and I would opt to share my personal woe with one or two trusted colleagues so they can go to bat for me if I find myself in the position of needing some leeway.  If you happen to have a great boss, that’s the person I’d tell.


  • Dating/relationships in the workplace need be conducted by two discreet adults.  If you wouldn’t describe yourself as such, don’t do it.  Be honest – are you capable of conducting yourself professionally, and leaving home at home, all the time?
  • I get a lot of librarians live for the job.  A lot don’t.  I understand it can be hard to find someone, and that you spend a lot of time with colleagues.  Your boss is not your colleague, your reporting staff are not colleagues.  Date, if you must, on an equal playing field.  Preferably with someone in a different department.
  • Aside from dating/relationships, realize not everyone you work with is your friend.  You don’t need them to be; you need them to be good coworkers.  It’s fine to try to make friends in all venues of your life, but realize there are lots of people out there who view “work” and “personal” lives and two completely separate entities, and never the twain shall meet.


  • Oh, that old library school saw.  “The ‘L’ in ‘librarian’ is for ‘liberal’!”  It’s mostly true, though not always.  Conservative librarians tend to keep their mouths shut.  Librarians, as evidenced by some of the more controversial blogs and their comments (hello, Annoyed Librarian over at LJ!), can censor dissenting opinions, or come down in force on disagreement.  Tread carefully.
  • If you do hold some dissenting opinions, realize this: no one really cares what you think.  Unless you’re explicitly being asked, by a thoughtful and respectful individual in a low-key manner, chances are good that the other person is already thinking of their next comment.  Is this a disagreement you want to get into right now?
  • No matter your stripes, repeat: if someone does disagree with my most excellent and correct opinion, it is not personal.


Now, go forth and pitfall!


Faculty Involvement

22 Mar

Faculty make the library go ’round.  Don’t think so?  They’re the best word-of-mouth advertisers you can get.  Here’s why:

  • They have a captive audience
  • They have a degree of control over that audience’s actions, in the form of assignments and grades
  • They usually come pre-convinced how awesome the library is

How can we not love that?  We do reach out to faculty where I work, and it’s more than trying to assist with their research.  If you haven’t heard of embedded librarianship, you should go find out about it.  We reach out to faculty by using embedded librarianship to function as a sort of teaching assistant, giving extra resources and help to students within the context of the course they’re taking.  It’s a way to work together that benefits both sides and has little to no chance of fostering any competition or ill-will.  Our instructors like it because it takes pressure off them regarding instantaneous answers, and helps weed out the students who just need a nudge, rather than serious help.

On the other side, the faculty gets more involved with the library because they function as special topic advisers on the resources provided by us.  They develop a stake in the collection, both print and digital, and are more likely to refer students to particular materials because they know what’s there.

Faculty involvement in this way is a clear win-win.  How do you get others involved in your library practices, or partner with unlikely people to strengthen your service?

Laws of the Library: a plea to patrons

11 Mar

  1. Please, please do not reshelve the books yourself.  I know it probably seems like common sense, but 8 times out of 10, that book did not come from where you think it did.  If you’re even 1 digit off, that book is technically “lost” because it’s not in its place.  It may be easy to find again, but if you miss an entire shelf, it’s not.
  2. Understand that while we do know a lot about computers, how they work, and particularly how to find information using one, this does not make us computer engineers.  For some of us, it doesn’t even qualify us as experts.  Your previous local librarian, who also happened to code for open-source during vacation?  Was not me, and wasn’t a common breed to begin with.
  3. Please don’t ask me where “that book [you] looked at 2 years ago is?” because if you didn’t check it out, I have no idea what book it is.  Telling me the color of the cover doesn’t help.
  4. I am not your babysitter, for your baby or your personal belongings.  If you ask if it’s ok to leave your iPod, cell phone, and laptop on a table while you go to the restroom, I’m going to tell you it’s fine but that I’m not going to watch your possessions.  Don’t glare at me because I’m helping other people instead of sitting on your stuff.
  5. If you come up to me in a bad mood, chances are good that it will telegraph.  I understand, but don’t expect me to be perky and effusive in the face of your gloom.
  6. Understand I can’t be everything to everyone.  I may not be able to help, but I promise I’ll find someone who can.  That does not mean I am incompetent, nor rude, nor “against” you.  It just means I’m not an expert at the universe.
  7. Forgive me when I make a mistake.  If I’ve been working for 10 hours, or on a solo shift, I’m tired.  I’m a bit slow, and I still want to help.  I’ll give you my best, but I don’t promise it’s as fast as it was at the start of my day.
  8. I have a personal life.  Do not be angry that I want to leave when the library closes instead of keep it open just so you can have another 30 minutes on Facebook.

“Big money, no Whammy! STOP!”

4 Mar

A follow-up to “You are human”, alternatively titled “Coping with Stress.”  You’ll get why I picked the other one later.

We all have days at work when we just can’t do anything else work-related.  Our heads are about to explode, someone left a…personal mess in the stacks, or you’ve just dealt with the gamut of patrons who are all convinced you DO have the answer they want, even if the question is “What is William Shakespeare’s telephone number?” and don’t like the answer “he doesn’t have one.”  At times like those, there’s a choice to be made: run screaming into the night, or find some way to laugh.

I’m a firm believer that if you can laugh at something, your day instantly gets better.  It lightens your mind and reminds you that not everything has to be serious, or handled with care.  YouTube is a valuable tool for finding something to laugh at.  Maybe your thing is corgis being cute?  Or kittens playing the piano?  Or some other entirely non-threatening to your state of mind fluff?  Go, take 3 minutes, and watch it.  Breathe deeply while you do and laugh out loud.  I promise you’ll come back feeling rejuvenated if you honestly give it a chance to work.

As for me?  If you know where the title-quote came from, you know what I do.  I watch people losing “Press Your Luck” on YouTube; they’re all so serious, and then they get whammied and the little dancing monster shows up and does “Thriller”.  How can you not laugh at that?  Even the people who just lost laugh at it, and that’s saying something.

You are human

20 Feb

Alternately, “Coping with Stress”.

Everyone has bad days.  I certainly have, and they all revolve around disappointment in myself, one way or another.  Being short with a patron because of a headache, or trying to help and having it refused, or not being able to find the answer you know exists in the timeframe you wanted, having to tell the patron you’ll “get back to them”.  All things that can make you feel like you didn’t try hard enough, or that you somehow failed in your job’s responsibilities.

This mindset has the potential to ruin your day, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.  If nothing else, I’ve found one thing is helpful in overcoming the feeling of having a setback or of failure: remind yourself that you are human.  We librarians, like many other professionals, hold ourselves to a high standard of behavior and performance.  So high that we can’t meet them 100% of the time, over decades of working on the job, and in some sort of effort to keep it from ever happening again, we speak harshly to ourselves sometimes as we’re frustrated with our “deficiencies” or “mistakes”.

There will always be someone you can’t help, an answer you don’t know, days when you go to work because you love it even when you’re sick.  It’s human thing.  That’s ok.  We’re allowed to be humans first, then librarians and archivists.  If you remind yourself of that on a bad day, you’re halfway to getting back on track to a good one and all it took was one affirmation.  You are human.

Penguin pulls out, reveals the status of libraries

10 Feb

There are some fabulous posts out there about the decision Penguin made to pull access to eBooks; among them are the Librarian by Day, Librarian in Black, and Andy at Agnostic, Maybe.  They all make great points about different sides of the issue.

I got inspired by Andy’s post and his discussion of Molly Raphael’s report.  Piggy-backing off that, f it really is a case of “could”, why have publishers or researchers not done studies to find out what the numbers really are? Who is interpreting those numbers? And what is the stake of those individuals?  The only thing we can do that has an immediate effect is encourage patrons to contact publishers and voice their displeasure. That’s not enough, and we should try to find out the reality of the borrow v. buy eBook model. Then we can come to the table armed with ROI.  Businesses love ROI, and libraries need to learn to love it too, because in cases like this we can be exponentially more effective.

But that’s not the big issue I see here.  Consider the music and movie industries.  I wonder if publishers have looked at what’s happened with the MPAA and RIAA; not SOPA/PIPA, but the way their customers want to consume the content. Buyers have proven they prefer to buy songs mostly on a one-song-one-price basis, and that they prefer to download that content. It’s not good business to no longer serve your consumer.


So that begs the question: if the producer of your content is ignoring your concerns,

are you their customer?


For more information on porn in libraries

8 Feb

There is a fabulous website/blog, called SafeLibraries.  Be warned, they don’t talk about the ALA in a flattering light, and like any writing, there is a clear viewpoint and the thesis and discussion points are designed to support that view.  It does link to facts, and everything is cited, so at the least you’ll be equipped to decide for yourself after reading through the citations.