Tag Archives: practice

Social media for the anti-social

24 Apr

If you’re like me, social media is a gigantic challenge.  If you’re not, come back later; this post isn’t for you.

I don’t think the technology is a challenge, or the concept is a challenge.  But the practice of social media?  That’s difficult for me.  Probably because at heart, I am what I think of as “selectively social”…others might say anti-social, but there are distinctions.  I, like most, have a core group of friends and family that I keep updated on most of my life.  Everyone else gets much-diluted information, if they get any at all.  It’s not because I like those people less, it’s because I have a mutual trust relationship with the core people and they’ve become the ones I’m excited to share things with.  I also don’t believe that everything I have to say are pearls of wisdom that should be shared with all and sundry – rather, the opposite: I don’t think very much of what anyone has to say is wonderful.  Seth Godin’s blog is a great example.  If you think those words come even close to a significant percentage of what he thinks/says in a day, you don’t do math well.

So, when I joined the social media team at work, it was a huge adjustment.  I wanted to create meaningful content, but now I have a schedule.  I must be routinely meaningful.  It’s frustrating when you go about your day, and you can’t think of anything you want to share your thoughts on.  I get burned out easily by having to check Facebook, and blog, and tweet, and then take care of my personal social media that I use to keep in touch with people I’ve got deeper and more connection.  Tools, that I’ll discuss later, help, but the problem is really me.  I don’t view my activities as share-worthy, and that’s what social media is all about.

How do you deal with social media?  Is it easy for you, or do you have to sit and construct outlines for topics that you can then pull from?  Do you get burned out by it, or does it invigorate you?  I want to know!


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.

Customer service, a skill

1 Feb

Some days progress more satisfactorily than others; that’s not fatalism, it’s just a fact borne out of experience.  Those days aren’t always followed by a “high” of accomplishment or improvement, but more likely than not, a steady, plodding progression of days and hours without distinguishing factors.

It’s worse when you deal with people as a primary function of your job.  Not the people you work with, because those individuals belong to a group whose goals you (theoretically) share.  The public, who have no stake in the outcome of your work and its success, yet form an integral part of your job function, are an interesting animal with whom to deal.  Perhaps that’s the wrong perspective – “dealing with people” is suggesting that interactions are a burden to be endured instead of a relationship to establish.

Think back to when you start dating a person: you each offer the best version of yourself, in hopes that the good parts of your nature will overcome the eventual warts the other person will see.  We offer to the public our best selves (or we ought to), to receive from them a self that isn’t as dolled up.  Interacting with someone when they’re in a hurry, frustrated, or in need seldom brings out the best in that person.  What to do?

Benefit of doubt is an amazing tool: instead of conducting your business by rote, take a moment to create a back story for each person.  It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, as long as it provides you with a reasonable explanation for their behavior that also gives you a chance to feel sympathy toward them.  Sincerity is powerful in interpersonal relationships, and the best way to convince someone you’re sincere is to be sincere.  Even if the reason isn’t correct.

Overlooked and alone…

24 Jan

What would you say if I told you there are many resources out there, completely free, that will help you do a lot of reference?  Especially if you’re in a high school, career college, or university?  I hope you’re excited, because this is really cool.

Ready?  Government documents, at USA.gov.

I know, you’re not a government documents librarian.  I know your patrons aren’t researching the government.  But government documents cover so many topics that it’s possible to find some good information on almost anything.  Next time someone wants information on vaccines, try seeing what you get from USA.gov.

A lot of people labor under the misconception that government documents pertain mostly/only to the legal field; this is not true.  Of course, there are publications covering that, but any agency that is part of the government should be indexed there, as far as publications go.  That means the CDC for medical questions, the Dept. of Education, the CIA and FBI, the Dept. of Agriculture.

If you can’t think of a way this would benefit your reference service, then you aren’t thinking hard enough.  After being skeptical and trying it to prove to myself it wouldn’t be useful, I’m convinced otherwise.  It’s not always useful, for every reference question, but reference never a one-size-fits-all.  I think a lot of us get scared off by government documents because we love our databases, and government docs require cataloging in a certain way that we just don’t want to deal with.

But USA.gov?  Totally usable, totally free, and you should use it.

Do versus Ought

5 Dec

Last week, I told you about the reorganizing of our materials and how standard systems had let me and my patrons down.  This week, I want to follow that with the question that’s at the heart of the matter.

What does and what should your library do for patrons?  Are they the same thing?


I say no.  In our case, it was using a standard cataloging system without examining whether or not it met the needs of our service population.  As I said last week, the root of the reshelve was that our patrons don’t do pure research, and the cataloging system is designed to facilitate pure research.  There are only two options with this: you push pure research onto patrons who don’t do and aren’t comfortable with it by doing “reference instruction” and workshops on using the library.  Or, you observe what your patrons are already doing, and how they use information, ask for their feedback, and make changes to accommodate existing behaviors and needs.

I’m not saying we should let our patrons stagnate, but you know that saying about horses and water?  It applies.  We can’t force patrons to care about research the way we do, and our sense of professional integrity shouldn’t hang on the converts we’ve made, but the people we’ve helped.

I leave you this entreaty: examine what your patrons need from you, discarding any idea of what you want to give them, and see if there are ways you can improve the system by which you meet those needs.