Thursday, October 30, 2014

If you could tell a class full of library technicians one thing about working in public libraries...

I'm not a library technician, but many of my dear friends are LTs and I love them dearly... and I am going back to teaching them again in January. In the meantime, I am giving a guest lecture on Friday to a room full of them, so I did a Dangerous Thing. I posted on my Facebook wall asking for answers to the following question: If you could tell a class full of library technicians one thing about working in public libraries, what would it be?

Of course, my advice would be copious, but the soundbite bits would be the entire text of this (especially "You are not a format. You are a service [....] Most of your most passionate users will never meet you face to face. Most of your most alienated users will never meet you face to face [....] The user is not “remote.” You, the librarian, are remote, and it is your job to close that gap.").

The responses I received were so diverse, and some were so beautifully written (#17! #36!) and/or hilariously true (#6! #37! #46!), that I wanted them to have a permanent home beyond social media and a PPT. I only made one small change below, moving my favourite of all the submissions to the end.

Here they are, in all their (mostly) unedited glory!
  1. You need to know where the stapler is at all times and you have to be able to politely decline requests for envelopes.
  2. Every now and again, you help someone who changes your life.
  3. Value your people in all their stripes ...
  4. Technician jobs vary A LOT in public libraries. Expect the unexpected. There is a technician job for every personality; from those who like cubicle work to those who like storytelling.
  5. You will need tons of patience because the most annoying people frequent the public library.
  6. Take a plumbing course.
  7. Expect the unexpected.
  8. Never expect to be paid a librarian's salary!
  9. Have patience; patrons are not as familiar with your library's polices or collection as you are
  10. All sorts of people walk through the doors. That’s what makes every day so interesting.
  11. Get involved with your union
  12. Be open to change
  13. Never underestimate the help you provide - you could be changing a life!
  14. Rapid pace of change. I don't work in a public library, but to all library workers/managers/librarians/technicians: be prepared to become obsolete - keep learning everything you can.
  15. Be prepared to learn very private, or very obscure, things about people you barely know.
  16. All of the requirements in a job description are important, but a cheerful attitude toward the "other duties as required" (which can, upon occasion, require gloves) will take you far.
  17. Once in a while you will know with absolute certainty that you made a difference in somebody's life. And that can keep you going through all the - where's the washroom?, can I use the stapler?, make a phone call?, eat my fast food/coke/coffee? Or anything that involves having to wear rubber gloves.
  18. Whenever I get frustrated or fed up, I look up library mission statements. We are out to change the world and that always makes me feel ready to tackle what's next.
  19. You may have to play role of listener to those in the community who don't have anyone else to talk to. That and kids who may pee on the carpet in the toys section. 
  20. For programming: take time to get to know your patrons before you start programming. This may seem obvious but cater to the clientele you have! Don't run programs where only one person comes. Also adults need more programming and will come to it if you provide. So far I have had adults interested in book club, genealogy research, computer lessons, and more! 
  21. Be ready to adapt and change - libraries are never static. And do it with a positive attitude! You will love your chosen career!! 
  22. Get to know publishers reps! They have a wealth of information and can supply you with copious amounts of posters, bookmarks, galleys, stickers, and loads of promo materials. Always have stickers and bookmarks available for children! 
  23. You WILL have to deal with difficult and stressful situations that try your patience. They can bring you down or they can be funny anecdotes, the choice is yours. 
  24. You may never know how important the question is to the person who is asking so always treat each question with respect even if the client you are serving is making you absolutely bonkers. The impact you have can never be underestimated! And what the other person said... get involved in the union. 
  25. Just because high school kids are older children never doubt the simple programs, from decorating for the holidays (dancing zombie hand on circ desk) to just sticking a puzzle on a table - it will make their day. Also, you must become MacGyver when answering question to finding program material. 
  26. Be curious. 
  27. Always have lots of Purell.
  28. The 3 most inaccurate assumptions and questions will be: 1. Oh that must be a quiet, calm place to work? 2. You must get to read a lot at work? 3. You had to go to school for that? Ok, to leave on a positive note: storytimes will make you feel like a rock star! 
  29. 1-Pick your time and place but never be afraid to challenge the status quo. 2- Find a mentor (or many). They truly are invaluable. 
  30. There will be days when it is quiet. Embrace those days because the next day the stupidity of the human race will never cease to amaze you and make you cry. 
  31. There's still time to change your mind! 
  32. The smile on a child's face when you give him or her the perfect book to read 
  33. Be welcoming of everyone. You're being trusted with a question, or several, so put on your Free Information Wizarding Cape and wear it with curiosity, open-mindedness, and pride.
  34. The public library is a big equalizer. Whoever comes through the door is treated equally. 
  35. Your co-workers will be your most valuable resource. 
  36. Everybody has baggage. Don't let the baggage - yours or theirs - get in the way. Do your work with empathy and care. What you do will make a difference in the lives of others - for better or worse you are making an impact. 
  37. You will be amazed by how much time you will spend moving furniture. 
  38. Never judge a question. Answer each one to the best of your ability. What sounds silly or trite may be more important than first thought. Probe to find the real information need. 
  39. Try to forget everything you've learned at school, so you can see the library through your customers' eyes. Anticipate what they will need, and provide it before they ask. Some people will never ask - but you can still answer.
  40. You can be the difference between a patron having a crappy experience or a really awesome one. Try your best - it goes a long way. 
  41. How wonderfully diverse libraries locally are... 
  42. Find out what they actually want as opposed to what they just asked you. 
  43. Always keep up with the latest technology, the impact it has on the public and your place in its introduction and use. What a role libraries play!! 
  44. Don't believe everything your union or association tells you. 
  45. How rewarding it is to see gratitude when you truly help 
  46. Try turning it off and on again. 
  47. The library is located where you start the conversation.


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