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Reverse Samson

April 16, 2011

So you always hear about those surveys that tell us that the public really does value librarians and think we perform a valuable function, but I’m still not sure they know exactly what that function is. It’s embarrassing how many times, upon telling people that I’m in Library School, I get the question, “So what is it that librarians do anyway?” A lot of the people who ask me that question think all we do is circulation, possibly because patrons have more interactions with the folks in that department. That’s probably also why we get so many people trying to check out things at the reference desk, despite the not at all large enough “Check Out Here” sign over Circulation. Which brings me to another thing. Signage, despite what all the books tell you, doesn’t help one bit. No one is looking for the signs. They just stumble around aimlessly until they find someone they can ask. When they then notice the signs, it’s like it was the most obvious thing, but it makes me wonder why they didn’t just look for a sign in the first place. Maybe it’s because I hate to ask for help and love maps, but I always look for signs because often they are there somewhere. Maybe it’s one of those things that’s too obvious for people to consider or it’s just faster to ask.

Anyway, I got off topic there. Today we’re talking about patrons who misuse librarians. This week I seem to be some sort of personal assistant or doorman for patrons. First I had a guy have me make all his copies of some legal forms he needed. Actually, this one may be more of a point of service confusion. They get the legal forms from us, but then they’re supposed to go over to the copier to make them. I did tell him he could make copies, but instead he just handed what he wanted to me.

Next up, a patron needed help with the photocopier and decided I was going to hold things for her while she finished making her copies. This is despite the fact that she had a friend with her and there was a nearby table where she could set things. I was happy to hold things while I was helping her, but after we sorted things out I wasn’t super happy to hold things while she finished her multi-page copy job. Later that week a patron gave me a plastic bottle to dispose of for her because she couldn’t find the recycling bin. That one was kind of my fault because I would rather recycle something for a lazy patron than have them toss it because they can’t find the recycling bin. So maybe I’m more just glad she asked what she should do with her recyclable.

On their own these things don’t really bother me, but it was happening a lot this week. Also, I think I’m slightly more sensitive to this sort of misuse because of my time working at a grocery store. I graduated with the ever-useful English degree and ended up working at a grocery store, which was fine once I found good shoes to wear, but people assume that you’re an idiot if you work at a grocery store. It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t do simple math (in my defense, even when I rocked at Calculus I couldn’t do simple math). I had several frustrated customers insult my intelligence or otherwise berate me when I didn’t do what they thought I should be doing. This was after me calmly trying to explain that this wasn’t my job. I’m just not fond of people who abuse customer service positions.

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