Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Top Ten Things You Can Say to Irritate Library Workers

Thanks to many librarian friends for contributing to this list!
1. You don't look like a librarian.
Oh? What do librarians look like? This? (Nancy Pearl, famous genius librarian. She has her own action figure.)
Or maybe this?
2. It must be nice to sit around reading all day.
Uh...sure. And computer technicians play computer games all day, park rangers spend all their time on leisurely walks in the woods, bankers just roll around in swimming pools of money, and teachers play with kids all day.

Yeah. That's not what we do.

3. Tell those kids to stop talking!
That's not really our world anymore. Most public libraries aim for an atmosphere of quiet and relaxation, but we're not going for silence. Quiet areas - study rooms or 'quiet floors" - are usually available if you need silence. Outside of those areas, people are free to converse.

4. I guess you charge fines to make money for the library.
Not really. With all the processing that goes into your $2.00 fine, it probably ends up costing us more than it makes for us. The point is that fines provide an incentive for you to return the books.

5. Can you help me sort through these online dating profiles to figure out which ones I should respond to?
No. We're available to provide assistance with the computer, but...come on, man.

6. Have you read all these books? (gestures at entire library)
Time for math class, kids! There's like a hundred thousand books in one of our libraries. If I read two books a week, that's 100 books a year; it would take me a thousand years to get through them. Exactly how old do you think I am?

7. I need this book tonight, my book report is due tomorrow!
Okay, this isn't exactly irritating, but it is a little frustrating - mainly because we want to help you, and in this situation there's often very little we can do. If all the copies are checked out, or if the book has to be brought in from another library, expect it to take at least a couple days, maybe even a week or more, for your book to arrive. We'll do our best, but...you'll get better results if you help us help you.

8. Li-berry
There's an R in there, people.

9. What do you mean I have to wait half an hour for a computer?! I don't have time for this *$%!
It's free, guys. Free internet access and free printing. So, a) don't yell at me, b) are you really surprised that other people are using it too, and c) stop complaining, it's free.

10. Libraries are obsolete because of the internet.
Man oh man, that is the big one. Library workers hate hearing that. (I sometimes wonder if despite their protests, librarians have a secret fear that it might be true, but we won't go into that now.) Here's a link to an article that seems to epitomize that attitude:
And here's the lecture you can get from any librarian in response:

The short response: Only if you don't read.

Some people can afford to buy all the books they want. Not me. I read about two books a week. Now, a hardback book costs $20-$25, and a paperback book costs $5-$10, so let's settle on an average cost of $15 per book. At two books a week, let's call it 100 books in a year? That's $1,500 dollars. Now imagine if I had kids! I need my library.

The more complete response: Libraries aren't just about books.

The books are actually pretty important. Anyone who can't afford to buy books for themselves and their children needs the library, especially during the summer. Reading during the summer keeps children from losing educational ground when they aren't in school - there's a measurable difference.

Libraries also provide free internet access, which is important to everyone who doesn't have a computer or high-speed internet access at home. Kids use the libraries for homework. Jobseekers use the libraries to write resumes and apply for jobs online. Many major employers require applications to be submitted electronically - how can we reduce unemployment if the people who can't afford computers can't apply for jobs?

In the library where I work, we like to focus on the idea of the library as a community gathering place, where many different groups of people can come together in a local, convenient, nicely equipped environment. Need a quiet, neutral location to meet a client? Use the library! Need to host an SAT study group? Use the library! Want to hold a book club meeting? Chess club? Quilting club? Business networking society? We're here for you! Want to take the kids to a storytime, or hear a concert, or learn about whaling? The library offers these programs!

Of course, I guess you could just stay at home and talk to people on the internet. Face-to-face interaction is so obsolete now.

Article from the New York State Library about the importance of summer reading.

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