Tag Archives: Libraries

All you need is (job) love.

Hello fair readers!

I’m going to gush here. I’m going to talk about how very very lucky I feel to be part of a great organization and how librarianship can be so rewarding when you have great people working towards a common goal.

Yes. That’s right. I officially *love* my job.

I’ve been doing a great deal of research recently about customer service to prep for a Poster Session proposal. And one thing that I’m noticing all over is that job satisfaction is a major factor when it comes to providing good service.

And this make sense.

Think about it. Think about the jobs that made you miserable. Mine?

That’s right…my very first job I was a waitress at Steak ‘n Shake.


And here are some of the reasons I hated it and therefore, gave bad service: little to no support from management; no indebted feelings towards the product or the company; no rewards system set up for good work skills. And so much more. But those are the main issues.

Now let us bring this back to libraries…

What kinds of things can managers/directors/library boards be doing to create an atmosphere that fosters excellent customer service?

The exact opposite of what Steak ‘n Shake did for me as a naive 16 year old.

*Provide managerial guidance and support: this does *not* mean micromanaging to the point of insanity. I’ve had that kind of situation and trust me, does not make one want to provide stellar service. I’m talking support and guidance, which is different from strict overseer. This is fostering creative solutions to potential problems; backing up the staff when there is conflict; following through on issues and most of all, providing great communication.

*Create a culture: totally nabbed this from the whole Nordstroms service approach and that is because it is *brilliant*. When someone loves their library and in indebted in its success and culture, they are much more likely to provide better service. It’s just natural. When you want something to succeed, you work hard to help it succeed.

and finally

*Rewards system: and this is where many libraries go astray. Some kind of internal rewards system can seem gimmicky but I believe it helps. It helps with creating that culture…most importantly a positive culture. If you hear from a manager every time you do well, not just when you make mistakes, the feeling is magnificent. I’m a strong believer in positive reenforcement, not just with workers but also with relationships, my dog (heh)…everything. It works. Simply put.

So that’s just a tad bit of what me and another really rad librarian are working towards developing. Just a little taste of what our hopefully accepted poster session will entail.  There are so many factors that can go into this and I’m so insanely pumped to find out whether we have been accepted to present!!!!

But what is this post about again? Oh yeah.

I love my job!

I feel so blessed.

Have a lovely week fair readers!

Request for Assistance

Hello fair readers!

I two requests for you on this fairest of lovey love days!

Stamp Your Own Damned Messages!

The first is that you participate in a little survey I’m conducting.

That is…if you are a library worker.  If you aren’t it will not work and you’ll probably just be bored with it anyways.

So here is the link:


You will need the secret password, which I’m just going to post here: lalalibrarian


Okay, second request is a little more along the lines of the holiday.

If you are looking for something to do with your love tonight, might I suggest a little play that is going on at the Theater Building in Lakeview.  It is called Slaphappy and I went to see it on the opening night.  It has love and slapstick, two of my favorite things, and really it would make a great date tonight…or really any night.  Sometimes we all just need to laugh at something completely ridiculous.  This play covers that.  It’s also extremely clever and well cast.  I highly recommend it.  So check it out!


Okay, that’s it for today.  Have a lovely Valentine’s Day fair readers!  And enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Well done CPL.

Well done CPL.

Originally uploaded by leah the librarian

Hello fair readers!

Just a quick note to say how much I totally love Chicago Public Library’s new ad campaign called Not What You Think!!!

It’s totally fab and the website is fresh looking and very modern.   Plus there is a hilarious picture of an old librarian spinning records.  And also recommends the library as a quirky first date location.  I just love it overall.

So well played Chicago Public Library!! I look forward to seeing these ads on the train and grinning everytime I see one!

Have a lovely week, fair readers!

Librarian Mythology From Within

Hello fair readers!

In my new position, I have had the opportunity to have some really interesting discussions with other new Librarians about our field, our realities, and more importantly, our myths.

And lots of the myths are not just coming from people’s stereotypes of the profession but from the community itself.  We have built up a certain amount of untruths about the profession, perhaps in an effort to up recruitment.  However these myths, in this writer’s opinion, can be destructive to the profession.  Recruiting people who maybe are just not suited to modern librarianship and do not understand how much the profession has completely changed.

For example:

1) There are lots of librarian jobs because all librarians are old and retiring.

Anyone else told this when they began to consider library school?  Well…let me debunk this for you.  Librarianship is a profession in which you can spend a great deal of your life.  It requires brain power and, for the most part, little physical power.  So yes, there are many older individuals who are librarians.


They are *not* retiring!!  Despite what some journals would have you beleive, the job market is just as difficult and frustrating for librarians as it is for everyone else right now.  Something I have learned is that having your Master’s degree does not mean you are going to swept up by a library as soon as you receive that degree.  That is just plain not true.

When you get into our field, like most other fields, you need to face the reality that after school you are going to have to compete with many other library graduates *and* librarians in the field.  This is exactly how other fields work.

The idea that a library degree is the golden ticket to employment is just plain false.

And anyone who has graduated in the past year can tell you that.

2) “Why do you want to work in a library?” “I love to read”

Okay.  I love books too.  But it is certainly not my reason for becoming a librarian.  If fact, this is probably one of the *worst* reasons to become a librarian.

Repeat this with me:

“Librarianship is service, Librarianship is service”

Being a librarian means you have chosen to work in a service industry.  If you like to be surrounded by books all day reading, become a scholar…not a librarian.

There are lots of types of librarians. Corporate, legal, medical, media, school, young adult, public services, and more.  One thing that connects all of us is that fact that we all serve a certain community, whether law school or the public, and we provide information services to that community.  This is a difficult and complicated job and commonly, we have very little downtime.

So if you love to read, hurray!  That is grrrreat!

But you might want to consider that being a librarian requires a great deal of social interaction, services, talking in front of groups, and presenting of materials.  If the idea of this scares you, please do yourself and all library patrons a favor, and consider a different Master’s program.

I became a librarian because I love helping people.  If you love to help people and connect them with their information needs as well?  Then perhaps this field is for you too!

That’s right. Those dudes? Librarians.

Now don’t get me wrong.  This might seem like an uber hater post but I would not argue that these are reasons to avoid the field of librarianship.  Not at all.  Mythologies exist in most cultures right?

And if there is one thing I can say about librarianship?  Our culture rocks.   :)

But I would argue that perpetuating these myths, can be destructive to the profession and to the patrons we serve.  It’s important for everyone going into librarianship to realize what the field really is….

librarianship is service, librarianship is service, librarianship is service


Have a lovely Winter week fair readers!

Ch ch ch ch changes

Fair readers, I have a confession!

I am leaving the realm of the public library and accepted a position at Northwestern University, in my former library, Pritzker Legal Research Center!

I’m extremely excited and very much into the idea that I will no long be driving about 1.5 hours to work each day.  And also will be able to get back into the field of law librarianship.


So although I will no longer be a public librarian, I still intend on blogging on my semi-regular basis.  So worry not, fair readers!  I will not be going anywhere.


I’m keeping this one short and sweet. Have a lovely night.

Book of the Civilized Reference Librarian

Hello fair readers!

I have been thinking a great deal recently about etiquette on the Reference desk.  It seems that every library has their unstated set of manners

Whether it be about how to answer the phone (“Reference Department, may I help you?”) or what to wear (no jeans, nothing too lowcut…sigh).

However, there are massive gray areas.  And the one that has been particularly bother me is reading on the Reference desk.

In my first Reference class in grad school I was told by my teacher that this is a *big* no-no.  He says it is better to be playing on the internet and look available than to look completely engrossed in a book and therefore, unavailable.

When I explain this to the average layperson (aka non-librarians) they are usually horrified and surprised.  Horrified because working around tons of books and not being able to read them is well….difficult. And surprised because they expect it.  They expect librarians to be able to read while they wait for the next patron to come along.

Think about it…in all the studies and surveys that I have done about what people think about when they hear the word librarian….book is the #1 response.  Every time.

So where do I stand on this issue?  I’m not quite sure.  I have definitely worked in libraries where it is acceptable to read on desk and even do homework, especially if it’s a slow day/night.  But do I think this is OK?

I kind of do.  As long as you are not nose deep into a Jane Austen novel and ignoring everything around you…well I’m not sure I see anything wrong with that.

Then again…it’s easy to get lost in a book…

Very easy.

And I’m as guilty of it as anyone….

So I guess what it really boils down to is the individual.  If you can control yourself and if you are able to read while also managing to look available and welcoming…then by all means, bookworms, have at it!

At least…that’s my interpretation. :)

Have a lovely weekend, fair readers and I hope you have a wonderful book to keep you occupied!

No Sympathy for the Library Student

Hello fair readers!

I was reading through Unshelved, the library webcomic, and was interested when they introduced a library student character.  And quite frankly, it made me sad.

I keep looking back over library school and thinking about how inspired I was.  The ideas.  The essays on change.  My thoughts on linear management styles and practical ways to integrate Web 2.0 into the library.  I remember actually saying to someone that I wanted to “hit the ground running”.

Now I’m not sure if this is just the burden of being entry level or if this is something going on in the library world, but “hitting the ground running” was almost completely impossible.

My library is busy.  And when I say busy…I mean BUSY.  We barely have time to even get off the desk to catalog books.  So the idea of intergrating all the cool things and tools I learned about in library school is slowing going further and further away.

Now I realize that many libraries are doing this…and doing it well.  But I wonder about smaller, busy, underfunded, struggling libraries.  And yes, these also seem to be the ones that actually have jobs open right now.  How do we start becoming progressive when we barely have time to do the things that we need to do just to make the library run each day.

It will be a great relief to me when I am at the point when I can actually utilize some of the skills I honed in library school.  I am going to be brutally honest.  I am worried about libraries.  And I’m not worried that we are becoming irrelevant.  The amount of people, the needs that they have, the way I am helping people every minute of every day leads me to believe that libraries are not going anywhere.   What I am worried about is that there are some things in library school classes and the reality of working in certain libraries that just do not match up.

Which, in short, is incredibly frustrating for the library student.  Like the one in the comic.

I do not mean to sound doom and gloom.  In fact, with the economy the way it is I believe that we need libraries and librarians more than ever.  As I have said before, knowledge is power.  And libraries provide that knowledge.

I just hope that our librarians, especially the new ones, like me…can stay inspired.

Have a lovely weekend fair readers!  And enjoy the beautiful Autumn weather!

Speaking Truths

Good morning, fair readers!

Two posts in two days?  It must be an August miracle.

Totally like that.  I know.

But the frontdesk secion of Library Journal made me pause this morning.

It mentioned a blog by the name of Baby Boomer Librarian. And a specific post called:

How to Kill a Young Librarian’s Love of Librarianship

(which I’m going to repost here, hopefully he will not mind :)  )

  1. Do not allow out of the box thinking.
  2. Award only those that maintain the status quo.
  3. Blame people for failures.
  4. Call young librarians “cute” and ignore what they can really do.
  5. Tell them “NO.”
  6. Do not allow new librarians to try out different duties. Limit them to only what is listed in their job description.
  7. Maintain walls between departments.
  8. Demand unquestioning trust in what you do.
  9. Veteran librarians know best because that is the way it has always been done.

As a new librarian and a young librarian, this list struck a cord with me.  I feel it should be read by all librarians and passed along.  Hopefully you will find this as intriguing, and even somewhat comforting, as I do.

Again, have a lovely week.

Learning to play well with others…

Hello fair readers!

As most library workers know, a job helping people in libraries can be insanely rewarding.

No no, not that kind of rewarding.  Think of us around the salary line as teachers…but not quite so awfully paid. (sorry teachers but you know it’s true)

It’s rewarding because you get to legitimately help people in a world of information that is overwhelmingly gigantor.  And most people appreciate that.

Most people.

What do you think of when I say the word “problem patron”?

If you are a librarian, your mind probably goes immediately to a face.  The face of that one person, or people, who give you an insanely difficult time.  Who no matter how well you help them, they will never say thank you or even be polite.  They might be a yeller

an aggressive question asker, or even a person with a mental illness who just happened to go off his meds.  It might be a student who believes they are entitled to everything and more and that you will do it for them.  Or a professor who doesn’t understand that librarians are professional, highly educated individuals…not their personal info-slaves (i.e. grad assistant).

One fact remains the same: librarian have to deal with very difficult people every day.

So how do you deal with it?

I would say that many librarians just grit their teeth and bear it.  Answer questions, stay polite, then run to the back and take out your frustration on a piece of paper or a keyboard or something.  And is this the best policy?  Should we still help people who are awful? And mean?  And rude?


Yes we should.

It is rough and it is hard.  Being underappreciated and underpaid is one thing.  But then on top of that, dealing with total jerks is just difficult.

However, what is the very first principle in the library code of ethics?

We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.

It is our *duty* to help people in a professional and kind manner.  No matter the patron or the anger.  It’s hard and it’s difficult but we do it.

Now, I’m not saying we have to help people who threaten us or scare us or make us feel unsafe in any way.  That is different.  That is why the library gods invented the security guard.

To save our librarian butts when the patron gets a little too problematic.

But sometimes people are just having bad days.  Sometimes there are awful things going on in their lives that we cannot understand.  And every now and again, when you are still insanely nice to someone who is being cranky, they crack. And get a slight smile.

And you *know* you have done your job well.

Have a lovely week fair readers.  And good luck with those problem patrons. :)

Lessons. Week One.

Hello fair readers!

I have officially finished one week as a librarian!  And how do I feel about this?

Pretty damn tired.

But! I’m also so excited and learning so much.  I thought I would share with you some of the things I’m learning as my first week of as a Reference Librarian.

Lesson #1:

Not all libraries work completely from their website.

I’m just going to be fair and say that some libraries websites are just more useful and stronger than others.  I came from a library where the majority of questions I would start from the website.  However in my current library, I work almost completely from the Metropolitan Library System‘s website.  And specifically from SWAN, the shared library catalog of 80 member libraries.  And SWAN rocks.  It corrects mispellings, has pictures of books, and even enables users to pay their fines online, a useful thing some other urban libraries (ahem CPL! ahem) should really add to their system.

Lesson #2:

People love….let me restate this….LOVE urban fiction, romance, and mysteries.

Seriously.  I had no idea how popular urban fiction was.  It is damn popular.  I have placed probably at least 50 ILL requests and located just as many in our own library.  And you know who is really popular?  Zane.  Omg Zane.  I didn’t even know who Zane was before this week.  I think she rides the lines somewhere between Romance and Urban Fiction.  I”m not sure.  Now I must say that I’m fairly tempted to place a hold on Dear G-Spot just to see what the big deal is.

Lesson #3:

At a small public library you actually can get by with just a few essential databases such as Reference USA, ESBSCO host, and OCLC databases.

OK I’m going to be honest.  I was frightened to go from Northwestern University Libraries’ massive electronic resources to 6-7 databases.  But you know what?  I’m getting by.  And not just getting by, it’s going fine.  I’m actually pulling out all that book knowledge gained from my Reference courses at Dominican University and utilizing it.  And a lot of people are actually more comfortable roaming the reference section than launching into databases.  I had no idea.  I understand this lesson doesn’t always apply.  But it was a big lesson for me this week.

So those are the main lessons so far.  And I will certainly keep you updated.  But you know what rocks?

Being a real librarian.  I love it.  And it feels so good.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.