Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things I believe--Library Edition

A library is an organism.  Technical Services is the digestive system (They supply the materials and discard the ones that are no longer needed.)  Access Services is the cardio-vascular system. The circulation desk is the heart of the library—shoot, it is even in the name.  Administration is the brain.  Reference is the nervous system that is ready to jump as soon as it gets poked by a sharp object, like a question.  All of them are needed, all of them are important.  They all need to work together.

The vast majority of the public think the kid behind the circulation desk who checks out their books is a librarian.

Many reference librarians believe that students should consult them more often.  Most librarians whose primary duties are to other parts of the organism, but put in time at the reference desk, would prefer that the students were 100% self-sufficient.
 Most of the one-on-one help a librarian gives is to non-traditional (older) students and community users.
There is a time to teach patrons skills so they don’t need you, and a time to just get them what they want or think they want.  Wisdom knows when to do what.
I crunched five years of reference desk data, making generous estimations regarding how long it takes to answer most questions.  I can say fairly accurately that a four hour shift at the reference desk will, on average, yield about 16 minutes of work answering questions.

Average is purely a statistical phenomenon.  I will have one shift before finals, when I actually have people waiting for my help and have almost 3 hours of work to do at the desk.  Then there will be several weeks, or in the summer, months where the only reference desk tasks I have are making an ID card because the administrative assistant is out of her office, or telling someone where the bathroom is.

“Is there a bathroom around here?” is the most frequently asked reference desk question of all time. “Where is the copy machine?” used to hold that place before everyone got a computer and most of the journals went online.

Signs are not put up to inform people.  Signs are put up so workers can feel superior when patrons ask questions and you point at the sign that answers the question which is usually less than a foot away from where the patron asked it.

Every database vendor will use “global warming” as their test search.  No student will come to the reference desk asking for help finding information on “global warming.”  Students will ask for scholarly based research articles written in the last five years on how the rise in temperature of Lake Michigan has hurt the trout fishing and what impact that has had on local economic development.  Oh, and the paper is due tomorrow and all they have found so far is a 1973 book on fishing in Wisconsin.

College students don’t want to talk to grownups.  They are more likely to consult their friends then a librarian when they need help.  If they have to talk to a librarian, more than likely it is going to be one of those frustratingly difficult trout fishing topics.

Despite a reputation for being broadly curious, after helping a patron find resources for a paper my thought is rarely “What a fascinating topic.”  More often it is “Glad I don’t have to do that assignment.”


lhg edited and approved

Monday, February 18, 2013

Married Middle Age Woman Without Kids

It is almost my 41st birthday.  There is no way of denying it, I am middle aged.  My life has taken a lot of turns I didn’t expect and didn’t take a few turns I counted on as a young adult.  I am 40.  I am a wife.  I have been a wife eighteen and a half years.  I’m also a librarian.  I’ve worked in libraries since I was 15.  I’ve had a degree to go with it since 2002.  That I have a degree in Library Science was a bit of a surprise to me.  In my early days of library work I used to state in interviews that I planned to get a degree as a way of showing my interest in the field, but I didn’t believe the line myself.   I finally had a boss who encouraged me to pursue the degree, and there were compelling financial reasons for getting it.  Of late my enthusiasm for my career choice has waned.
                What I am not is a mother.  This was not an active choice.  God in His wisdom has not blessed us with children.  To abuse Job: the Lord gives and sometimes he doesn’t.  Thanks be to God. 
                The simple fact is I am socially an unusual case.  The peers that are my age mostly have school age children and are rightly busy with all that goes into that.  They are very busy with carting children hither and thither and I admire their dedication and diligence as parents.  It does, however, leave me in a lonely place.  They don’t have time for a friend like me aside from the odd comment on Facebook.  It also becomes challenging to find things in common to talk about.  The lack of children often means being left out.  Elusive are couple friends in the same circumstance.  First you have to realize that they do not make up a large portion of the population and then without children a couple develops other interests that are quite diverse making it harder to find friends that you have much in common with.  This is compounded by the fact that Mr. Gaba and I don’t share a great many hobbies or interests.   I’m not complaining.  I am simply stating the facts. 
                There are other groups:  The empty nesters and the newlyweds who haven’t started a family yet.  Relating outside one’s own generation is never a simple thing.  Single girl friends are often more difficult.  While it is easy to find common ground around hobbies or profession, they don’t understand that I’ve been married for 18 years and that my life is ordered by what that means.  When I explain that I do or don’t do something because my husband has strong feeling about it one way or the other, they give me funny looks, like they should be slipping me a phone number for a shelter for battered and abused women.  They simply don’t understand that being a good wife means obeying your husband and that this is not a burden but a privilege.
                Now regarding children themselves:  I do not dislike children, and if I were to find one in my charge, I would be grateful for that child.  As an aside, please don’t ask me if I’ve considered adoption, or inform me that adoption is an option.  It takes every ounce of self-control to keep me from sarcastically saying, “Really, there is such a thing as adoption?  I will have to look into that.  What a novel idea.  I think I’ll go home tonight and introduce that idea to Mr. Gaba.”  I’m a talkative person.  If I were working toward adopting a child I would probably never shut up about it.  Along a similar note please do not ask if I’ve been to a fertility doctor—quite simply, that is none of your business.  When you ask if I have children and I reply, as I often do, “Not so blessed,” take a hint and drop the subject.  It is a bit of a tender one with me.  It is the reason I don’t teach Sunday school, the reason I spend December fighting depression, and the reason I cry every time I see an infant baptism at church.  Most of my life I am content with the blessings God has given me, but at times I look at Mr. Gaba, who in my estimation would be a wonderful father and who so dearly loves children, and I think, “My family is too small”  And yes I have a cat.  I like my cat.  No, he is not my baby, nor a baby substitute.  He makes the house more welcoming to come home to and less lonely when I am home and Mr. Gaba is not there.
                While we are on the subject of home and work, I spend a lot of my life by myself.  One of the difficult adjustments I’ve had in my current job is that my office is removed from my co-workers and the public and it is possible in an eight hour day for me to only speak to one or two people for a few minutes and then get home and wait for Mr. Gaba to get home.   I am not like my peers who are mothers.  My life is filled with too much time alone, and very little in the way of things to plan, arrange, or look forward to.  This will pass.  The children of my peers will grow up and move out and suddenly their day to day lives will be quite similar to mine.   They may then find need of a friend to hang out with and I will be there.
                I’m not writing this asking for sympathy or prayers that God would give children.  I am writing this because it’s been spinning around in my mind for a while and I thought I’d share. 


lhg edited and approved