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Thursday, July 19, 2012

10 Tips for Librarians


For whatever reason, I've been asked to do a bunch of interviewy-type stuff lately (you can read two of them here and here), and it's been a lot of fun talking about my job and trying to raise awareness for public libraries. A common question I seem to get (even if my response doesn't end up in the published interview) is if I have advice for future and/or current librarians.

Now, I don't consider myself an expert, but I've learned a few things during my relatively short time as a librarian so far - nothing groundbreaking, nothing mandatory, but things that might possibly be helpful. There's a ton of advice for librarians out there. These are just MY views (feel free to add your own in the comments!) They might change in the future, and I will most certainly discover more. The most important thing I've learned is that you have to be flexible. 

Screwy Decimal's Top 10 Tips for Librarians:  

1) Even though you can't read every book in the world, try to have a general idea of what's going on out there. Glance at the New York Times Bestseller list. Talk to other librarians and friends in publishing or education. Scour bookstores and book-related websites. Find out what movies-based-on-books are coming out. And, as much as it may pain you, learn the names of the most recent James Patterson and Jackie Collins books (trust me on this one, especially if you ever work on the adult reference desk). 

2) Don't be a hero. Take your lunch break and any other breaks to which you are entitled. When you're on a busy reference desk and doing programs for most of the day, you need those precious few minutes of escape. 

3) Related: do NOT wear your library identification if you leave the library for your break. You WILL get asked reference questions in public. 

4) If someone flirts with you at the reference desk, don't flirt back. The only exception is if the person is Robert Downey Jr. - or your celebrity crush equivalent. You might think you're being nice and that it's harmless, but it will come back to haunt you. Just be polite, yet clear that you are not interested.

 
5) BOOZE. ('Nuff said.)

6) Form bonds and respect the kids and teens who come to your library, but don't let them run amok. You can be a positive and fun adult figure in their lives without letting them be disruptive or allowing them to take advantage of your good nature. 

7) On that note, don't let adult library patrons bully the kids JUST for being kids. The library is for all ages (this should be obvious, but sometimes people need a reminder).

8) Don't be afraid to stand your ground.

9) Don't be afraid to bend the rules.

10) And for the holy sweet sake of Pete, wear comfortable shoes.

That's all I've got for now. Have fun out there, kids. 

23 comments:

  1. I would add that I run a second-hand bookshop and those rules pretty much apply here too. Including the flirting one... *says the voice of bitter experience* Great list!

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    1. Thanks! I imagine there's a lot of overlap!

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  2. I don't always daydream about being a librarian, but when I do, it's usually after reading one of your posts.

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    1. What a fabulous compliment. Thank you!

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  3. Great set of tips. I think patience is another good tip to give. Before you tell anyone anything, take a breath and think about what they are saying and how they are saying it. Too many times I have seen paraprofessionals and librarians quickly dismiss a question or assume what the patron means leading to disastrous results.

    "And now these three remain: non-flirting, patience and booze. But the greatest of these is booze." 1st Librarians 13:13

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    1. Oh yes, patience is a MUST. Maybe even more than booze.

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  4. Great list, thanks. I'm a library assistant but have learned a few of those so far myself. It's good that librarians help others by posting advice! The best of which is booze, obviously...

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  5. Re. #3: I usually wear my badge when I go out for lunch. Several times, I've gotten discounts from restaurants within the proximity of the 'brary.

    I'm not saying there's a connection, but hey, a few dollars off a sandwich is nothing to sneer at. :O)

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    1. I'm jealous! That's never happened to me. Maybe I should start DEMANDING a discount. :P

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    2. Rita maybe you could discover their reading interests and see if you can interest them in something new; or discover their advertising strategy and find something positive to say about it?

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  6. Love this! I would (self-servingly) add - cultivate a relationship with the school librarians in your area (those who send kids to ya!) Having an A+ partnership with them will help that connection with the kids & teens that frequent your branch. Plus, they're usually cool people!
    Cheers!
    ~Gwyneth

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    1. I second having a good relationship with the school librarians. I'm lucky to have a great relationship with two of the schools close by and they are the best at sending classes down for special programs. We'd never have an audience for any school age programs without our relationships with the school librarians.

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    2. Great advice! The school/library connection is essential.

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    3. Alas, the superintendent of schools in my city laid off all the elementary and middle school librarians. It's been a nightmare maintaining any relationship with the local public schools.

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    4. Oh, that's horrible. :( I'm very sorry.

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    5. It's frustrating, to say the least. But at least I know when the kids come in to see me, they're getting as much as I can possibly give them and they in turn tell their friends how much help they got here.

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  7. This makes me wish that I worked in a library with kids instead of a university library, at least a little bit!

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  8. hmmm....I like when people ask me questions at the grocery store.
    Its a sign we're still relevant and while I don't make a point of wearing my name tag, if it's on, people note it and I sell the library.

    That's a good thing, no?

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    1. I suppose it's good in theory. However, it depends a lot on WHAT kind of question and who is asking it. I don't want to get yelled at about late fines when I'm just trying to buy a coffee, you know? I feel VERY relevant when I'm in the library, so I just need that time to decompress. It all depends on the specific situation, of course.

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  9. I work in a college with students who are mainly 16-19 year olds, and I think another important top tip is not to judge. I work a lot on reader development in conjunction with requests from students, and although a lot of what they like is often derided as being 'merely teen fiction', I still buy it. I don't think it's our place to judge, and, at then end of the day, if it gets them reading then that's what I'm interested in.

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  10. I worked at a public library for 14 years as a library clerk. Many times I would hear from across the shopping mall, "MOM! IT"S THE LIBRARY LADY!!!" Yes, it was shouted at a decibal only a 5 year old can reach. :)

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