Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Emma the mentor

At Mystery Library I have a young coworker who is a library assistant. She just started her masters' in library 'science' this semester and this is her first library job. She reminds me a lot of me five years ago (Five! I am getting old!). I think she's going to be a great librarian someday, but she is struggling right now with some of the same things I struggled with when I was new, namely patrons being rude to me and the total lack of training that's appropriate to your actual job.

For example, she acts as volunteer coordinator and she's been struggling with a teen who she thinks might have a learning disability or other developmental issue. She has trouble walking the line between giving her things she is capable of doing while not making her feel like she gets the boring jobs compared to the other volunteers, and this girl wants a lot more attention and supervision than my coworker is really able to give. I'm sure most public librarians have dealt with something similar.

My coworker comes from a teaching background and she's not used to the more informal environment of the library where no one is obligated to disclose stuff like learning disabilities, and where you can't make rules for kids the way you do in school. She's also stressed out because she's afraid she will be blamed for the volunteer having a bad experience, despite the fact that she has been told she must accept all 'applicants' who want to volunteer at the library, so it's not like she can decide that this girl isn't a good fit and let her know that we don't have something for her.

It's a little bit horrifying to watch someone go through all the same things I did when I started and not to have much to say other than "This is a pervasive problem in public libraries, so you either need to learn how to cope with it or decide that this career isn't for you." She did say that she would like the library to send her to a class on working with teens with disabilities, which I think is a great idea, but she has to take the step of asking for that from our hands-off manager, and being insistent if the manager brushes her off.

I was frustrated for a while, I gave her the best advice I could, and I have also made this list of things that a new librarian should be if he or she wants to stay sane and be successful:

  1. You must be willing to advocate for yourself
  2. You must be able to accept emotionally that lots of things are outside of your control
  3. You must be willing to do things that you don't feel well-prepared for

Pretty much a standard list for any job, probably. Are there other contenders for the top three that you would add?

By the way, one of the best pieces of job advice I have ever received was from a coworker who remarked to someone who was reluctant to take a sick day: "We're not running a hospital here. No one is going to die if things go wrong."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mid-week Mystery Library check-in

Can I have a..a....what are those little things called? (Flash drives)

Do you have a phone book? I need to find a refrigerator repair technician.

Eager teen volunteer who just got approved calls--Can I come in and start today!?

What do I need to sign up for a library card?

Can you see if I am in your system?

Can you help me with the fax machine? How much does it cost?

Can I use a computer? I'm just visiting.

When I do the print preview on the computer everything looks fine, but at the print release station it's just a blank page.

How do I print from Microsoft Word?

Someone has donated two tubs of 'books'--i.e. everything that was on someone's bookshelf when they died, including ancient magazines, workbooks that are completely filled out, etc.

Manger wants me to print something out for a patron because she's having problems.

Where are the big books for kids? You know, the longer ones like Harry Potter and stuff.

It says my computer is expiring but I need more time. What do I do?

What is it doing when you rub the books we check out on that metal thing? (It's desensitizing them so the alarm won't go off when you leave.)

How much does it cost to replace your library card?

Um, how do I print?

Where are the Ninja Turtles? (Just books, not actual turtles, sadly.)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A tough question

"If you were going to sell something on social media, would you use the internet, or would you use Google?"

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Today's Mystery Library mystery

There is a drawing of a piece of Swiss cheese, executed with considerable skill, taped to the floor in Chapter Books.

Gone when police arrived

I went to training this week on being the person in charge of the building, since that's my job on days our branch manager is out. One of the things we covered was how to fill out an incident report properly, and what kinds of things merit a report. The trainer read out some examples, including these:

Patron was sleeping.

Patron's arm trapped in elevator door.

Beer cans found behind toilet in men's room.

A patron called a staff member an [expletive] and then left.

Patron repeatedly violated the internet use policy.

A patron complained that another, older patron, rather than using the restroom in the appropriate place, used the restroom prematurely.

I think when I was a kid my parents had some sort of police blotter compilation that included a chapter on reports of weird incidents that all ended with the phrase "gone when police arrived." This training brought back vivid memories of that book.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Reference question of the day

A patron told me that she heard that the soon-to-be-released movie about the Flint water crisis, just called "Flint" was based on a book. She wanted to know what book it was based on and if we had it. After some searching, I was able to tell her it was based on a TIME Magazine feature story called "The Toxic Tap" by Josh Sanburn back in January of 2016. I don't get a lot of good reference questions, plus I miss Michigan, so she's patron of the week.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Every Saturday our children's person prepares the materials for a craft and puts them out for any kids that want to try it. Today it was an adorable octopus made by taping a piece of paper into a cylinder, cutting into one end to make separate tentacles, and adding googly eyes. I saw a small girl following her dad around the library, using the octopus as a hand puppet, and saying over and over "I'm a living creature! I'm a living creature!"