"Where's the bathroom?" - the digital edition.

Each day I get emails from patrons asking me to do stuff for them, like check our catalog for a book, or tell them how to download something. And I'm amazed. At their perseverance.

You see, to send me an email, it takes a minimum of 8 clicks through different pages and within a form with mandatory fields. They also get a warning that anything they send becomes entered into the public record, accessible by anyone who makes the request. And yet they continue.

But to check our catalog or access our downloadables, it takes only 1 click. To borrow an ebook takes 3-5 additional clicks or fields that need to be filled in.

So it takes about 50% more effort to send me a message than it takes to download an ebook, or check our catalog, or do pretty much anything else on our site.

Librarians often get asked things that are way beneath our training: where's the bathroom? where's the pencil sharpener? do you have a tissue? can I use the tape? can you tie my shoelaces? why are you choking me?

So when I see that someone has emailed me with a request that takes only half the effort that it took to find me and ask a question, my first thought is that this person "is awesome!" They can fill in an online form that requires several sets of information entered into the correct box, including an email address and library card number. So they understand these relatively complex tasks.

And so when I read their request that I search our catalog for them, I want to tell them, "You can do it. You sent me this message. You can do anything!" So that's how I reply. I don't do the search. I give them the support and confidence to do it themselves.

So that's my new motto. My inspirational mantra: "You can do it. I believe in you."

If you email me and ask me to check our catalog for a book, I will reply with "You can do it. I believe in you."

If I see you reaching for a book on the top shelf, far out of your reach, I will say, "You can do it. I believe in you." And then I will walk away.

For all your endeavors, I say, "You can do it. I believe in you." And then I will sit and read the paper.

And to all you librarians, I say, "Yes, I believe I am helping them." Because "belief" is a powerful thing. Happy holidays.

Comments

Librarians whose motivation

Librarians whose motivation is "securing their jobs" need to be given a dose of reality. In this day and age of self service in circulation and information access, librarians are not doing themselves any favours keeping the community in the dark just so they have something to do when they come to work each day. It belittles the community and it belittles the profession.

Retrain. Become a reader adviser, a technical and service support staff, an out reach officer. Libraries are not dead, but they will be if the librarian keeps holding them back.

Victoria (Librarian)

Victoria (Librarian)

Librarians whose motivation is "securing their jobs" need to be given a dose of reality. In this day and age of self service in circulation and information access, librarians are not doing themselves any favours keeping the community in the dark just so they have something to do when they come to work each day. It belittles the community and it belittles the profession.

Retrain. Become a reader adviser, a technical and service support staff, an out reach officer. Libraries are not dead, but they will be if the librarian keeps holding them back.

Where's the LOVE?

At the risk of falling into a trap of facetiousness, this is how librarians should make themselves relevant? As much as I would like to believe this is a facetious Post, it doesn't sound like it, and while there is fundamental truth in the theory (Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.) it doesn't sound like librarians would be securing their jobs with this attitude.

Email is a poor means of communication at best, so telling someone via email to "do it yourself" seems very risky at best. Most library customers don't think Reference Librarians are worth much more than giving directions to the bathroom, so reinforcing that perception doesn't seem like the best way to change the image of the 21st Century librarian. Although most who would be emailing such a request are very familiar with "I believe in you", and might be comforted by that, I doubt it would be persuasive in changing their opinion of librarians.

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