"I’m proposing “Work Like A Patron Day” on October 15th. In honor of the day, I think library staff should (when possible):
- enter and leave the library through the public entrance (not the staff doors)
- use the public restrooms
- use the public computers to do your work
- reserve public meeting rooms for meetings
- follow all library policies"
This sounded like a fun learning experience to me, and I’m sure you can all imagine how much I love fun. That’s why I’m a librarian!
So I could write about this for today, I’ve already tried the experiment and I’m ready to report my results.
First, in order to really work like a patron, one has to become the patron. It’s not enough just to use the public loo, one really has to inhabit the character to gain the full benefit of the performance. I know this because I read an exhaustive treatise on method acting, plus I also saw Stella Adler in a movie once. But how do I become the patron? Since I work in a university library, most of my patrons are college students. If I were going to work like a college student, I’d have to act like a college student. That requires some research, but I’m a librarian so I love research.
I prepared myself Monday night by going out drinking in one of the local college hangouts. It was tough. First of all, I had to abandon my beloved martinis for the night. When have you ever seen a college student drinking a martini at a bar? Never, that’s when. But what to drink? I could have been just as happy with some other classic cocktails – a sidecar or a bronx, for example – but that would have given the game away as well. A glass of wine seemed inappropriate, too. Not too many college girls sipping cabernet sauvignon at the local pub as far as I could tell. So I gritted my teeth and ordered a beer. I got the best beer they had on the menu the first time, but after that one I’m not sure what I was drinking. Took me back to my impoverished grad school days. It was yellow and bad, but at least it was free.
Free, you say? Surely these college bartenders don’t recognize the Annoyed Librarian and hand out free drinks, like my regular bartenders? No, but by this time I’d hooked up with some frat guys and sorority girls and was shooting pool in the back room. I got free beer every time I beat their fraternity champion at pool. Unfortunately for him, I paid my way through college hustling pool and he was no match for the AL, even though my shots were rusty. My bank shot was a bit off, but my mastery of English had no peers. It was also unfortunate for me, because the beer was awful.
That was just the warm up, though. After that we all went back to one of the fraternity houses and started playing something called "beer pong." I almost asked, "What is this ‘beer pong’ of which you speak?" But so far I was blending in nicely – aided by my baby face, my girlish figure, and the general absence of strong lighting – and I didn’t want to give the game away. Before I knew it I was tossing ping pong balls into plastic cups of beer, or rather, I was tossing ping pong balls across the room while my opponent was tossing them into cups of beer. Clearly I’d met my beer pong Waterloo.
Late that night, or early that morning, I tried to use the library. My head wasn’t completely clear, but I vaguely remember trying to IM the library. The transaction is still saved on my phone:
"AL: wheer doo i liv? neeed aspirn!
Library: AUTOMATED RESPONSE – We’re sorry. The Chat Up a Friendly Librarian Service is available between 3:00pm and 4:15pm Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:27am and 10:48am Tuesday and Thursdays, and 1:30pm to 2:00pm Fridays and Saturdays. Thank you for your question!"
So far, so bad. Around noon Tuesday I woke up on a sofa at the frat house with a pitcher of margaritas cradled in my loving arms. After establishing that my head hadn’t exploded, I slowly made the walk of shame back to my apartment. I really felt like a college student now! Upon having a cup of coffee, a liter of water, three ibuprofen, and a shower, I dressed in ugg boots and the only pair of sweatpants I could find, which I’m pretty sure were left by my nephew the last time my brother visited. I wore a tee shirt with the school logo that I’d once won in a charity raffle, and I was off to the library!
I followed the Swiss Army Librarian’s advice and went through the front door. The library looked much darker than usual, until I realized that my eyes were in a permanent squint. After prying them open and discovering the lobby was much more attractive than the staff tunnel I usually entered through, I sallied forth into the stacks to find a place to study. The first thing I noticed when I sat down at a study table with my laptop was how much nicer the table was than anything in my office. At LJ, I’ve got a mahogany desk in my thirtieth-floor corner office which my personal bartender, Chip (Hi, Chip!), lovingly waxes every morning, but at work I’ve got that modular metal stuff. Yuck! Out in the stacks the study tables were all light oak with a smooth finish and a warm glow. I could get used to this, I remember thinking.
After a while I grew weary and went in search of more comfy accommodations. Eventually I stumbled upon one of our reading areas and plopped down on the leather sofa. Ahhhh. This was nice, so firm, yet so enveloping. We don’t have anything like this in the staff areas. Heck, it was nicer than my sofa at home. For a couple of hours, I slept the sleep of the just.
After waking, I definitely needed a cup of coffee, so I wandered to the cafe in the library basement. It was my first time there, and the coffee was good, I mean really good. It sure beat that swill in the staff lounge that I’d been forced to drink once when I forgot my wallet at home and couldn’t visit my favorite local beanery. From now on, I won’t be leaving the library. I’ll be drinking with the students.
After consuming two double lattes in quick succession, I checked my list, and was pretty sure this was the time to "use the public restrooms." Deliberately, I sought out the most distant restroom, the one in the hinterlands of the stacks. What I found was like a palace! While our staff restrooms are dingy and industrial and typically don’t have paper towels or anything else one might need, this restroom was bright, clean, and well stocked. It also had those ergonomically designed lowboys, and I felt like I could sit there forever leafing through the magazines artfully arrayed in the stall rack. The best part about it was that the washroom attendant had a strict no-tips policy, which I appreciate. Handing out tips to the servants always makes me feel so undemocratic.
I had no meetings that day, so I didn’t need to reserve a meeting room. However, I wandered around and found that we have many more meeting rooms than people meeting in them, so I sat down in one for a while and just rested my head on the oak seminar table. It felt cool against my skin.
After my slice of pizza for dinner, the only thing left on my agenda was to use the public computers, so I sauntered over to a bank of computers in the information commons and sat down at the first free one I came to. After wiping the keyboard carefully with one of the disinfectant towelettes helpfully supplied in the little basket next to the machine, I started playing around with things. Surfing the Internet, manipulating large image files, editing video content, etc. What I couldn’t help but notice right away was that this thing was fast. This was the Ferrari of computers beside which my staff machine resembled a Trabant. As students passed by, I kept gawking and gesturing toward the computer, whispering, "Fast, fast!." They didn’t seem impressed.
About midnight, I figured it was time to start asking reference questions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any reference librarians. They were probably home asleep by then, just when I was ready to talk to them. No dedication, I guess. After joining a few random study groups, I finally came home. It’s late now, but I’m a bit wired and can’t sleep, so I’m writing this.
"Work Like a Patron Day"? I don’t recommend it. No doubt it was supposed to get me thinking about how I could make things better for patrons. All it did was make me realize how much better those patrons have it than I do. Being staff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I liked it better when I was just a patron.