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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Work Like a Patron Day!

An enterprising and enthusiastic librarian out there has proposed that today be considered "Work Like a Patron" day (found via the ever earnest Webtamer).

"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.

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Comments

  1. THE Anonymous says:

    Stop trying so hard.

  2. soren faust says:

    Ah, the unreal world of the academic library. Sounds nice. I’ve done this experiment unwittingly many times in the public library I work for. I don’t recommend going into the public restrooms because there’s ususally more than one guy in a stall making strange sounds or thieves breaking open the DVD cases. That said, our library is anything but hospitable to the workers, I’m not sure who has it worse, actually.

  3. AL says:

    Trying so hard? You think this takes any effort?

  4. THE Anonymous says:

    It obviously isn’t taking much effort, if it were it would be tighter and funnier. The AL is getting paid by the word.

  5. AL says:

    Resentment and envy are never pretty.

  6. Brent says:

    It’s another way of saying “think outside the box.” eh eh eh

  7. fantasyliving says:

    Working for the City University of New York, there is democracy: staff and patrons use the same bathrooms (dirty, no towels), staff and patrons have no meeting rooms (except every other academic department in the building), the public computers ARE faster and are replaced more often than staff computers

  8. Patronizing says:

    Thinking outside the box is management babble. Let the librarians do their jobs without having to jump through hoops. The patrons will be served.

  9. Prononymous says:

    The Effing Librarian had a much better take on this.

  10. Forever Anon says:

    “Work as a Patron Day”? You’ve got to be kidding. Where I’m at there is no separate staff entrance, no separate staff restrooms, and all the computers are junk. And no one follows all library policies, not the patrons or even the staff. Of course, the idea behind it is good (to know what problems the patrons face, where things could be improved or repaired, etc.), but why does it have to sound like a gimmick?

  11. anonama says:

    Because it is a gimmick. Kind of like having an anonymous blogger at a published journal.

  12. Stephen Michael Kellat says:

    Funny yet fairly accurate. Sometimes the humor of observation stands alone well.

  13. effinglibrarian says:

    don’t people know that when they pmp (rly? you can’t use *p1mp*?) my blog, they should link to it? actually, read hxxp://helminthdale.blogspot.com/2008/10/work-like-patron-day.html, helminthdale’s version.

  14. AL says:

    anonama, you’re reaching now! Besides, I’m not an anonymous blogger.

  15. heh says:

    A few posts ago, I derided the AL calling her a pu**y, but I was drunk when I did it and when I’m drunk, I’m mean. I have since come around to the side of AL because of how ill it is making all these uptight librarians, particularly because of AL’s identity; it is just so irksome and I love it! I salute you, AL.

  16. testarossa says:

    I think you ran out of material long ago but that you don’t know when to quit. I guess writing this kind of stuff is easier than working, particularly now that you have the Library Journal affiliation. You have become the Annoying Librarian indeed–you are a librarian aren’t you and not a disaffected ”

  17. AL says:

    And yet you keep coming back for more. It’s like a drug, isn’t it? Have you tried the Patch?

  18. CO says:

    Wow, way too long, couldn’t make it through half the post. Tighter writing PLZ! Funnier too, if you wouldn’t mind.

  19. Kimbre says:

    Nothing like my public library, but it did remind me of my days at a large university. Maybe the naysayers are jealous — why bother reading if you hate it. Great post! Thanks!

  20. AL says:

    “Wow, way too long, couldn’t make it through half the post.” I have a feeling you’re reading the wrong blog. Perhaps you should try Library Stuff. It’s a very informative blog with posts of generally just a few words, which won’t tax your apparently limited attention span.

  21. JP says:

    Why do people keep saying the writing needs to be funnier? Is the AL only supposed to be funny?

  22. The Library Scientist says:

    What a fine library science experiment! What was your hypothesis? I’d love to see a formal lab report written up on the subject! Bravo!

  23. Morse says:

    I thought it was funny. I laughed out loud at the “beer pong” paragraph.

  24. anonymous says:

    Thank goodness you stopped short of making out and/or hooking up in the stacks.

    (Or, if you did, thank goodness you stopped short of reporting on it).

  25. Melanchthon says:

    Umm, should I not bathe for days before spending big blocks of hours all through “Work Like a Patron day” surfing the Net for fun stuff???

  26. AL says:

    You should be willing to sacrifice everything for your profession! You’ve probably already sacrificed pay and prestige.

  27. boringpost says:

    I had to skim most of that. Save the verbosity for creative writing class. You could have easily cut out 90% of that and nobody would have noticed. I think someone mentioned trying too hard – that seems pretty accurate.

  28. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    I am wondering if I could get an article published about the blogs comments. I am betting their is a high a ratio of people complaining about the blog to their own web 2.0 activities. No wonder the Nobel Prize for Literature has not gone to US writer in nearly twenty years, not even the modern librarians can read 3 pages. How do we expect Patrons to read, or writers to write.

  29. trimyourposts says:

    It’s the medium. Blogs are intended to be shorter pieces, not a lame extended sketch comedy about college drinking. Some blog writers seem to think that an abundance of quantity can make up for a lack of quality.

  30. AL says:

    “Blogs are intended to be shorter pieces.” Intended by whom?

  31. trimyourposts says:

    Readers of blogs

  32. Jim Ryan from Atlanta says:

    I could only make it through about a third of the original post. Now I know why this stuff is anonymous.

  33. longtimereader says:

    as a long time reader of the al, i think a lot of these snipes are based upon bad expectations rather than any substantive criticism. “intended to be short pieces”? what, like “information wants to be free”? like the blogs in the nyt? a blog is a platform for publishing web content in reverse chronological order. period. anything else you say about blogs will be disproved by a large number of blogs. “not supposed to be a lame comedy sketch”? “lame” is in the eye of the beholder. this isn’t the cream of the crop, but if you didn’t crack a smile during this entire post, you probably don’t have much of a sense of humor. not supposed to be a comedy sketch? says who? did you ever read this blog before it moved to lj? this post reminded me a lot of one where she was in the grocery store chasing people down trying to answer all their questions. I recall posts about placing reference librarians in restrooms because that’s where the users go, or classes she wishes she’d had in library school. I could go on. library jobs that suck and the cover letters applying to them. the “dear annoyed librarian” advice column. library five-o. the annoyed librarian has always been a silly blog, and that’s what some of us like about it. one week it’s 3,000 words on the ala-apa, and another week it’s about librarians offering foot massages at the reference desk to draw in business. for those of us who like the blog, and there’s certainly a bunch of us, the silliness and unpredictability are part of the appeal. read it, don’t read it, comment on it, don’t comment on it, but don’t think for a moment that your opinion is anything other than your opinion, because so far I haven’t seen one substantive critique, only sniping by people who don’t like the blog. if you don’t like it, don’t read it. why would you even bother reading it? sheesh, don’t you have better things to do with your time?

    that said, the thing I definitely don’t like about this blog being hosted on lj (despite the ads, which I’ve taken care of with some firefox addons) is that the annoyed librarian isn’t getting the self-selected readers anymore. it’s getting all these stuffy librarians who read lj and think everything hosted here should be the standard rah rah newsy stuff it always publishes. if you don’t get this blog, the problem is with your expectations, not the blog.

  34. Soren Faust says:

    I agree with longtimereader – AL being hosted on LJ seems to have attracted the bottom of the barrel of librarians. Humorless smugs with nothing to do at their jobs but read blogs they LOVE TO HATE and then make some kind of 3rd rate criticism of it. I wish AL went back to the old blog, to be honest.

  35. george the librarian says:

    Dear longtimereader,

    Please keep your posts short and use upper case where appropriate – all lower case is not stylish anymore.

  36. writeous says:

    Wow! College students like to drink? I’ve read everything now. What’s next? Birds like to fly?

  37. longtimereader says:

    short comments on the annoyed librarian? what’s going on here?

  38. Mobama says:

    The only thing worse than 3rd rate criticism is 3rd rate cheerleading.

  39. longtimereader says:

    is that supposed to be clever?

  40. Reader says:

    It’s amazing how angry so many librarians are with AL, and how juvenile the insults and taunting are. Reading these comments reminds me of exactly why I wouldn’t go near an ALA conference, one might as well attend a preschool picnic.

  41. librarydude says:

    What do these comments have to do with an ALA conference?

  42. silly children says:

    I always love when people think a blog is the dumbest thing ever and then continue to post about how dumb it is. If it’s so dumb and you’re so smart then why are you still here?

  43. Librarian says:

    AL, I’m afraid that you may want to take Soren Faust’s advice and head home to your old blog space. Here at LJ, you’re up against commenters who’ve sharpened their rapier wits on sites like Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground. Prepare yourself if you stay, for you’ll be faced with remarks like “Stop trying so hard,” and eviscerated by taunts of c*nt and n*zi.

  44. Soren Faust says:

    AL, are you a plumber?

  45. her_welshness says:

    LOL – I have to agree with Soren and longtime: these anti AL remarks are frankly juvenile – begone oxygen thiefs and energy vampires, go back to your worthless and demoralising jobs!

  46. librarydude says:

    Rah! Rah! Go team!

  47. soren faust says:

    Dude, I think you have a thing for this, ’cause you keep on coming back for more. Believe me, this is how it started for me, chipping on the weekends. And now look at me, a full time shameless junkie! You’ll get there kid. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you around here for some time to come. I hope you use your own works.

  48. librarydude says:

    Rah rah ree, kick em in the knee! Rah rah rass, kick em in the…other knee!

    This was one of my favorite cheers from high school. Maybe Team AL could adopt if for their use.

  49. Mean Librarian says:

    Enjoyed reading about your experiment, AL, but was disappointed in how the ‘work like a patron’ concept played out. I assumed that ‘working like a patron’ meant treating the patrons the way they treat the library staff.

    Here in my public library, this might involve: omitting the use of words such as please and thank you

  50. Mean Librarian says:

    Also: asking a patron a question, then making him wait to answer it while I yap on my cell phone; engaging a patron in a 20-minute, one-sided conversation about my pet religious, political, or social theories, especially if they happen to be offensive to everyone within earshot; insisting that because “I pay taxes,” patrons should provide me with free office supplies, unlimited Internet use, subscriptions to periodicals no one else is interested in, and full-service copying, tax preparation, and medical advice. All the while, I may be abusive and hostile, because, after all, “I pay taxes.”

    (Whoops–looks as though I AM abusive and hostile. Well, they don’t call me the mean librarian for nuthin.)

  51. austeniteshero says:

    “I recall posts about placing reference librarians in restrooms because that’s where the users go.” Longtimeread, that was one of my all-time favorites!

    Keep up the good work, AL. Some of us wouldn’t want you any other way.

  52. AL says:

    Some of these new readers are like the two old women arguing about a bad restaurant. “The food here is terrible.” “Yes, and such small portions.”

  53. librarydude says:

    Ah yes, the critics are always wrong.

  54. soren faust says:

    AL, do you have any advise on how to go about working in a profession where my interests and competencies intersect in one spectacular explosion of stunning professional ecstasy and personal aggrandizement bordering on total and immutable apotheosis, where opportunities for both personal and professional bliss are eternal, night is banished, and my energy is uncontainable and there are no stick in the mud librarians to contend with?

  55. librarydude says:

    What’s wrong with night?

  56. AL says:

    Social work?

  57. soren faust says:

    What’s wrong with night?

    According to Depeche Mode, nothing.

  58. librarydude says:

    According to you, it should be banished. I was just wondering why.

  59. soren faust says:

    I was using “night” as a metaphor for professional dissatisfaction.

  60. AL says:

    Metaphors are just dead weight. I don’t allow them on this blog.

  61. librarydude says:

    Too bad you don’t have the same rule for lame sarcasm.

  62. soren faust says:

    Hey! metaphors be with you, Dude. Ha! Ha! Ha!

  63. Brent says:

    Simile? If Maureen Dowd became a librarian, I’d imagine her posts would be like AL’s.

  64. AL says:

    Half of her last column (that I read) was in Latin. I should do that.

  65. librarydude says:

    Might as well. Probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

  66. AL says:

    That’s true. There would still be plenty of thick readers who don’t understand what’s going on. Such is life.

  67. librarydude says:

    And the thin readers would recognize that the stuff they’re reading is a waste of time in any language.

  68. AL says:

    No, the thickies would still be coming back for more. They just can’t help themselves. They don’t have lives. They have nothing interesting to say. So they haunt blogs. It’s a sad phenomenon, but I’ve seen it before. They protest that it’s a waste of time, and yet they still keep wasting their time. Pretty stupid, huh?

  69. Jill says:

    AL should be witty and reactionary.
    This piece is neither.

  70. clear and open mind says:

    Constant sarcasm gets old real fast.

  71. pleased says:

    Man, you need to get laid

  72. pleased says:

    Man, you need to get laid

  73. Chik Phil A says:

    Was that really worth saying twice?

  74. pleased says:

    Most definitely

  75. pleased says:

    Most definitely

  76. another anon says:

    AL, I hate to say it, but I don’t think this is working either. See you back in blogspace…

  77. anon nun says:

    I’m not ready to give up on this yet. She just needs more substance and less fluff – and a bit tighter writing style.

  78. Kat says:

    Sorry, but the ‘I got Laid’ blog has already been done. We’re on eggshells nibbling lemons anxiously awaiting the next ALA meeting in an area that the AL can once more afford to attend.

    The first step of scientific discovery does not contain any question or even a hypothesis; any good experiement starts with an initial round of observation gaining experience withthe problem. If you skip this step and go straight to the meetings of the mnind,s you will be stuck in meaningless staff meetings for the rest of your careeer. Bad idea.

    now once you do your observation, you unlock pandora’s box on knowledge. for every box you open, you will discover your new knowledge pales in comparison to the knowledge you discover that you don’t know. This is the greatest crux of science, I suppose.

    Now why on earth should the AL and allher minion cohorts go home? We’re here to ruffle a few feathers, clean a few clsks, and overuse enough old library cliches that we get the regualr LJ staff up in their knickers working to show this blog is simply not true. Now if their research comes back with similar results, maybe the field needs some refreshing., Eitherway, the controversy is sure to spark up more readership. And for that, LJ wins. Who wants to read a bunch of Rah Rah libraries??

    If you cannot read long blogs, we’re sorry. But luckily for you the internet is just like your local library. If you cannot get anything out of the boring dry musty literaure for old dried out prunes section, you can go right on over to the “books with pictures” section. the interent is a really big place!! HAVE FUN!!!

  79. Alaska Hottie says:

    We should stop calling our customers patrons. It sounds pretentious. We should just call them customers.

  80. heh says:

    Both the term patrons and customers are incorrect; you should call them johns, instead.

  81. Don't feed the troll says:

    YHBT, AL.
    They keep coming back if you feed them.

  82. dramallamaorama says:

    Don’t listen to the naysayers AL! I laughed, especially since I work right across the street from the frat houses, and get to experience all the projectile vomiting and rude comments I desire by just walking to my car.

    All you needed is a rap concert in the field next to the largest academic building on campus. It aids studying and helping patrons oh so well.

  83. infostud says:

    >>We should stop calling our customers patrons. It sounds pretentious. We should just call them customers.<<

    Minor seriousness…as I read somewhere once, calling them customers implies they have to pay, and if they can’t pay, they can’t be customers. Sets us up for am economically based class/caste system wherein only those who can afford our services receive them.

  84. HappilyAnonymous says:

    I’d have to agree with Forever Anon – we go in and out the same doors, use the same toilets and all the computers are junk, although the students (high school) have more access than we do (not staff generally, just us for some reason). We know the computers are all the same because sometimes we have to get on to the student machines because there aren’t enough staff computers when we are all there and they don’t all have the same programs etc. We don’t need a special ‘day’ to apprise ourselves of the situation as we are already aware.

  85. infostud says:

    LJ can’t code ion hard returns or give some warning or something?

    [br />
    *grumble*
    And funny – it doesn’t code in HTML breaks and counts HTML code as characters, but then the popup warning says no HTML is allowed.

    No wonder people don’t take us seriously. We can’t even code our own websites properly.
    cripes…

  86. Anonymous says:

    You all work in a library with ONE type of patron?

    I guess the different types of people we get here is an anomaly.

  87. Anonymous says:

    I loved the part about the public computers being faster. It was so true. We don’t allow paper towels in the public restrooms as the patrons use them to clog the toilets. We’ve stopped allowing them hand dryers since they rip the units from the wall.

  88. defensive says:

    Seems like AL can’t take criticism from anyone and needs to post a ‘snappy’ reply to any well-meaning comments…

  89. EDUman says:

    This sounds rather g.h.e.y.