Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Telling Off the Patrons

This series of articles came out a month ago, I know, but somehow I missed it. Fortunately, a kind reader sent it on to me. "Top 20 things librarians in public libraries wish patrons knew or did" can more or less be summed up in considerably fewer than twenty things: Shut up, listen to us, don’t waste our time, don’t smell bad, and remember we’re here for you! But five points and eighteen words couldn’t have filled four (!) separate articles spanning an entire week. I’d tell those Examiner people that brevity is the soul of wit, but I think we all know that would be the pot calling the kettle black.

It does my heart good to see librarians breaking away from the puff pieces the ALA likes to see and really tell people how it is. This is almost like librarians talking amongst themselves about the things that annoy them. We always do that at the Annoyed Librarian, but normal people don’t read the AL, just librarians. What do the librarians polled by the author want the public to know?

My favorite was, "9.  Practice good hygiene." Wow! That’s telling it like it is! Maybe libraries could put up little signs telling people to bathe. Or signs with the universal symbol of a stinky person with a no symbol on it. Then somebody could take a picture of it and the Webtamer could post it on his blog! This probably wouldn’t work, though. I hardly think the public is likely to take grooming tips from librarians.

"8.  Please listen to us the first (or even second) time we say something. This goes for when we answer a reference question or ask you to lower your voice." I like this one, too. Along with "12.  Hang up your cell phone when you come to the reference desk (or circulation desk)," it really gets the message across to library patrons: shut your yap and listen to me, or else!" After all the blather I’ve had to read about library "customers" this is refreshing. What we all know but don’t tell the stinky public is that we know what we’re superior to them and they’re a bunch of yahoos we tolerate because we’re a lot nicer and more refined than they are.

Number 11 telling the public the library has a lot of DVDs goes well with number 2, wherein they are also told librarians will check out Nightmare on Elm Street to 6-year-olds. They do this under the guise of "intellectual freedom." I guess a 6-year-old watching a slasher flick is what passes for "intellectual" among some librarians. "Number 2" describes their intellect well.

Number 14 tells the public to thank librarians more, because librarians "often deal with patrons who test our patience," so it’s nice to be thanked. It goes well with number 13: " Please be patient with us," in which the public is informed that "Waiting is a part of life." The message seems to be that when patrons waste a librarian’s time it’s a bad thing, but when librarians waste a patron’s time, that’s okay. This is absolutely true, of course, I’m just surprised anyone was willing to state it so boldly. I applaud these librarians for speaking truth to power.

"19.  Ask us for what you really want,  Please be specific!" This one seems designed to make the life of librarians slightly less interesting. Just about the only stimulating part of reference work is trying to figure out what the hell the person really wants. Facility with the reference interview might be the only thing that separates librarians from clerks.

Speaking of clerks, their time is valuable as well. This one deserves to be quoted in full: "7. If possible, check out all materials at once from the circulation desk.  This ties up the library assistant’s and circulation clerk’s time.  It help avoids a backup at the circulation desk, especially during busy times or when the desk is short staffed.  Be mindful of your time at the self checkout station as well." I’m not entirely sure what message this is trying to get across. Is it checking out all materials at once that ties up the circulation clerk’s time? That’s what the first two sentences actually say. However, what I think the writer means is that not checking everything out at once ties up the circulation clerk’s time, and that this is a bad thing. If the job of a circulation clerk is to check things out to people, does it make sense to complain that checking stuff out to people "ties up" the clerk’s time? That’s what the clerk is there for, right? I half expected the next point to tell patrons not to ask any reference questions, as this ties up the time of the reference librarians, but that point had more or less been covered by 8, 14, and 13. I like the final warning to hurry it up at the self checkout station, too. Don’t just waste the time of librarians or library assistants by asking them to do their jobs, don’t waste the time of our machines, either!

After all that, I’m not sure the injunctions to "1. Use us!" will really matter much. I think it’s pretty clear that we don’t want people using our libraries, especially loud, stinky people (and this seems to describe a large swath of the masses). Personally, I found "18.  Ask us what we read" amusing. Why on earth would anyone care what librarians read?

The fourth installment of this riveting series begins with the author laying it out for potential library patrons who may have missed it the first three times. "I won’t lie, there are patrons who make our job difficult and often challenging.  If you’re afraid you fall into the latter category, go back and read parts 1, 2, 3, and take a look at part 4 below.  You may soon find yourself a favorite of your local librarian." Who was the audience supposed to be for this? Are problem patrons going to dutifully go back through all the points here and say to themselves (after a vigorous slap on the forehead), "Of course! I need to listen to the kind librarian, Miss Manners. From now on, I’m going to bathe regularly, keep my mouth shut in the library, queue up quietly, and try to remember that the time of a library clerk is much more important than mine. What could I have been thinking?" Somehow I don’t see this happening. I hate to break it to all you annoyed librarians out there, but those patrons don’t want to be one of your favorites. They just want you to do their bidding, toot sweet.

Still, even though these words of truth are wasted on loud, stinky library patrons, at least we can thank this librarian for trying to get the truth out there.

I wonder what else we could tell the patrons to help keep them in line.

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Comments

  1. carptrash says:

    Tell them to improve their aim when they vomit in the bathroom. eeeeeeeeeeeeek

  2. Brent says:

    “18. Ask us what we read. It’s in our job description to be avid readers.” This is not necessarily true; it’s another stereotype. Librarians have diverse interests. For example, patrons could “ask us what video games we play.” Or “ask us what reality TV shows we watch.”

  3. Mr. Kat says:

    Or they could ask us our favorite brand of disinfectant. After all, we do work in a public library.

  4. the.effing.librarian says:

    I liked the article, except I don’t think she ever got around to telling a “s4xy librarian” joke. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one: “A priest, a rabbi, and a s4xy librarian were at the beach…” No, never heard one.
    Oh, AL, anything I can do to get you to plug my book? I don’t really care if anyone buys it; I’d just like for someone to *think about* buying it.

  5. Library Cynic says:

    I don’t think she ever got around to telling a “s4xy librarian” joke.

    You can’t joke about something that doesn’t exist.

  6. Anonymousse says:

    “Facility with the reference interview might be the only thing that separates librarians from clerks.” Actually, at my library, the only degreed “librarian” sits in her office all day and sleeps…um, orders books. The clerks and other personnel are the ones who not only check out the books to patrons and shelve returning books, but also handle reference questions.

  7. Desk Jockey says:

    When people come to check out books and videos, I ignore them as much as I can. Can’t they see I am an avid reader and am busy doing research for the library? The self-checkout is over there, fat ass.

  8. Miss Prim says:

    I do not like people oogling me and telling $exy (thanks LJ for keeping filth out of the comments) librarian jokes.

    Firstly, they are inappropriate and secondly, I don’t get them.

  9. Scott says:

    The problem with telling them to bathe is they will do it in the sinks in our restrooms.

  10. Miss Proper says:

    I think that the public should not be allowed into the public library.

    They are smelly, rude, demanding, and make my job hard.

    They should have a drive up window, like at the bank where they can put a slip of paper into a tube asking for things and we will get it out to them when we feel like it.

    Patrons be damned.

  11. Crazy Cat Lady says:

    Personally, I have more problems with the folks I’ve hired. I find that calling them into the office and giving them a good browbeating makes me feel better. “Now I expect you to work!”, is something I’m always saying. Taking someone’s head off in a staff meeting or in front of non-professional staff is another way to make the point. There are sly ways to infer that there may be layoffs in the future, and in this area
    that can mean a long and expensive job hunt, on top of keeping the rent paid. I find fear a good way to manage the staff. After all, there are plenty of folks with an MLS who would gladly have a library job. ALA, and the library education system, have have seen to this. I AM the Regional Library!

  12. AL says:

    The library is a lot more pleasant when there aren’t people in it shuffling around and bothering me.

  13. Stranger Danger says:

    My favorite is number 18. Watch your damn kids. Than means you, lady with the eyebrow tattoos. Any kids left unattended will be sold on ebay. (I’d rather sell the parents but nobody wants them.)

  14. sidney says:

    Selling the kids on ebay would be a good way for libraries to raise money.

  15. A. Lawyer says:

    Selling children in this manner is illegal. Any attempts to do such a thing will bring the long arm of the law down on you and your organization.

  16. sidney says:

    What if the children were illegal aliens? Would it then be okay?

  17. A. Lawyer says:

    “What if the children were illegal aliens? Would it then be okay?


    Only if you sell them to work for corporate CEO’s.

  18. Elisa says:

    I truly appreciate a few of these on the list.

  19. AL says:

    Corporate CEOs have a lot of money. i think this could work.

  20. carptrash says:

    I truly appreciate a few of these on the list.

    You’re welcome. eeeeeeeeeeeeeek

  21. Library Diva says:

    You could sell illegal aliens are in demand at certain meat packing facilities. They often have a lot of money, too, so there’s deniability. Of course there’s a market in the Far East and Middle East as well.

  22. anonymous says:

    Yawn…….

  23. anonymous says:

    the birth of art, and the inevitable afterbirth…the critic.

  24. emo says:

    I like this one: 15. Please respect the desk barrier.

    Especially the “barrier” part. That desk is designed to be a barrier and patrons should RESPECT THE BARRIER!

  25. carptrash says:

    In my library, the barrier needs iron bars. eeeeeeek

  26. Mithrandir says:

    Wow, Mr Kat made a stupid comment about libraries in this thread.

    Imagine that.

  27. Library Cynic says:

    You mean we are in a public relations kind of job? They never told me that at library school and before I went to library school, I had never, ever set foot in a library to see how one ran.

  28. Mr. Kat says:

    Mithrander, Imposters made a reply to this thread. They seem to like using this name. I bet yours might also become a target for the same deal if you keep it up.

    But anyhow…A librarian who wastes my time is best replaced with a index and Google. That’s what I did!!!

    Only I will waste MY time!!

  29. Mr. Kat Cynic says:

    Beware of impostors and fucking posers.

  30. HarleyGrl says:

    Oh wow. The LJ filters allowed an F Bomb!
    In my internship during library school, when I found patrons on cell phones, I’d walk up to them and ask them to take it outside. They’d give me an eyeroll and wave me away, but I’d stand there listening to them until they left. I can be an imposition too.
    Once on the front desk cameras, I watched a kid stuff another into a rung on a ladder in the YL section and then beat him over the head with a hardback. Priceless! After I finished laughing, I found mom and explained to her that she couldn’t leave her adorable children by themselves any longer. I know this pales in comparison to other stories, but it just goes to show how libraries interrupt normal human behavior. I say let the little rats pound the crap out of each other and be done with it. It’s behind a closed glass door and didn’t really bother any other patrons anyway. What’s the big deal? But then, I wanted the patrons to listen to me as the survey said.

  31. HarleyGrl says:

    Oh wow. The LJ filters allowed an F Bomb!
    In my internship during library school, when I found patrons on cell phones, I’d walk up to them and ask them to take it outside. They’d give me an eyeroll and wave me away, but I’d stand there listening to them until they left. I can be an imposition too.
    Once on the front desk cameras, I watched a kid stuff another into a rung on a ladder in the YL section and then beat him over the head with a hardback. Priceless! After I finished laughing, I found mom and explained to her that she couldn’t leave her adorable children by themselves any longer. I know this pales in comparison to other stories, but it just goes to show how libraries interrupt normal human behavior. I say let the little rats pound the crap out of each other and be done with it. It’s behind a closed glass door and didn’t really bother any other patrons anyway. What’s the big deal? But then, I wanted the patrons to listen to me as the survey said.

  32. Smarter than the average bear says:

    You can beat most shitty systems of blocking. It takes a bit of thinking.

    That’s why you don’t see it much in sections where librarians comment.

  33. djork says:

    Every library should have a seeexxxxy librarian! Library usage will be up, money comes in! I really should be a consultant. This gem of an advice is free of charge for now.

  34. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    This is just another sad truth about society. Librarians or at least stake holders having nothing better to do then ruin or disrespect something just because they can. Its like watching librarians putting graffiti all over the library. Grow up !!!

  35. Crazy Cat Lady says:

    Back to work you impostors! Trolls too!

  36. decent-looking straight guy says:

    “Every library should have a seeexxxxy librarian! Library usage will be up, money comes in!” Here are the problems with that idea. If you hire a $exy librarian and she’s female you don’t want her on the reference desk and she won’t want to be there. The people who will give her the most attention will be the creepiest and will use the fact that she’s trapped at the desk to grotesquely hit on her. That’s why the few hot female librarians out there usually don’t work in public services. $exy female librarians do much better working in technical services or special collections. In the former they can strut out and make their occassional head-turning appearance, maybe walking from the front door to their office, going to a breakroom or something. In the latter they can easily avoid contact with anyone except with those deemed safe or interesting. OK, now I’m ready for the deluge of snide, fussy, cynical, or smart-mouth responses a brutally honest post like this will likely inspire. Before you get too snide, fussy, cynical, or smart-mouth, though, locate an actual hot female reference librarian and ask her if the point of view I offer here isn’t at least somewhat accurate. I’m lucky enough to date one and the horror stories I’ve heard from her shock even my smart-a$$ self.

  37. annoyed more often then not says:

    Decent–I’m not good looking and the creeps still hit on me when I was in a PL. Creeps aren’t as discriminating as you think.

  38. someone says:

    Creeps rarely are, alas.

  39. Crazy Cat Lady says:

    If they try this in my library system they get a warning, and the next time it’s the County Jail. Not your Holiday Inn, I hear. Meanwhile, BACK TO WORK, YOU!

  40. EDUman says:

    Epic Conclusion : Epic Failure.
    Epic conclusion power cost: 189. Hits for 452-532. Crits usually for 1700. Once on a grey mob I did 2270.
    -Long CD, Double Power Usage for 10 Seconds (I know it doesn’t apply this currently, it never should, this ability needs help even if the debuff was removed altogether)

    Ceaseless Argument Power cost :24 179-199. Crits for usually around 500-800 (Usually I see 700s), seen it hit for 900-1000.
    -Bonus It applies a debuff.

    *note* Power cost is 10% lower with Fury of Storm on for both.

  41. The Cranky Librarian says:

    If patrons violate the barrier of the counter, I tell them to get the fuck back where they belong. Who the hell do they think they are? I have lots of sex magazines, I mean “literature” to review and keep from the general population.

  42. anonymous says:

    The comments on this thread reek of post-pubescent testosterone. Yawn……

  43. Samuel L. Jackson says:

    The comments on this thread reek of post-pubescent testosterone. Yawn……


    Careful what you say motherfucker. Don’t make me get sweetness out.

  44. carptrash says:

    When I discover that almost all the comments made by me are not made by me it’s probably time to turn in my library card.
    Einar Einarsson Kvaran aka eeek

  45. to be snide or not to be snide says:

    “The comments on this thread reek of post-pubescent testosterone. Yawn……”

    Why? Just because someone said he was a guy and was talking about cute girls? AL talks about cute (and non-cute) guys in the wilds of libraryland, so what the heck?

    And who are you kidding with the “yawn” stuff? If you were really that bored you would not have bothered to comment. One might wonder whether you were really just someone with issues trying to get attention. One might wonder if I was also. One might also wonder who cares. Have a nice day – you might brighten it if you lose the ‘tude. I think I’ll lose my now. Be happy.

  46. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “Personally, I found “18. Ask us what we read” amusing. Why on earth would anyone care what librarians read?” That might be funny if people didn’t actually want to know what I read. I am happy providing readers’ advisory for Elizabeth (age 10) and several of our avid Mystery readers. People do care what we read, when we read what is of interest to them.
    Never the less, this is a good article.

  47. anonymous says:

    We have “Quiet Zone” signs, why can’t we have “No Stink Zone” signs? Put a red tape boundary around the Ref Desk (let Circ staff take care of themselves)at about 20 feet with a Stink-O-Meter and warning sign: “If alarm sounds, please return to lobby.”

  48. crasslass says:

    None of the 20 things mentioned dropping yucky things down the book drop chute, like the used condom I fished out this morning. yuck, eeeeeuuu

  49. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    OMG!!! I just read the 1st part of the article, which happens to include the last items on her list? So, who is this woman, and is she trying to be funny? Because she seems downright dowdy and boring. Why she gives us a bad name! I think AL could do a much better job promulgating such a list…

  50. Chuck Norris says:

    Why not create your own list instead of looking to someone else to do it for you?


    Because we are librarians and we do not think or do things on our own. Not unless a committee has approved it six months in advance.

    You should see the AL’s vetting committee, they should get out into the sun more.