So I have this group of blogs I follow not because they’re worth reading as a rule, but merely because as the Annoyed Librarian I should be keeping up with what annoying librarians are saying. Fortunately I think a lot of the bloggers are moving from blogging to "microblogging," which seems appropriate since 140 characters is about the limit of thought for a lot of them.
One of them last week was in a huff because some librarians complained on Twitter about library "customers," and compared the episode to a rude video some Domino’s Pizza workers did and got in trouble for. Apparently librarians and pizza workers have a lot in common, or maybe libraries are like pizza shops. I don’t see it myself, but who knows what sort of library this person works in. Does this mean that librarians have to deliver books in 30 minutes or less? And really, shouldn’t that be 30 minutes or fewer?
Anyway, this blogger got to worrying over the possibility of the patrons finding the tweets and tracing them back to the folks in the library. The obvious answer would be some sort of anonymity like the Mofo Librarians practice, but this blogger probably wouldn’t like that, either, since he’s the sort of sensitive twopointopian who gets all outraged and such over the existence of the Annoyed Librarian (which is why I wouldn’t want to offend his delicate sensibilities by linking to his blog).
One of the Twits wrote: "Hmmm – You’re the one that waited until the last minute to do taxes, and you’re bitching at us because our computers are full? dumbass." Seems an appropriate comment to me, but I’m not the sensitive type. Supposedly all us librarians spent two years in "grad school" (yes, he actually says "grad school," as if "library school" were comparable to real graduate programs!) learning good "customer service" skills, and we shouldn’t do stuff like this, because, you know, the library patron might find them. I’m not sure where he went to library school, either, since I didn’t take a class in "customer service." Fortunately I could transfer the "customer service" class I took at the Hamburger University and use my time in library school to learn about libraries.
Then comes the question, what if the person referred to in the post joined Twitter and then searched for fellow twits near him and found out that someone in a library nearby had once called some unnamed person who complained about the computers being full a dumbass? Oh, no, what would happen then? Shouldn’t we librarian twits be more careful!
How likely is this, though? This is a person who has to go to the library to use a computer. That just screams "bottom of the digital divide." What’s the likelihood of this person ever joining Twitter? I know, I know, John McCain doesn’t know anything about computers and he uses Twitter. That’s true, but I be he doesn’t have to go into the public library to finish his taxes. Anyone who doesn’t even have a computer has better things to do than follow people on Twitter. Heck, I’ve got a computer, and I have better things to do. But suppose some day they join. And do a search. And somehow miraculously come across that particular tweet. What will they think? Doesn’t it seem obvious?
Let’s look at it from another perspective. If you’re in a big meeting and you can’t spot the jerk, guess who it is? It’s you. So this person runs across the tweet, and what would they think? They’d think, "Ha! Some dumbass waited til the last minute to use library computers and they were all full. I bet he looked like such a flustered idiot complaining! I wish I could have been there to laugh at him!"
I suppose there’s another possibility. Maybe it’d be that one chance in a hundred gazillion the person would think he was the dumbass to whom the librarian was referring so inelegantly . He could then gain some perspective on himself. It’s always sobering to see ourselves as others see us. The person might then have a moral epiphany and realize how ridiculous such behavior is.
No, that seems unlikely. Jerks don’t have moral epiphanies. Ditto dumbasses. (Gosh, I sure hope that person doesn’t discover this blog post!)
I would hope we can agree that the likelihood of this particular patron finding that tweet and identifying himself as said "dumbass" is about as remote as…well…pick something whose chances are very remote and you get the idea. Then the only complaint is that librarians complain about library patrons. That happens all the time, so what’s the big deal. Specific librarians from a specific library complain about library patrons. That’s worse, maybe. Then it’s possible the patrons would find out that some of their librarians complain about some of their patrons on Twitter. Oh no! What if one of them went to the library director and complained? Oh no!
Library directors don’t seem to have a problem irrelevantly evoking the First Amendment when they defend their libraries’ decision to buy Heather Has Two Very Excited Daddies. Surely if they think the First Amendment’s protection of free speech means a particular library has to buy a particular book they can be persuaded that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech should be used to, oh, I don’t know, maybe protect free speech?
This is one place where the library differs from Domino’s Pizza. Those Domino’s Pizza people who made the rude YouTube video worked in a pizza store. Pizza stores are dedicated to the proposition that selling pizzas is more important for the institution than anything else.
But such is not true of the library! No, the library is a guardian of free speech and freedom of expression! Isn’t that what we always hear? And if that’s true, then we know what the library director should say if someone complains about allegedly being called a dumbass on Twitter. The director should be outraged that anyone would dare try to curtail the right to free speech of any librarians. We librarians sacrifice our good sense and our good looks to protect free speech, but what good is the right to free speech if some dumbass can curtail it merely by complaining to the library director? Answer me that, Mister Man!
So all you librarians who care about the right to free speech, complain away! Twit your patrons into a frenzy with your childish rants! After all, this is America, not Cuba! In America we librarians can say whatever we want, even if it is a little stupid.