I’ll start by saying I don’t know what was up with the comments yesterday or why they weren’t working properly. It was probably my fault, but I’ll blame Chip because that’s the sort of thing he’s around for.
I was just reading about the Thomson-West promotional email in LJ (the best gol-darned library journal in the whole world!!®). That’s the one where they told their customers that if they were on a first name basis with their librarians, then they were spending too much time in the library. West wants people to go straight to their products. As I understand it, librarians in law schools are pretty much slaves, and the law professors would much rather have the slave fetch information than waste their valuable time doing it. Is it the same in law firms? Would going directly to West products all the time be like automatic checkouts and having to scan our own credit cards at stores? Something that’s supposedly for our convenience, but generally reduces us all to the level of sales clerks?
Anyway, for some reason, law librarians were very annoyed, prompting someone from West to apologize profusely and say that “It’s important that you understand that this does not reflect in any way how West feels about and values librarians." Or, at least, that’s what they want you to believe!
I wonder if public or academic librarians would be so appalled. I’m on a first name basis with a lot of professors, but I don’t know how many college students know any librarians. Pretty few, I’d bet. Academic librarians tend to know professors, but not necessarily as clients. And the instruction librarians are always desperate to get into classrooms and meet everyone, but most professors and students don’t let them in. Instruction librarians really want to be loved and be on a first name basis with all the students, but too many of them over the years have bored enough professors that the professors want them nowhere near the students. For most students, the advertisement would probably say, "if you’re on a first name basis with you’re librarian, you probably have a part-time job in the library!"
And public librarians, are they much different? Sure, there’s always the regular freaks and the old people who show up at the desk every day to ask the same questions and a few others, but most people use libraries without even knowing there are librarians. A friend of mine said she was at a circulation desk once helping out, and someone asked if she was a volunteer! Surely the majority of public library patrons have no idea of the name of the person signing them up to use a computer or telling them where the cookbooks are.
Maybe the law librarians are lucky that people actually do know their first names, or even that they have names, or that they’re librarians. At least in law schools, the librarians’ servitude have insured that they’re wanted. Plenty of librarians in public and academic libraries are struggling to find ways to make themselves more desirable through subservience, but so far have failed, no matter how many times they give big-eyed puppy dog looks and fetch slippers. They could learn a thing or two from some law librarians. Instead of being annoyed at West, the law librarians should be happy their patrons even know who they are.