April 19, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, November 15, 2015 Issue

“Roving is a great service addition if staffing levels allow, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a manned central location for any type of information service situation”

Better to be there!

No one in my library believes they are “purveyors of rare and secret answers” (Maxine Bleiweis, “Making Desk a Four-Letter Word,” BackTalk). I’ve worked in many library systems and have never encountered that attitude among staff, who generally aim to be helpful. Why resort to this type of stereotype to bolster a questionable proposal?

Roving is a great service addition if staffing levels allow, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a manned central location for any type of information service situation. Why must it be one or the other, particularly when your one-sided method involves “a sign on the desk referring people in another service point” (whatever that is), “forward the phones” (to whom or to where), or placing a sign-up sheet asking for ways to contact people when you return. Isn’t it better simply to be there in the first place?

—Craig Holmes, Reference Libn., Southington P.L., CT

Good in theory

I agree, the idea is great (Maxine Bleiweis, “Making Desk a Four-Letter Word,” BackTalk). I would love to see my library function as if none of us were behind a desk. Our ILS does not have a mobile platform, so we are not able to take requests or search items in the stacks. We do not have mobile phones, so the unending ringing would immediately draw us to the desk. If our goal is to provide great customer service every time, why would you put up a sign on the desk? Why would we make an active point to ignore these members? I agree having one person in the stacks may be helpful, but I would love to hear the angry calls to the director of a metropolitan library that puts up a sign and leaves the desk unmanned for a week…. Many libraries have departments specifically for this function. Not every system needs its Reference staff to wear all the hats. Good in theory, but I know for my library it would be poor in practice. Maybe for those small one-branch rural libraries, but not here.

—Name withheld

A combo is ideal

Speaking from experience, I think that the ideal solution is a combo (Maxine Bleiweis, “Making Desk a Four-Letter Word,” BackTalk). With two staff members, Bleiweis’s model works: have someone at a reference/information service point and another on the floor. That’s probably optimal customer service. Industry­wide, how many people are nailed to their chairs/desks and never meet a customer? Without people moving around the floor, the obvious danger is that many customers go unattended.

—Nancy Kuhn-Clark, Fairfield, CT

Long live the MLIS

Having worked in a public library for the past 11 years in the Adult Services department at 16 hours a week, I decided to get my MLIS because I was not allowed to even apply for a full-time job unless I had that degree (Cheryl LaGuardia, “Where Are We Headed? An Unscientific Survey,” Not Dead Yet).

I am one semester away from earning my degree, but I continue to read that MLIS degrees aren’t the way to go anymore. I don’t like the fact that ten people in the survey by LaGuardia said, “Don’t do it!” That is what I was told years ago by two different librarians, which is why I didn’t do this sooner. I hope that all of this time, effort, and money haven’t been for naught because librarianship is now my fifth career (after journalism, teaching, technical writing, and tutoring), and I am certain I have finally found my calling. Truly hoping that the MLIS is “not dead yet.”

—Laura Ploenzke, Reference Specialist, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

Crony politics

At no point in [Waldack’s] response does he say why [Arthur] Jaros is qualified, nor does he justify Mayor [Martin] Tully’s decision in putting Jaros on the board, other than blaming opponents for disliking the decision (William Waldack, “Apathy is the threat,” Feedback, LJ 10/1/15, p. 11). Being elected to the Park District does not qualify someone to be a library trustee. Show me where Jaros has cared about the library outside of trying to tell a school library how to run itself. Show me where he has volunteered or been a member of the Friends of the Library or been involved in any way, shape, or form with the [Downers Grove PL]. Where is his passion? Why does he deserve to be appointed a leader of something he barely knows anything about?

Jaros is a political appointment because Waldack and Tully want to cut the library budget and fire people. [That’s] not pulling anything new out of the political playbook. It’s just unfortunate that Waldack thinks he can destroy a great library because he thinks that its services, which are not only vaunted by voters but members of other communities as well (and other librarians), are not worthwhile.

So by all means, dig in those heels. If both Waldack and Tully didn’t know about the book banning, I’m sure it will look great come election season when people start asking appointees to be vetted or if [it’s] just another long line of government bureaucrats who practice Illinois crony politics.

—Name withheld

This article was published in Library Journal's November 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.