Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Twit ‘n Bitch

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.



  1. TwoQatz says:

    Thinking about all the library jobs I’ve had in 30 years – had Twitter existed that entire time, I’d be willing to bet various folk I worked for would ream an employee out but good for a tweet like you describe, AL. Freedom of speech for those who work in libraries … that would be a no. We have to ”

  2. Dances With Books says:

    I think it is time for the touchy-feely 2.0topians to get over it and stop getting their panties in a bunch. Contrary to their belief, a lot of library patrons ARE dumbasses and mofos. In fact, I am more than in favor of not only posting about said mofos, but doing so publicly. If you are the mofo, for instance, who did not do their taxes on time, then whines because you cannot get on the library computer at the last minute before closing time, not only do you deserve to be labeled an idiot, you deserve to have a town crier proclaim it.

    Just because I work in a library serving the public does not mean I am their carpet. The 2.0topians don’t like it? They can come work at my library and get the carpet treatment. Otherwise, they can go back to their ivory towers or whatever other cushy non-service job they have and let those of us who actually work for a living vent once in a while.

    P.S. Proud member of the Library Mofo journal.

    PPS. AL, you REALLY need to do something about that captcha.

  3. TwoQatz says:

    … darn thing cut my post off. In my public library days we were expected to “serve” drunks, people who reeked, and people who were downright abusive. Attempts to defend oneself against such miscreants and morons resulted in a slapdown. The public isn’t always right and the “I pay your salary” comments usually brought out the mule in me. Yep … I knew what would really help them but sometimes, if they were really awful (offal??), I “forgot” a lot. Public library work was mighty hard and I admire those who stuck with it. I just couldn’t do it after a couple years. If I were still there I’d probably be tweeting up a storm about the users.

  4. TheCompleatLibrarian says:

    It is funny that the more easily it becomes to say something about someone whether good or ill the more complaints there are. The touchy-feely crowd seems to be the same ones pushing for others to accept the Pleasure of Two Daddies, Who is Your Daddy or The Littlest Lolita, however is a patron is being a choad and says something stupid or does something stupid then it is curtains for the librarian who expresses frustration.

  5. Elder Librarian says:

    Not very professional to vent in public arenas. It’s best done in private, favorite drink in hand and amongst those friendly to the complainer.

  6. I am No. 6 says:

    I agree with you, Elder, don’t these librarians bitching on Twitter have real friends to complain to while sharing a dinner or drink, rather than throw their vitriol to the twitterverse? Or how about a telephone call or an email or a IM, if you are unlucky and your friends are far away?

  7. This kind of behavior is like having an anonymous blog hosted by a national publication.
    So long as you don’t toss mud at your real employer, you will be ok.

  8. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    The question here is, does a librarian have the right and freedom to complain. They have the right? Last time I checked and that was in November this is a free country. Do they have the freedom? Thats a big NO. We know this from the book that got the librarian in MI fired. If you tweet about mofos then there is a good chance you will be hauled in front of the firing squad as a mofo. Do I like this? No, but it is a fact of life.

  9. Remember, if you are an employee at will and have no union, you can be let go for no reason.

    Let’s be careful out there.

  10. As a frequent Twitter user, I admit that I live in fear of being scolded by a goateed, MacBook-wielding d-bag every time I post something unflattering about the public, the people at the ALA conference, or pretty much anything else that isn’t sunshine, roses, and social networking tools. I imagine his ponytail bobbing up and down as he waves his finger back and forth…”

  11. Anonymous says:

    Print out an income tax filing extension form, hand it to the patron, and direct him to a post office that is open late for tax day.Patron isn’t late and come back some other date to file.

  12. Mr. Kat says:

    Here’s ho wit works; You have the freedom to live and be ANYTHING you want. But when you Become something, you also assume the restrictions alongside the priveleges of belongong to that organization.

    In otherwords, you have the right to not work there if you don’t like how that place works…or if you don’t like the patrons…Of if you wake up one day and realize you’re practically PAYING THEM to work in THEIR PLACE!!

    In America you have the right to be Exclusionary – just so long as it isn’t racist, sexist, or any other “-ists.”

    This is the land of Corporate Feudalism ;)

  13. madlibrarytwit says:

    I agree with Cella about the image of being scolded for an unflattering comment. In fact, I did get scolded because twit about a volunteer. It wasn’t even all that negative but I was warned not to twit such things in the future.

  14. I don’t know if it’s youth, inexperience, or lack of common sense and manners, but anyone who thinks that you can blog, tweet, or otherwise publicly put down the people who pay your salary needs to wake up and smell the paycheck. I can’t speak for the political realities of academic libraries, but if you work in a public or school library, you’d better understand that your behavior and attitude will definitely impact the way the folks who control your funding view your organization. Times are tough enough for libraries without annoying the hand that feeds you. We all have issues with patrons we’d rather not serve, but most of us are discreet and professional enough not to blog, tweet, or write a letter to the editor about them. Any library director is within their rights to discipline an employee that jeopardizes the ability of the library to maintain good relations with the community. If you feel your rights are being abridged, then you need to work for yourself and see if you like that boss any better.

  15. Or you know, you could just lock down your twitter stream and then no one would see it except your friends.

  16. Oh, please. Just because someone is annoyed by a particular person or incident, does not mean that they are a bad librarian, need to find another job, etc. etc. etc. Working with the public does not mean that we are doormats and have to take abuse. The touchy feelies here and elsewhere wouldn’t last 10 minutes if a front line public service job. If someone vents a little and gets on with it, so be it. It’s a lack of manners/common sense on the part of the patron in question, not the librarian. I mean, get a grip.

  17. Venting is fine. We all need to do that. It’s HOW you do it that’s the issue here. If you are a public employee and you vent your frustration publicly, you’re not necessarily a bad librarian, but you may be a liability to your library from a public relations standpoint. I was on a public desk yesterday with no backup and 3 patrons who came in and dumped their “bucket” on me. One had just broken up with her fiance and wanted me to comb thru her email inbox of 1058 (!) messages to find one from a company whose name she couldn’t recall. Annoying? You bet. A subject for a public rant. No way. But I agree–it takes a tough constitution to deal with this kind of behavior day after day.

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