Bill & Ted Had It Right!
When I first decided to return to school to become a librarian, I had a pretty narrow view of what a librarian was:
A librarian was the lady (yes, in my head and in my experience, they were all women) who helped me navigate the stacks and find books I would like to read. She answered every question I had and seemed to know everything, or be able to find out anything she did not know very fast.
I wanted to be that woman-a kind, helpful, friendly person who knows everything! While I knew intellectually that there was more to the profession, what appealed to me about the job was working with the public. Librarians had made a huge impact on my life and I wanted to do the same. In fact, I had always wanted to be a librarian, but graduate school wasn’t a possibility earlier in my life. Stuck in a corporate job that I didn’t find challenging, I craved human contact and returned to school to become a librarian.
Peter’s post about customer service brought this memory back to me. I, and many of my fellow MLIS students, want to be librarians because we want to help. We want to provide answers. We want to make a difference. Customer service is a regular topic of conversation which often sounds something like this:
“if ‘they’ dislike working with the public so much, why are they in this profession? Why are they here? If ‘they’ left, maybe then those of us who actually want to help people could get a job”.
I am the first person to admit, these goals and the desire to ‘help’ may be naïve and our conclusions about job availability could be disputed. However, the reality is, many library science majors feel this way. In fact, many college students feel this way. On several occasions while working reference, I have been explicitly thanked for providing help and instruction and told about how the ‘other librarian’ was so ‘mean’ (in the defense of the other librarian, no one who has complained has ever been able to attach a name to the complaint).
With my business background, I know that customer service is the only way for a business with limited resources to survive and compete against organizations with relatively unlimited resources. Google, Yahoo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.-compared to most libraries, are competition with virtually unlimited resources. Libraries and Librarians need to remember that no matter what kind of day we are having, no matter how difficult the patron, it is in our own self interest to treat the patrons well. If we library science students want to have jobs available when we graduate, there needs to be thriving libraries in our communities.
With this in mind, as I start my career of library work, I pledge the following:
- No matter what is happening in my personal life, while at work, I will smile at every person I come in contact with.
- When a patron apologizes for bothering me (as is often the case), I will assure them that it is no bother-I am here to help them and happy to do it.
- I will remember that the person asking me for assistance has chosen the library over many other resources. I will do everything I can to make them happy about making that choice.
- When I am not at work, I will promote libraries every chance I get. If anyone tells me of a bad experience, I will encourage them to try again-most librarians are in the business because they want to help, they want to make a difference, they like people.
I encourage all library staff-regardless of title or time in-to make a similar pledge. I encourage library science students to speak openly with professors, co-workers, and one another about customer service. Finally, I encourage everyone to follow the advice of ‘Bill & Ted': Be Excellent to Everyone!