Reflections on Library Service

17 03 2014

Being kicked out of the library was not my first time being treated poorly by someone from my local public library. Over the past week many people have shared their stories from the same library.

This is a pretty ordinary list for a non-customer service oriented library:

look it up

  • Circulation desk clerks exhaling with annoyance over overdue books and requests for assistance
  • Asked “did you look it up?” by staff members when requesting assistance while looking for a book
  • Not allowing people to check out books on the shelving cart
  • Parents asked to bring their children to the Children’s Room when they simply need to grab a book from the adult shelves for their own reading
  • Foster parents unable to secure cards for their Foster children
  • Teachers from the public schools are not allowed to get library cards because they might try to “check out all of the books”
  • Requested materials not purchased because the library staff thought nobody else would be interested in “insert interesting topic here”
  • Endless stories of shushing & hushing.

Libraries that conduct business this way are the reason all libraries are fighting for relevance.

Because this happened to me I’m picking on Exeter Public Library, but this is happening all over the country in public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries. I’m tired of non-librarian people saying to me “I can’t believe YOU’RE a librarian,” “why do you call yourself a LIBRARIAN? you should tell people you are a media specialist/tech integrator/teacher,” and people introducing me as “well, she’s MORE than a librarian.” I’m not more than a librarian, you just have low expectations for what a librarian is. I do believe it’s libraries like EPL that set the bar for my profession and I’m not happy about it.

I sincerely hope that EPL reaches out to the community (not only to their current library users) and forms a library advisory board. I also hope they send the staff to some positive customer service training. Even though they deleted comments on their facebook page with links to this blog and to the NYT article about services changing at the Boston Public Library I have noticed an increase in their online presence. Posts about book clubs, knitting groups, and even a reminder of their free wi-fi have gone up this week. It’s nice to see an attempt to reach out in more positive ways.

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2 responses

18 03 2014
Meagan Campbell

God forbid the books all get checked out!

18 03 2014
David Franz

The librarian at my local library lectured me on the worthlessness of graphic novels when I checked a few out.

The following conversation ensued.

“Ever read any?” asked I.
“No,” said she.
“Ever read the research on graphic novels as a gateway to reading or about the complex interaction between text and art?”
“No.”
“Are you in the habit of criticizing your patrons or am I just lucky?”
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

She should have made finger quotes when she said help.

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