poor steward of tithing funds


One of my favorite bits of librarianship is the waiting. Not that I'm just an incredible patient person who adores doing nothing, but librarian waiting (wouldn't it be lovely if we were German and could use "Bibliothekarwartend"?) isn't really doing nothing. It's a fine balance between doing a nothing-something so your boss thinks you're hard at work, doing a something-something so your work gets done and doing a nothing-nothing so that patrons feel comfortable approaching you. After a good three years of desk work, I think I'm just starting to get this the whole thing down.

Surfing is probably the best way to wait. However, there is simply not enough interesting content added to the internet daily to allow for four of five hours of browsing. Or maybe there is, but you run into some problems: a. finding it, b. ensuring it's appropriate for viewing at work (nothing says "do not approach me" like a librarian checking out the new Bel Ami line at the desk), and c. keeping from laughing so hard you cry. I ran afoul of this last problem earlier today.

I was sitting at the phones on the reference desk. This means minimal patron contact, but still a very visible pressence. I decided to catch up on what used to be my religious reading of Go fug yourself , a blog whose writers are cattier than a gay bar on Oscar night. It's a delightful little piece of internet brilliance, and is very funny. Personally, I find it very difficult not to break into peals of raucous, completely inappropriate guffawing.

Now, a smart person at this point would turn to something else, but not me. I decided to keep going. Which I did, and ended up with tears running down my face and a lip that was quite well-chewed.

Another good use of time, of course, is to read a book. People think this is what librarians do all day. That is simply not true. Sometimes we read about a book. Sometimes it's an article (thanks in no small part to full-text databases). Occasionally, we may even read a newspaper. But, surely we do not spend our days reading books. The main problem here is that reading non-computerized stuff runs counter to our three-fold plan. It looks to your boss like you're slacking off (you are), it makes patrons think you don't want them to approach (you don't), and, the books you want to read are rarely the ones that you aresupposed to read (thus, not getting work done).

So that's out. There are other options: staring off into space, twiddling your thumbs, imagining scenarios in which particularly annoying patrons get their cumeupance, more useful tasks like familiarizing yourself with the reference collection and policies of your library, or, obviously, helping to create meaningless internet content through your blog.

I like this waiting because I'm not particularly accountable for my time and, being the new guy, I can look and act helpless and not be shamed for being lazy or clueless. But it does take some time to figure out how to wait effectively. I think we need a course in this at library schools. We can even give it a boring title and make it official sounding. LIS 539: Time Management for the Information Professional.


Post a Comment