or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Bad Advice Serves as Good Reminder

   May 25th, 2010

Erasing PrivacyA recent Miss Manners column gave advice to a library patron who wrote about a library employee repeatedly reading aloud the titles of the books patrons were checking out.

I, and others, commented (more here) to suggest better ways of handling the situation, but it is truly sad that this situation happened in the first place. From what the person writing in said, this staff person does this all the time - this behavior is certainly not appropriate for the circulation desk, and should have been corrected by the library administration long ago.

Even though the advice provided wasn't helpful, this is a good reminder for libraries to review their privacy policies - both to see if it is up to snuff and to remind staff why this is important. Check out the ALA's resources on privacy:

Somewhat related (in my head, anyway), is The Other Librarian's post of Ten Reasons Why 'Professional Librarian' is an Oxymoron. I don't completely agree with it, but they are valid points.

via LISNews, LibraryStuff

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4 Responses to “Bad Advice Serves as Good Reminder”

  1. Erin Says:

    I 100% agree that the librarian in question should not have been reading titles aloud — very inappropriate in the context of privacy — but I have to add that it is not surprising that some people don’t recognize the inappropriateness of this behavior. To a great extent we are desensitized. When you rent videos at Blockbuster, the cashier often reads aloud the title of each movie and tells you when each is due. The self-checkout machines at many stores scream aloud the prices of every item you buy and your total (this always makes me uncomfortable, as though making me a target for parking lot robbery when I’ve bought a very expensive piece of equipment at Home Depot). Library staff really SHOULD know better, but we have to work harder to be aware of such privacy issues when so much in our society works to tell us that these kinds of invasion are “normal.”

  2. Cari Says:

    Your comments and others were very good, so I don’t feel the need to add anything. I’m appalled at the situation, and Miss Manners needed to give a better response!

  3. Liz Says:

    I agree this is an unfortunate situation, but am hardly surprised by it when my pharmacist reads aloud the names of the prescriptions I’m picking up to make sure they’re right (at a level surely heard by the five people in line behind me).

    Incidentally, I brought this up in a rather backhanded way – when another pharmacist SHOWED me the slips and asked if they were correct (rather than reading them aloud), I confirmed that they were and thanked her for cleverly checking the names without making them public information. We’ll see if praise and reinforcement get the job done without resorting to condemning the less private approach of reading them aloud.

    Or maybe someone less timid than I will notice it too and bring it up.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Liz: That is a good analogy. The next time you go in, ask the person giving you your prescriptions if they’re an actual pharmacist or a technician or a clerk or what. My guess is that, just like in libraries, it’s probably not the actual pharmacist doing that counter job (in libraries, usually it’s a library assistant or other paraprofessional person, depending on the size of the library). My brother is a pharmacist, so I’ll ask him about this.

    I’m sure the pharmacist is trained in privacy, but, again like in libraries, that might not have been quiet so well reinforced with the other staff. But it’s our job to make sure everyone respects privacy.