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


Ich bin ein Bibliotecario

   November 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyLanguage is fascinating to me. I'm particularly interested in the idea that our brains are shaped by the language we use to interpret our environments and communicate - and therefore, people of different cultures do perceive the world differently.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing, here are the translations for a few library-related words, according to the Babel Fish translator.

English library librarian book reading information reference
Dutch bibliotheek bibliothecaris boek lezing informatie verwijzing
French bibliothèque bibliothécaire livre lecture l'information référence
German Bibliothek Bibliothekar Buch Messwert Informationen Hinweis
Greek βιβλιοθήκη βιβλιοθηκάριος βιβλίο ανάγνωση πληροφορίες αναφορά
Italian biblioteca bibliotecario libro lettura informazioni riferimento
Portuguese biblioteca bibliotecário livro leitura informação referência
Russian архив библиотекарь книга чтение информация справка
Spanish biblioteca bibliotecario libro lectura información referencia

Something else neat is that other language can be clever sources of product names - who among us wouldn't buy into a chat reference product called "Referencia?" But my favorite is the word for librarian - "bibliotecario" - I think I might change my business cards.



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Different Kinds of Staff

   March 5th, 2009 Brian Herzog

chess gameThe serious stuff first:
We've been reviewing and updating all of my library's policies for the last few weeks, so I've got policy v. procedure on the brain. Because of that, it occurred to me this week that most library staff can be grouped into two types: "policy" staff and "procedure" staff.

  • Policy staff - like to be given broad goals, not explicit directions. This is an asset in that they take initiative and can be innovative
  • Procedure staff - like to be given explicit directions, and will follow and enforce limits and rules like a checklist. This is an asset because they are consistent and treat everyone the same

Neither type of employee is better or worse than the other, just different. Managers (and coworkers) can be more effective at their jobs if they identify staff's needs and strengths and play to or accommodate them. I know this isn't some huge insight, but I had never noticed the parallel between work habits and policy/procedure before.

The jokes second:
Here are my favorite "There are X kinds of people in the world" jokes:

  • There are 3 kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can't
  • There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't

Ah, yes - bad jokes makes the web go 'round.



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