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

Guidelines for Handling Weekend Emergencies at the Library

   January 23rd, 2013 Brian Herzog

Hello, I'm IN CHARGE badgeThis has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile, but better late than never, I suppose.

In the fall, my library was able to reopen for Sundays for the first time in like five years. This is great news for patrons, but since our seasonal Sunday hours are voluntary (with paid overtime), we sometimes have a shortage of staff willing to work them.

In my library, there needs to be a Department Head in the building at all times. Generally this isn't a problem, but if no Department Head volunteered to work a particular Sunday, other staff (with library degrees) can be acting Department Head.

Since these acting Department Heads would be in charge of the building, we created some "Sunday Department Head Guidelines" for them to refer to if something unusual happened - and also to make sure the library delivered the same level of service on Sundays as we do the rest of the week. The goal was to have all necessary information - procedure, contact information, passwords, etc. - in one place.

I really like lists like this*, so I thought I'd share. Obviously it is primarily applicable to my library, and even then primarily only on Sundays (as other times follow slightly different procedures in certain situations), but perhaps it might inspire other libraries to also document procedures like this. Feel free to download and use these however you like (names, phone numbers, and other vital information removed):

I know the staff here appreciated it, as it can be daunting to be in charge when something goes wrong.


*Some people say I have a love of rules, but that's not true - orderliness and answers are what I like. Take that, entropy.

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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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