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


Details Create the Big Picture

   October 13th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Walking in someone else's shoesThanks to everyone who took part in Work Like A Patron Day yesterday, and I hope you got something out of it.

I wasn't able to spend as much time with it as I had hoped, between meetings and projects and helping patrons (it was a busy day yesterday). In the time that I was WLAP'ing, I didn't notice anything major, but just a lot of little things - hence the title of this post, which is a quote from Sanford I. Weill.

  • At the public workstations, I'm always straightening our scrap paper and pencils holders, but when you sit down to check your email, it's easy to get tunnel vision and not even notice that stuff - maybe I'm just more of a neat-freak than necessary
  • The tunnel vision also filters out most of the noise and bustle of the library - which, in my library, there can be a lot of. At the reference desk the noise makes me tense because I worry it might be bothering other patrons, but when WLAP'ing, it didn't really seem that bad. Actually, it just seemed like I was sitting in a very busy and active library, which was great
  • We have an overhead public address system in my library, and you can clearly tell which staff are comfortable using it and which are a little intimidated, by the tone of their voice during announcements
  • The woman who used the study room before me smelled strongly of mint
  • Another staff person pointed out that we need to clean the front of the building - it looks okay in this picture, but the "Chelmsford Public Library" engraved in the stonework is getting obscured by rust from the roof

I was a little disappointed I didn't get to spend more time with this today, but it's certainly not just a one-day event. I try to do this any time I can all year round.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and please share any highlights of your day.



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Working Like a Patron, and, Rethinking Reference

   October 11th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Shift the traditionsJust two sort-of unrelated announcements today, although they actually compliment each other quite well:

Wed., Oct. 12, is Work Like A Patron Day
I know it's not feasible for everyone, but if you get the chance tomorrow, try approaching the library as if you're a patron - use the front door, use the public bathroom, see if the posted signs help you at all, whatever. Check out the Work Like A Patron Day 2011 post for more ideas and how to share your experiences.

Rethinking Reference, Non-Fiction, and Local History
This past Friday I gave a talk for NHLA-READS on a few projects my library has done to keep our collections (and access to them) in step with the needs of our patrons. They are a great group and I had a wonderful time, both giving my talk and listening to the other speakers. If you're interested, my slides and other links are available.



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Work Like A Patron Day 2011

   September 27th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Working like a patronIn 2008, I announced the first "Work Like A Patron" day - I've been mostly quiet about it since, but David and Jessamyn have both talked about the idea lately, so I thought I'd offer it up again.

The point of Work Like A Patron day is to remind librarians that libraries are for patrons, and it's important to gauge the result of our efforts from their point of view. I know lots of people do this on a daily basis anyway, but for my own benefit it helps to make a special effort to view the library through a patron's eyes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Work Like A Patron day takes place on the Wednesday of the week six months after National Library Week. That was April 10-16, so this year's Work Like A Patron day will be Wednesday, October 12 - that's just two weeks away!

Ideas for Working Like A Patron
I know every library is different, and lots of people routinely do these things, but here are a few things I do to get out from behind the desk and experience the library like a patron:

  • enter and leave the library through the public entrance (not the staff doors)
  • use the public restrooms
  • try doing some work on the public computers
  • call the library's main number and negotiate the phone system
  • reserve public meeting rooms for meetings
  • return your items in the book drop
  • navigate the library's website as if you're not already familiar with it
  • follow all library policies
  • read posted signs to see how helpful they are

Obviously, not everything will be applicable to every library, and not all library staff can do their work away from their desks. The real point of Work Like A Patron day is to just spend some time experiencing the library like a patron, not like a librarian.

Share your Experience
I'm always curious to hear about it, so if you'd like to share what you did on Work Like a Patron day, tweet with the hashtag #wlap or add a link to the Library Success wiki Work Like A Patron page. Or, of course, share in the comments below.



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