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

Details Create the Big Picture

   October 13th, 2011

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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2 Responses to “Details Create the Big Picture”

  1. threegoodrats Says:

    Thanks for your reminder to see the library the way patrons do! I’m trying to make more of an effort to do so. I’ve put pencils and scrap paper at the catalog computers so people don’t have to get up and walk to the ref desk for it, and before we opened yesterday I wiped down the keyboards, mice, and desks at all the computer stations. Little things do make a difference!

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @threegoodrats: you’re welcome, and thanks for the comment – everything you did sounds great. It’s tough sometimes to keep up with all the little stuff like that, but it sure is noticeable when pencils and paper aren’t available.