Friday, July 14, 2006

Annoyed Librarian's Guide to Public Service

Tame the Web linked to this list of "20 points on excellent library customer service." Excellent points indeed! I got all excited, but it turned out to just be a list of nicey-nicey tips to trick your patrons into thinking you care about them and their annoying problems. Well, the Annoyed Librarian stands arms akimbo and stares down her patrons whenever they try to talk to her!

Obviously the goal of any public service librarian is to avoid working with the public. The public is annoying. We all know this to be true, no matter how we try to sugarcoat our feelings by pretending we really want to serve. We don’t want to serve. We want to get paid and go home. Better yet, get paid without even having to come to work. We figure if people actually wanted to be able to find things well in a library, then they’d go to library school. We did!

“Excellent public service points” just exacerbate the problem, so please stop publishing them. If we’re nice to people, and treat them well, and help them find what they’re looking for in a friendly and efficient manner, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to come back and give us more work, that’s what! And who wants that? So in order to avoid that unpleasant consequence, here are some of the Annoyed Librarian's tips for public service. Learn them by heart and use them well, and I guarantee you'll be left alone just like you want to be.
  • First rule: a satisfied customer means more work for you.
  • Never look up from your computer screen.
  • Never speak unless spoken to.
  • If you must speak, glare and grunt first.
  • Whenever possible, don't speak—point.
  • Whenever possible, don’t move—point.
  • Friendly greetings are for suckers. And smiling? What are ya, on dope or something?
  • Listen to your Ipod while on duty. Bob your head and sing along with the music.
  • Bathe infrequently.
  • If patrons start to come near you, start picking your nose. If they persist, eat the results of your exploration and then try to shake their hand.
  • If patrons don't already know about a service, don't spoil them by telling them.
  • Remember, if the patrons are so smart, they'd be librarians. Tell them that!
  • Have a large sign reading, "If your cell phone rings in this reference room, the librarian will shove it up your backside."
  • Have another sign reading, "If you like that skateboard so much, the librarian will shove it up your backside for you!" The exclamation point takes off the edge.
  • And another sign, "If you so much as think about making any noise, the librarian will shove you up her own backside."
  • Remember, you don’t have to work if you can find someone else to do it. If you work in a large library with lots of departments and specialists, do your best to send the patron to someone else for help. Sending them to another building is ideal. And be sure to say, "Well, I would email or call that library, but they shut off all outside communication after the attack."
  • Save yourself time and energy by avoiding patron interactions altogether. If you see someone heading for the reference or circulation desk, immediately take a bathroom break.
  • If a patron complains about anything, just say, "Oh, I suppose you're an ALA-accredited professional librarian, so you must know all about it, mister man!"
  • If anyone asks a question and you don't know the answer, just give an answer to a question you do know. ("Where are the books on psychology?" "The restroom is right over there, sir.") The patron will probably be too nice to say anything, and will go off to find somebody competent and make more work for them.
  • If the patron calls you on it, just say, "Well, if you're such a know-it-all, why don't you find it yourself!"
  • If someone actually asks where the restroom is, shrug and say, "I wish I knew. I had five cups of coffee this morning, and finally had to pee in this bucket I keep under the information desk. Would you like to borrow it?"
  • A good response to just about any question or comment is, "I don't think we can help you with that today." (My God! A pipe burst in the men's room and I'm covered with sewage!" "I don't think we can help you with that today!")
  • A good response to almost any complaint is, "That's just the way we've always done it." ("Your website looks like it was designed by a baboon with ADD." "That's just the way we've always done it!")
  • Another good response for the really irate: "You'll just have to take that up with the director." "Whatever" also works. ("What bonehead is responsible for this mess?" "You'll have to take that up with the director." “I am the director!” “Whatever.”)
  • If the patron just won't go away, double over, grab your stomach, and run out of the room. (This works well in meetings, also, but be sure to grab your stuff as you run out.)
  • Final rule: the patron is always wrong.

11 comments:

Dances With Books said...

Oh, this is just precious. I am sick and tired of all the "make nice" rules that are going around the bibliowhatchmacallit where the librarian bloggers hang out. By the way, treating them nice, getting them what they want how they want it, yadda yadda does not just mean more work for you. You do know what the patron will do? They will likely be ungrateful, cuss you out if you are not efficient enough, and then complain at the front desk about the rude librarian who gave them what they wanted. True story too.

Dances With Books said...

P.S. By the way, you reminded me of Dave Chappelle's skit about Pop Copy (the kinko's skit) where they do a video on customer service. May be worth another look in this context.

Anonymous said...

I actually like some of the Tame the Web's top 20 as they are written for the stupid. ("No patrons, no library, no job, no food." I may have to use that.)

But your list made me laugh so hard I cried.

Better amusement than a martini at the W, Annoyed Librarian!

Julie said...

Hysterical! Next time my director asks me anything, I'm going straight for the "whatever" line. My kids have been using that line on me for years!

Annoyed Librarian said...

I'd have a martini at the W with you any day, "anonymous @11:49"!

Steve said...

Great, now I feel people think I'm channeling Leo Buscaglia.
Thanks for nothing, Annoyed Librarian.

Annoyed Librarian said...

Steve, if you really want to make those customers happy, I recommend my own Library Spa 2.0 initiative:
http://annoyedlibrarian.googlepages.com/libraryspa

Steve said...

"Laptop Librarian" - man, there's lane waiting for the joke truck to drive through.

Annoyed Librarian said...

You have a very dirty mind.

Anonymous said...

THis is disgusting! I DO like to serve the public. I like to move. I like to help them find things. I am not crazy about just handing out prints and office supplies. I do like giving good reader's advisory. Unfortunately this sounds like far too many librarians I have known. If anyone expressed such opinions as these to me, I would strongly suggest that they work along side the security dogs in junkyards because that is where they belong.

Annoyed Librarian said...

You do a great impression of the excitable, enraged librarian with absolutely no sense of humor or selfawareness. It's very funny. I assume that you're either joking or else very dense. Thanks for reading!