Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Library as Wal-Mart

Just when I think the insanity might end, I find something new to be annoyed about, and it's a darn good thing or this blog would come to an end, and that would bring untold grief to both of my dedicated readers.

The latest BIG IDEA from the Library Five-O crowd is imitating Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart! Particularly their greeters. Someone actually wants Wal-Mart-like greeters in the library, because the Wal-Mart greeter training course is "right out of the 2.0 playbook." Oh my goodness. For a while I was just speechless.

I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, as their aisles are always so jam packed with cheap crap that I can't get my cart through and the customers often seem like something out of a William Faulkner novel. But maybe that's just the Wal-Marts I've been in. I recall one place I lived where the local Wal-Mart had a greeter who was--what's the politically correct phrase--mentally challenged. To say the least. I'm sure he was a perfectly nice mentally challenged man, but that didn't make it any better when he lunged headfirst at all the customers screaming "Welcome to Wal-Mart" as he shoved shopping carts into their thighs.

But at least the person doesn't want librarians acting as Wal-Mart greeters. That was certainly what I expected when started reading the post and I was ready to fume. After all, what could be more "library 2.0" than librarians lunging at library patrons and shoving reference books in their faces. (I was going to say shoving personalized, interactive OPACs in their faces, but I couldn't figure out what that would entail.) However, the call for greeters is slightly more sensible than that. This person suggests that students be the greeters. She's talking about academic libraries obviously, which somehow makes the notion even more appalling. So much for the life of the mind. No, instead we could have students lunging at everyone who enters the library. And then it gets better. The students could also be "roving peers"!

"Imagine a rover stopping by the group study area and asking, 'Anyone need help using the library?'"

I'm trying to imagine that. I imagine the student saying "Anyone need help using the library?" and "I am a big geek!" at the same time. Maybe the students at her university are a lot more ENTHUSIASTIC and "2.0" than the students in my library. I actually caught a student worker at our information kiosk the other day eating her dinner. It took me a while to tell her to go eat elsewhere because I had to rip the earphones out of her ears and throw her Ipod across the reference area to get her attention. And this is one of our better student workers. Does anyone really imagine that some student worker is going to walk around offering help in a friendly, slaphappy way to fellow students?

And do we think the other students would really like this? If I was a college student sitting around studying, I certainly wouldn't want some library geek pestering me. Big Smile--Oh, do you need help using the library? No, I bloody well don't, and if I did I'd go talk to a librarian, not some fellow student who probably doesn't know any more than I do!

Wait, no, I take it all back. I'm probably just being too cynical I've been told that's a problem of mine. There are probably plenty of students who could be trusted to walk around the library offering all kinds of helpful help. I'm also trying to convince myself that this retail model these librarians are so excited about is delightful. Maybe imitating Wal-Mart in the library is really a GREAT THING, and it'll become a HOT TREND. And then maybe all the librarians could start wearing matching cheap polyester shirts with name tags and working split shifts and having their benefits taken away.

But try as I might to squash that little cynic, it still whispers in my ear, "If they like Wal-Mart so much, why don't they just go work there, and leave the academic library for scholars."


Anonymous said...

ROTFLOL - it reminds me too much of the bookstore where I once worked where we were REQUIRED to go greet everyone who came in and ask them if we could help them... (the funny thing about this is that prior to going to work there, I just thought they had crazy, annoying employees... I was always the customer hurrying down the side of the store trying to outrun the employees...) Guess I should have taken it as a sign that I wouldn't want to work there, huh?

Dances With Books said...

I knew I could count on you. I saw that article yesterday, and I was tempted to forward it to you in the hope you would pick on it. And sure enough, you kept the faith. I saw that idea, and I was not sure if I should have been pissed off, or just plain despondent since by now it seems academic librarianship is on the way to a new low (can it get any lower? I am sure someone will think about it and come up with something).

Actually, if a student did that role here, given how cranky some of the students trying to study get, I can see it now:

Student worker, all slap happy, "Hi, can I help you use the library?"

Student trying to work: "Yea, get the (insert expletive that starts with "F" and rhymes with "muck") outta ma face."

Then the student trying to work will come to the reference desk to complain about the student bugging him in the quiet area. Charming, huh?

Overall, exactly my thought: If they like Boxmart so much, they can go work there. Leave the academic library to the real professionals.

Anonymous said...

i would be willing to test the greeter thing if it meant i could shake down every patron for proof that they actually legally checked out the items they are trying to leave with. that's the best part of the greeter role - loss control! woo hoot!

AL said...

I think prison guard might be a more appropriate role for you.

Bob H. said...

...and then if the librarians try to unionize, they can just shut down the library and move to the next town over!

Better yet, why don't we emulate Sam's Club - you can check out huge packages of Urban fiction and Romance.

Privateer6 said...

Why are people constantly dumbing down things. The roving peer thing is BS, I would be ticked off too if someone buggerd me while trying to study.

I can't believe someone actually came up with this idea, what a moron.

Bob said...


Yes, I'd be very upset if someone buggered me while I was studying as well.

AL said...

Please, you two, this is a family blog. I think buggering jokes would be more appropriate for one of those purely frivolous blogs like Information Wants to be Free.

Lisa said...

Dude, I lived in Yoknapatawpha County. I shopped at that Wal-Mart. You ain't seen nuthin.

Sometimes I think we should act like some of those warehouse clubs: people would bring their cards to the library.

Anonymous said...

It is particularly ironic that librarians want their libraries to be like Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart, after all, is one of the favorite targets of the Angry Left, and the Angry Left is home to a significant number of librarians.

Anonymous said...

AL has been inside a Wal-Mart.

I died inside a little today.

--Taupey, the Pretentious Kangaroo

AL said...

It wasn't by preference, I can assure you.

sassymoll said...

Of all the horrible ideas I've heard, this one takes the cake. It's taking the library-as-retail-establishment that one extra ridiculous step. I detest Wal-Mart and it is the last thing I'd want libraries to emulate. Who keeps coming up with these lame ideas??

Anonymous said...

We need an Edumund Burke for the Library World. We need a reformer to knock all these mediocre, self-styled innovators out of the ring.


Anonymous said...

AL is "far right" and anonymous!

From LJ: