Monday, February 04, 2008

On Birthdays and Cubicles

It's the AL's birthday this week. She turns two, and I'm surprised she's made it this far. The AL started in a fit of annoyance at the idiocies of the ALA Council passing unheeded and irrelevant political resolutions instead of its more usual unheeded library-related resolutions. Then the AL languished for three months while I tried, unsuccessfully, to start a very different blog under an even odder (in some ways) identity. No one read the other blog. A handful of people read the AL. So I dropped the other blog to concentrate on this one, and the rest is library blogging history. That statement may seem immodest, but at this point I feel certain that if any unbiased history of library blogging is ever written (and what boring history that would be!), then the Annoyed Librarian would at least warrant a footnote, if not a paragraph of her own in the chapter on librarian blogs nobody quite knows what to make of.

Two years isn't that long for a blog, but it seems like a long time to me, and this past year has been particularly strange and yet rewarding, what with readership increasing substantially and people voting for me in all those polls of "library blogs to read." After the LIS News thing, I ran across a blog by an LIS student who was just shocked that any librarians would read this blog. After all, I'm so mean and unconstructive and apparently she didn't like the responses she got to a comment she made on one of my posts. (I say "ran across," when actually the post came to me via the self-obsessed Google alert I get every week on "annoyed librarian.") What can I say? There are enough Pollyanna library blogs out there. Who needs another one? Then again, I know a lot of you read specifically to disagree with me, so what's a gal to do? But enough from me. What do you think about me?

But seriously, folks. This reminiscing isn't worthy of a post of its own, so lets turn to something that also isn't worth a post of its own, and maybe the two together will be enough. Today, I would like to address the subject of cubicles. I know, I know, exciting stuff. Stop, AL, you'll say! Remember my blood pressure!

As we know from the title of his blog, the Ubiquitous Librarian likes to be everywhere, but everywhere should never include a cubicle. Out sick for a week and forced to move into a cubicle. Use up too many sick days and they know how to discipline you at whatever library he works at. He thinks his stay might be temporary because of some HVAC problem. Well, possibly.

But in my experience, it's rare for anyone to move from a cubicle back to an office. A cubicle is sort of like a hospice--you might leave, but usually not back to somewhere more pleasant or independent.

Personally, I think cubicles are great . . . for other people. They help herd a lot of people into a small space, which is important to make more room for my office. And what's more fun for the librarians than overhearing loud conversations from their neighbor's cube and engaging in a little innocent prairie-dogging when contretemps erupt in the librarian corral. They're delightfully interchangeable, which is just how you want your staff to think of themselves. There's nothing more troublesome than uppity staff, and there's no better way simultaneously to lower your librarians' morale and show them how unimportant they are to the organization than to put them all in cubicles.

Have you ever noticed that those making the decision to put people in cubicles somehow never think their own work would be improved by a cubicle? Of course not. Some people are all ambitious to move up into the library adminisphere so they can control things and make a bit more money. But the biggest incentive to move into the adminisphere is to make sure that when the cubicles are being doled out to the lowly staff you're the one making the decision and not the one being made a decision upon. The most important factor in my last job move was the improved office. Do I get a roomy office with a corner view? Okay, then. Throw in a relatively high salary and a staff that'll get things done while leaving me alone (err, I mean an independent and empowered staff) and I'm the librarian for you.

The two topics of this post do have a connection, in case you were wondering. Does anyone think the AL could be written in a cubicle, with the constant possibility of exposure? Most likely, not. (Actually, most of these posts are written on my sofa at home, but you get the point.) So by all means do yourselves a favor and put all your disgruntled librarians in cubicles, where they can be watched closely at all times and where they'll never know privacy or blessed silence. After all, if the librarians are in a cubicle farm, the modern office equivalent of the panopticon, they'll be far less likely to write annoying blogs. Keep that in mind.

47 comments:

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

I used to have a cubicle.

Until they moved me to the basement, in the boiler room.

AND took my stapler.

Sigh.

webbygrl said...

Happy Birthday AL!!! And many, many more. You don't look a day over 1!

Anonymous said...

You act like a two year old.

webbygrl said...

Oh, a little self-serving note...(I'm posting here because no one else on earth can appreciate it).

I got my MLS diploma last Saturday in the mail. Since finishing last semester I've been waiting on pins and needles for it. Completing my degree was exceptionally unceremonious. After turning in my last assignment in the beginning of December, nothing happened. Due to the distance to the university, I was not going "to walk" (I got my degree entirely on the internet and the school was much too far to afford a plane flight, rental car, overnight stay, etc.). But I didn't even get an email stating, "Congrats! You've completed the strenuous courses to become a librarian" or a letter or anything of that nature. I even called the school to say, "So um...am I really done? Are you sure?" You know universities are notorious for adding in another mandatory class to a catalog when you weren't looking. So the nice lady on the phone says yes, she believes I'm finished with all requirements - don't call us, we'll call you. And then Saturday the wonderful mailman dropped off the plain, brown, paper tube. Hooray!! I read it to my husband and said, "I feel like Scarecrow when the Wizard gave him his brain!"

And to that note, I happened to upstairs at work with a bunch of geeks from the web shop last week. The leader of the pack says, "Hey congrats! I hear you graduated and got your masters!" The rest of the conversation went like this:

SL (that's me): Yes! It's it cool? I never thought I'd have a masters.

Pete: What did you get your degree in?

SL: Library Science.

Antonio: There is a master's degree in Library Science?

SL: You bet!

Rob: What on earth did you have to learn for a masters degree in Library Science?

Pete: Shelving.

Kenny: The Dewey Decimal System.

(I'm grinning the entire time.)

Rob: You mean I took five semesters of calculus to get my bachelors, and you have a masters in Shelving?

SL: (tapping the side of my blonde head with my index finger) I'm not as dumb as I look!

And just to prove it my postman brought my brain in the little brown tube on Saturday! Wasn't that nice?

Thanks for the time AL. And again, Happy Birthday.

The Imaginary Blog said...

Congratulations, Webbygirl! Now that you have an official diploma, you can shelve in BOTH Dewey and LC!

Webbygirl, MLS. It has a nice ring to it!

Dances With Books said...

A very happy birthday to you, may you have many more. And may we never lose our offices.

Privateer6 said...

AL,
Happy Bday.

Webby,

Congrats on the MLS! Hopefully your diploma has your name spelt correctly. My sis-in-law who got hers in the mail too, and they mispelled her name. She refuses to pay an extra $27 to get it fixed, so....

Anonymous said...

Yea to all the people who have to post their achievements on the Internets so that they get a hearty handshake and a slap on the rump.

Yea!!!!

Thump!!!

*****hurl*****

A nonny-like moose said...

Have you ever noticed that those making the decision to put people in cubicles somehow never think their own work would be improved by a cubicle?

No, but when the cubicle was piled up with work, it usually meant that the work was siphoned off to someone else, and, thus, one could get a nice little bit of responsibility and title thrown in with it. Then again, I worked at one of those cooler "third tier" academic libraries you hinted at, so who cares?

waltc said...

Just to be contrarian: It is possible to move from a cubicle back to an office. I've done it. Of course, the office is in my house and it's an entirely different job, but...

Actually, for me, the move from an office to a cubicle came with everybody's move from offices to cubicles when the organization relocated--and yes, everybody did include the management (all except HR, where an office is essential for confidential conversations).

An impartial history of library blogs? I'll get right on...oops, sorry, dozed off there.

j- said...

*Anonymous said...
Yea to all the people who have to post their achievements on the Internets so that they get a hearty handshake and a slap on the rump. Hurl****

Yea to all those snarky anonymous posters who apparently have nothing in their lives worthy of trumpet & fanfare and like to dump all over everyone else!

You go, anonymous & most likely paraprofessional dude(tte)!

I'm going to start imagining that all the anonymous posts everywhere on the 'net are really from the same dude(tte) and their actual name is 'Anonymous'. That will be more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I am Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I am anonymous too and I have birthdays and I graduated from kindergarten (and beyond).

How about you all go out to the dollar store and buy me a ribbon that says "I am Special!" so I can feel proud of myself.

Please.

I feel the need for gratification form strangers on the Internet.

rcn said...

It's highly appropriate that you are a Terrible Two.

~RCN, SF Bay Area

boobarella said...

I envy the people who get cubicles. I have a rectanguble. There are two of us and a printer in here. And we share the printer with three other people.

I dream of my own cube...

AL said...

"I feel the need for gratification form strangers on the Internet."

Apparently you feel the need to express yourself on the Internet. Pity you don't have anything interesting to say.

Anonymous said...

I had something interesting to say, but it got lost in all the noise from the birthday celebration and graduation parties.

Don't listen to the above people, I AM Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

What's a cubicle?

My desk is in the public area (I am technically a cataloger) and people get offended when I don't jump up to answer their every whim.

Well, maybe, just maybe I am concentrating on the task at hand and public service is a secondary concern of mine.

Maybe.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I'd even forego a cubicle if I could just have my own computer. At least with a cubicle there's an illusion of privacy and it's easier to look busy and ignore co-workers and the public. I'm working in a fishbowl and share a computer with 2 other people. Way to hire me to do a job and not provide me with the tools to do it. Bah.

skeptical thomas said...

"I envy the people who get cubicles. I have a rectanguble."

What's a rectanguble? Something that resembles a rectangle perhaps? For the record, a rectangle is a plane geometric figure, so it would be pretty hard to work in one of those, unless you're a sheet of paper. A cubicle on the other hand is a cube, which can project on a plane as a square, which is a particular type of rectangle. In library schools they should probably teach RECT 101: Geometry for Librarians? Or wait, was it RECTUM 101? Sorry, couldn't help being anal.

AL, happy birthday and many annoying returns.

Anonymous said...

I work in an oblate spheroid.

Does that make me special or just in need of help?

boobarella said...

"What's a rectanguble?"


Seriously, it's a three sided fabric covered container that is long and narrow. My back is about 2.5 feet from the files. And I share this 3' x 12' space with a coworker. Not a pretty site.

Anonymous said...

"Apparently you feel the need to express yourself on the Internet. Pity you don't have anything interesting to say."

Your daily discussion was about cubicles.

Pot--Kettle--Black

As for whatshername and the mail order degree, you have my deepest sympathy. If you're typical of most graduates you'll be in the field less than five years, assuming you can find a job. The only people who seem to spout enthusiasm for libraries anymore are the gushing students who, of course, know everything.

Anonymous said...

I work in an open air warehouse with my "subicle" a sheet metal table just beside an overhead conveyer belt. It's nice to get fresh air but when the temperature falls below 20 the ink in my pen freezes up. Wanna trade?

webbygrl said...

"As for whatshername and the mail order degree"

Ouch! That stings! As I sit here in my nice office with my nice salary, that really hurts. Why I have half a mind to ...

...oh wait, time to go home.

Anonymous said...

Ouch! That stings! As I sit here in my nice office with my nice salary, that really hurts. Why I have half a mind to ...

...oh wait, time to go home.


*snicker*

Just wait, the disillusionment will come. One of my best friends spent years in a staff job trying to get into library school; she finally got in and out and landed a nice job with a nice salary in a nice office, and quit in eighteen months, never to work in a library again.

Meanwhile I think I'll check out that online degree in Underwater Basket Weaving from Wegotcha University, a UBW will beat an MLS any day...

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday AL,

And wishes for many more years being the voice of reality in the middle of all the professional happy horse hockey.

Anonymous said...

You actually got a cubicle? I just have a combination reference/circulation etc. ect. desk that I have to sit at all day.
Really is hard to get anything done but e-mail

Dede said...

"engaging in a little innocent prairie-dogging when contretemps erupt in the librarian corral..." ia th efunniest thing I've read this year. I imagine the Meerkat Manor bunch....

My husband (in another field) hated his cube. So he did a great job (so they couldn't fire him) but talked REALLY LOUD. He's gothis own office now, door and all.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

Happy BDay. The whole cube thing is just the luck of the draw. I went from a little 5X7 to an 8X10 to my current 10X16 without doing anything special to earn it. I hope I'm still blogging after 2 years: hell, we're librians, does that much stuff happen that we can tell people about? Sometimes I just want to write "ass" 100 hundreds times and call it a post. Really, I don't see how you can do it. Congrats.

ms.kite said...

I will not be original, but
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
it is always interesting for me and my colleagues to read your blog. We want to thank you for "the other side of the medal" point of view.
Keep doing that for many more years, as we will keep reading you.
Best regards from Russia!

Bunny Watson said...

One of my best friends spent years in a staff job trying to get into library school;
I'm sorry, is this a typo? How does one spend years trying to get in to library school?

Anonymous said...

bunny, it is extremely difficult to get into library school. The people who don't make the cut usually have to accept something less like medical school or law school.

Nonanon said...

Yay, AL! Two years and counting. And thank YOU for not writing another librarian pollyana blog, they're a dime a dozen, as are librarian pollyannas. You are the only library blog I read.

As for the post, I would KILL for a cubicle. At the branch public library all I've got is the reference desk, ALL THE TIME, which is just so wrong. If I can't get a cubicle, how about a little fan or piece of drywall on a stick I can hold up so at least people can't see my eyes rolling? That's all I want for MY birthday, when it comes around.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who used to work in an office (not library) where all of the cubical walls were glass. The boss also happened to be deaf and could read lips. So the boss knew what all the employees were doing work and what they were saying at all times.
-UGH

emily said...

Nothing like all this talk of cubicles to make me appreciate my lovely office. One wall is a plate glass window from which I can see all the deer and wild turkeys walk by. It does tend to get a bit chilly, though.

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

Try to catalog at the reference desk.

Believe it or don't, cataloging takes concentration.

But I can always pick up where I left off after the

"Where are the bafrooms?"

or

"What is the program in the main room about today?"

A cubicle would be nice.

A place to hang my "Pearls Before Swine" cartoons. Can't do that now.

Nope.

That would be politically incorrect.

As would having pictures of my kids on my desk or any other bit showing that I have a life and am not here to serve you.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

"I had a friend who used to work in an office (not library) where all of the cubical walls were glass. The boss also happened to be deaf and could read lips. So the boss knew what all the employees were doing work and what they were saying at all times."

open the pod bay doors, Hal.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

The Al has a sofa? How prosaic. Another bubble has burst. We had so hoped for a divan, or even a fainting couch. One imagines the AL in languid repose, but not on a "sofa."

But Happy Secundus nonetheless.

Conflicted Librarian said...

So I'm going to be one of those lucky few to move from a cubicle to a cherry-paneled office? Wait! There must be a catch. Of course there is.

Catch 1: new office is actually the reading room for rare book collection (pesky researchers lurking around);

Catch 2: new desk is actually a table - - NO drawers for paperclips and so on;

Catch 3: new office's cherry paneling doesn't lend itself to taping or thumb tacking meaningful Dilbert cartoons;

Catch 4: security cameras to catch book thieves ALSO catch view of my new desk;

Catch 5: new office designed without space for file cabinets;

Catch 6: new office's environmental restrictions do not allow computer printer located nearby, nearest one 2 floors up;

Catch 7: new office has no windows, while cubicle has nice big northern exposure view;

Catch . . . oh, what's the use?

Anonymous said...

conflicted,

be forewarned that they probably inject gas into that space to preserve the books and will kill anyone who spends more than five hours in that room.

oh

you have been there probably more than that.

Enjoy the paneling.

AL said...

Oh, Taupey, I can't blog in languid repose. The computer keeps slipping off my thighs.

Hieronymus said...

A little off-topic, but...perhaps this is a cure for librarians' notoriously fat asses:

http://consumerist.com/352629/the-hawaii-chair-freaks-us-out

If you can sit,
You can get fit,
On the Hawaii Chair!

Anonymous said...

shouldn't the title of this post read

"on birthdays and cupcakes"?

Anonymous said...

I WISH I had a cubicle! I used to have a nice big one. At my new place of work, librarians "share" workstations (computers) with all staff, and I have to use the workroom faxphone to do outreach calls.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Of course, *real* librarians recline in their chaises longues dictating their blogs to periwigged lackeys who pause only once in a while to peel a grape for their betters. Don't settle for second-best when your third birthday comes along.

Those of us who are mere toilers in the vinyard can only dream of the riches accruing from attendance at library school.

AL said...

"can only dream of the riches accruing from attendance at library school."

That's just sad.

However, based on the comments, some of your workplaces sounds like they really suck. Sharing computers? Having your only space be the reference desk ALL day? That just sucks.