Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Annoyed Librarian Tips for New Professionals

So you've just finished library school, and you want to know if you're ready for the exciting and fast-paced world of professional librarianship. Everybody seems to be offering advice on what new librarians should have learned in library school, from IWTBF to the FRL. The Annoyed Librarian can't just sit by and watch this fascinating discussion without jumping in to participate. So you what do you really need to succeed? "Ability to embrace change"? "Comfort in the online medium"? Yawn. "Cunning" and "Cajones"? Possibly, but I hope that last one can be figurative. Still, there are some useful qualities missing from these thoughtful lists. Below are the Annoyed Librarian's time tested tips for success. Use them with my blessing.

  • Have a high tolerance for boredom. Face it, libraries are boring. That's why we like them. If we wanted "fast-paced excitement," we'd have gone into a stressful field and made more money.
  • Have a high tolerance for idiots. This is true for most professions, actually.
  • Have a high tolerance for exclamation points. You'll see a lot of them in librarian communications!
  • Have a high tolerance for really EXCITABLE (!) people who want to share their hopes for the future with you. Ignore them. They'll get old and cynical, just like the Annoyed Librarian.
  • Don't fret over new technology. It'll just become out-dated. And don't bother to learn it. Unless that's part of your job, you'll never use it enough to get any good at it anyway.
  • Develop the ability to resist annoying technological change while making it look like you embrace it. This one's tough. Your best bet is to read a good informative techie library blog (e.g., LIB) so you know the lingo, then make up reasons why none of it will work.
  • Develop the ability to resist any change whatsoever. Any change not for the better is for the worse. Change is annoying. People who use the phrase "change agent" without smirking are also annoying. An appropriate response is: Are you sure that's such a good idea given all the other crises we have right now?
  • Feign a familiarity with all the right acronyms and abbreviations. If you hear an abbreviation you're not familiar with, just nod and smile, and then Google it when you get back to your office. Later, be sure to drop it randomly into conversations with your colleagues. "Oh, I heard they just OCR'd the DLB. Exciting stuff!"
  • Learn how to occupy yourself during boring meetings. Novel-writing looks a lot like note-taking to the unsuspecting eye. Or get a device that allows you to check email and web surf without anyone noticing. Now that is a technological change we can all agree is worthwhile!
  • Learn who the powerful people in your library are. They're not always the people "in charge." Kiss their enormous librarian bottoms whenever you get the chance. You never know when you'll need a friend.
  • Learn who all the rancid, poisonous people in your library are. They have the best gossip.
  • Learn who all the pathetic losers are. Speak to them as if they were helpless children. They will appreciate your interest in their tedious lives, and lick your boots whenever appropriate. You will feel powerful having such obsequious toadies and look generous for condescending to talk to them at all. It's a win-win scenario.
  • For the first few years, you're going to have to knuckle under to the man. Maybe longer, if you aren't very good. Get used to it, but don't get to like it, or the next thing you know you'll be showing up to work wearing a dog collar. That sort of thing is very difficult to explain away at staff meetings.
  • There's no job you can't work your way out of if you're clever and talented. If you're not clever and talented, then you're lucky to have a job at all, so quit your complaining.
  • Always work like you're getting ready for the next job, even if you don't apply. It makes you look better.
  • However, it's better to seem to work hard than to actually work hard. Learn the difference.
  • And forget about sprezzatura. People resent you when you do twice their work in half the time and don't break a sweat. Trust me.
  • Remember, the important thing is your life and career, not the library or your colleagues.
  • Because, frankly, they don't really care about you. The library was there before you, and it'll go on being there after you've gone. Don't take it personally.
  • Try not to take a job in public services, because servicing the public is annoying.
  • Try not to take any sort of production-oriented job, like cataloging, because then you have measurable outcomes, and you don't want that. Someone might measure you and find you wanting.
  • Try to join a department of pathetic losers. Sure, the meetings are painful, but you just look that much better come performance assessment time.
  • Be smarter than everyone else. It saves a lot of time and energy.
  • Your ultimate job is one like the Annoyed Librarian's, where you are really well paid for doing almost no work. But you must suffer for your art!


Anonymous said...

It's about high time someone actually shared the true wisdom necessary to hold a library job. I mean, all those "embrace change" coomba yah, go tech, hurrah posts are getting predictable. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from someone who does get a share of idiots at work, has to find ways to look attentive at meetings, and a few other things. So, we shall continue suffering for art.

Anonymous said...

Hello from Paris,

I work in a French library... it's exactly the same !! (;-D

Anonymous said...

I think I have the 'seem to work hard' down but how can I be sure?

AL said...

Well, if people say things like, "I know how busy you are, but could I just have a minute of your time," and all you've been doing is reading blogs, you can be sure. Unless they're being sarcastic, in which case you haven't made it yet.

Anonymous said...

Besides eliminating "change agent" from the new librarian's vocabulary, I would also eliminate "thought leader," most words ending in -ize, "skill sets," and "silos," which should really just house nuclear missiles and grains.

Resist the The Librarian Language Acquisition Model: