Part of my coping mechanism, as a librarian and as a New Yorker, is to keep my personal information and opinions as private as possible when I’m talking to strangers.  That means I don’t tell patrons anything about myself — my religious or political views, the neighborhood where I live, or even my first name.  If you think I’m kidding about that, I’m not.  If patrons are curious enough to ask for my first name after I’ve already told them my last name, I just smile and tell them it’s “Miss.”   Now before you start judging me too harshly, let me explain my thought process.

Because I’m a single woman living in New York City (and because I’m following family tradition), I have an unlisted phone number.  So I feel relatively safe telling strangers my last name.  I also think that being known as “Miss Smith” to patrons sounds more professional than, say, “Debbie.”  Especially if you happen to be the person in charge that day.  Plus I think that if a patron knows my first name, he or she is more likely to think of us as “friends,” and more likely to expect preferential treatment in terms of waiving fines, etc.  I’m not saying this is necessarily true; I’m just explaining what’s going on inside my head.

Over the years that I’ve been working in libraries, I’ve known several librarians who had different ideas about how they preferred to be addressed while working at the information desk.  I’ve worked with several female librarians who preferred to tell patrons their first names rather than their last names, in part because they didn’t have unlisted phone numbers and wanted to maintain their privacy.  But I also knew another librarian who was  even more emphatic about keeping his personal information private.  When a coworker made the mistake of telling a patron, “Mr. _____ can help you if you have any more questions” he was FURIOUS.  He told her that she should NEVER EVER tell ANYONE his name.  Instead, he told her that if she ever needed to refer a patron to him, that she should say, “MY COLLEAGUE can help you with that.”

We’re a fun bunch, aren’t we?

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