Oh, what a long and screwy week this has been.
I spent so much of my time running up and down the stairs today answering questions (’cause we don’t have enough people to staff every floor, you see) that it was making me dizzy. I also got additional questions on my way going downstairs, on my way going upstairs, plus I had one kid with a truly annoying reading list that had me ricocheting between floors. Honestly, who puts Witness by Karen Hesse and The Firm by John Grisham on the same reading list???
On the plus side, all the stair climbing has been theraputic for my back. I strained it earlier in the week while cleaning my apartment and shifting furniture around. So it’s been twingeing off and on for the last few days, but NOT TODAY!
We’ve been asked once again to perform a task of self-evaluation. Such tasks usually make us nervous, because we anticipate the aftermath: A-HA!!! So you spend X amount of time doing tasks A, B, & C! Clearly your priorities are all wrong, and you can afford to have your budget cut! Then again, some cuts would be more welcome than others. Right now the library system’s budget is so lousy overall that they’re talking about reducing our public service hours, and I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I’d be delighted. If we closed on several mornings like we suggested, we could have time to weed our shelves and get rid of all the material that keeps coming in and staying in because of the godforsaken floating collections policy. And maybe our library wouldn’t look like a tornado hit it anymore. Did I mention that we only have one page left to help us shelve our materials … and she’s been on vacation? Oh, yeah, it’s been a hell of a week. But seriously, though, remember the big deal about how we weren’t allowed to start working more than one hour before we opened to the public because otherwise the public would think that we were all hanging out and having secret librarian breakfast parties? Well, our network manager came in today, saw the condition of our shelves and our multiple overflowing book trucks, and gave SPECIAL DISPENSATION for staff members to earn comp time and come in at 8:00 on Monday morning (we don’t open until 11:00) just to try to catch up on the glut of weeding and shelving that needs to get done. THAT’S how bad it is right now. Of course, it helps that he wanted us to be “presentable” since we’re having some higher-ups coming to visit our building next week.
I had a small turnout at my last summer reading club meeting. On the one hand it makes me a little sad, but on the other hand I really don’t mind. A ton of kids sign up for the club (mostly when I visit the schools in May and June with my trusty registration pads, meaning most of them are kids who aren’t actually setting foot in the library). And a lot of kids come to the party at the end of August. But while all the kids know that I have weekly meetings throughout the summer, the turnout at those meetings is small. The reason that I don’t mind is that these are the kids who really WANT to read, who WANT to share, who WANT to participate. The number of kids who fill out the registration slips makes the library higher-ups (and the sponsors) happy, but the kids who bother showing up for the weekly meetings make ME happy. So anyway, after the program is over, I’m putting stuff away and walking back and forth between the reading room, my office, and the staff room. En route I pass Captain Bringdown, who exclaims, “Out of all those kids who signed up, only THAT MANY came to your program?!!!”
You know, come to think of it, there’s another budget cut that I really wouldn’t mind …
But anyway … what was I saying? Oh, yes. The evaluation survey. It’s one of those things that asks the branch manager to give an overview of how staff members in different categories (librarians / clerks / etc.) spend their time. We’re supposed to give percentages of how much of our day we spend doing each of several tasks, including staffing the public service desks, working on the reserve list, performing collection maintenance … and when all of these percentages are added up they’e supposed to equal 100%. Okay, Dear Readers, now you see the problem here, right? Of course you do. You’re smart enough and discerning enough to read this blog, so clearly you have more sense in your head than the people who designed this survey. Obviously, the problem is that we often perform these tasks simultaneously. I spend an average of 5 hours a day working at one of the information desks, and I’m getting paid to work for 7 hours, which means that I’m doing that all-important public service work 71% of the time. But I have to lie and reduce than number in order to make everything add up to 100%. Because the only time I have to accomplish most of those other tasks is WHILE I’M WORKING AT THE INFORMATION DESK. I mean yes, there is a certain percentage of staff members who spend their down time between patron questions staring off into space, reading a book, or otherwise goofing off (and believe me, I often think about how much easier and simpler my life would be if I was one of those people). But there is just too much stuff that has to get done! And honestly, even the laziest librarians will go to look for items on the reserves list at the same time that they’re covering the information desk. So anyway, I did my best to boil down my average task times, but it was a tricky job. Like how usually we can get the reserves list done in an hour or so, while today I worked on it ALL DAY and it still wasn’t done by the time we closed. Damn those pesky patrons and their long-winded questions! So I figured out my honest numbers, and then I had to fudge them in order to make them fit the survey’s version of reality. Pffffft.
Crazy Ms. H. came in today just before the branch was closing. She is infamous in our branch because:
She prefers to come in just before closing time.
She appears to have some (undiagnosed?) mental issues, which means that she wants things done a certain way that makes sense to her but which is usually inconvenient to staff and other patrons.
She is obsessed with DVDs. Okay, she’s kind of obsessed with everything, but the obsession primarily manifests itself along these lines: I want to put a hold on this movie. Do “we” own a copy? How many copies are there in the system? Where am I on the line? Why can’t I place more holds? I’m at my limit, but I want you to look up these movies anyway just so I can know if you have them. Can I have the movie that this person is returning? Can I come behind the counter and see the movies that you haven’t put out yet? At the other libraries they let me come behind the counter and look through the bins! I don’t want to check them out, I just want to SEE them! etc. etc. etc.
Add to this the fact that she has filed complaints against multiple staff members (more than all of our other patrons put together, by my calculations). Last month she asked me to print out five more copies of the “patron comment form” for her, and mumbled something about how she knew several people who wanted the forms. I gave her ten of them.
If she decides that she doesn’t like you, then she REALLY doesn’t like you, and will tell you and everyone else in the building how much she dislikes you. Since Mr. X left, the number of staff members who are willing to tolerate her behavior is even lower. Since I know that you’re wondering about MY interactions with her, I will confess that she gets me so agitated that the longer I talk to her the more I start to doubt my own sanity. It is very difficult for me to focus while she’s talking to me, and more importantly to get HER to focus. But I usually manage to keep an even tone in my voice and my professional composure intact … okay, I did raise my voice to her once, but she was making me especially mental that day. But what’s important is that she’s learned over time that I will act in a professional manner, that I mean what I say, and that I won’t buckle under if she whines and complains (I learned this technique in a child psychology class as a way to avoid temper tantrums, and it has been helpful when dealing with certain adult patrons, as well). When she came in today as we were closing, I heard the branch manager tell her her on the main floor that there wasn’t enough time for her to reserve any more items. So when she came upstairs anyway, I told her that I was about to shut the last of the computers down, but that I had time to place one hold for her before we closed.
I swear, she asked me FOUR TIMES OVER THE NEXT THIRTY SECONDS to put more movies on hold for her, even going so far as to start spelling out the next title she wanted. But I still said no, because we were closing, and when she saw that I wasn’t going to budge, she left. If only every child psychology technique worked on problem patrons!