Like me, my sister is a librarian. Unlike me, she’s gainfully employed (minor detail), and so I like to live my librarian life vicariously through her. She was recently telling me that her boss wanted to put something together entitled, “What I Should Have Learned in Library School.” This got me thinking, what would I include under this heading? From my time in student affairs and Sarah’s experience as an academic reference librarian, we came up with a few examples:
1) How to Deal With Patrons Viewing Questionable Material on Public Computers: I worked in the student union at UW where there were banks of public computers throughout the building. Periodically, there would be people using the computers for more than checking their email (wink, wink). Though not a library, the Union is a public building and there isn’t much one can officially do to stop this kind of behavior. Shouldn’t there be a library class in how to respectfully yet forcefully glare at someone to get them to shut down the porn?
2) How to Deal With Creepy Patrons: Maybe there should be a universal safe word for librarians, something to alert coworkers that you need some back up when a patron is a little too much. A class in how to keep a reference interview firmly on track, or one in how to deflect in strange interchanges would surely be helpful.
3) How to Encourage Lingerers to Leave: Lingerers are a different animal from creepy patrons, they are the ones who may be very nice but overstay their welcome. Working at the reference desk, Sarah will talk to people who don’t always understand that just because her desk is in a public place doesn’t mean that she has endless time to shoot the breeze. As information professionals, I think we’re all committed to helping patrons in need, but we also need to be able to shoo those people on at some point.
I know there must be others out there who have topics they would include in this list, so I’m asking you, the community of seasoned INALJ professionals, what do you wish you would have learned in library school?