by Melody Townley, Educational Media Specialist
Be Your Own Patron
Recently, a student asked if she could interview me. Her class was in the process of completing a research project on careers. One question she asked me was, “Does your job involve problem solving?” I responded, “My job IS problem solving!” It got me thinking about how librarianship IS a problem. Or rather, how our jobs are made up of receiving problems and finding solutions. This led me to consider how fortunate we are to work in a profession of problems because it prepares us to handle many different aspects of life. When we come across problems in our personal lives, our job equips us with the skills we need to become both patron and librarian. We learn patience and persistence. We learn hard work. We learn optimism. I’m sure the list of adjectives describing the character traits and skills gleaned from librarianship could be a mile long but still be incomplete. When you’re facing a personal problem – like the daunting challenge of an unsuccessful job search or the pressure of purchasing a new home or car – it can be overwhelming. Don’t let the situation and its stress get the best of you. Make the most of your skills by being both a patron and a librarian. Consider how you would handle, research, and resolve that problem if it were being presented by a patron and not by you. Try a few of these examples of ways you can be your own patron:
- Conduct research in several databases instead of just Googling.
- Try to remember if you’ve ever helped a patron with a similar problem or question and think about how you helped that person.
- Reach out to a librarian in another library or field.
- Conduct informal polls with other librarians via active Facebook pages, like the ALA Think Tank (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ALAthinkTANK/).
- Ask for help via specific email listservs that relate to your field like the LM_Net listserv (http://lmnet.wordpress.com/subscribe/) or the AASL Forum listserv (http://lists.ala.org/wws/lists/divisions/aasl).
- Browse the print and digital offerings at your public, school, or university library.
- Pick the brains of your co-workers.
- Readjust your search terms and strategy if you don’t get satisfactory results the first time.
- If appropriate, bring up your problem at a weekly or monthly staff meeting. Take advantage of lots of smart minds in one place.
- Ask someone outside your own specific field or profession. An individual who is not enmeshed in the situation or the field may offer some unique perspectives for solving the problem that might never occur to you.
Librarianship is a profession known for helping and for going above and beyond the call of duty in the quest to help patrons. So, when you have a problem personally, don’t short change yourself! Use as much time, effort, and variety of resources as you would if you were working on a request for a real patron. Use your skills and become your own patron. Approach the problem with a fresh set of eyes. Suddenly, it’s not a problem – it’s problem solving!
Melody Townley is an educational media specialist for the Woodbridge Township School District, where she works with grades six through twelve. She is the new secretary for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table. Melody graduated from the MLIS program at Rutgers University with highest honors in 2013. She dual concentrated in School Media and in Youth, Information, and Digital Media. In her free time, she enjoys running, exercising, cooking, traveling, seeking new and exotic places to eat, pin trading, and talking about all things Disney! She enjoys live-tweeting conferences @librarianginger and she can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.