In the midst of weeding this past week, Librarian Emily came across a book from the 1980s, a book designed to improve librarians’ communications skills. Now, ideally, none of us would argue with this; I think most people could benefit from learning to communicate better. (For instance, my staff felt that my blog yesterday had an angry tone when no such tone was intended. In fact, it was supposed to be humorous. Give myself an “F” grade on that.)
But what has both amused and bemused us is the tone of this book. The author, probably quite unintentionally, seems to believe that librarians have no interpersonal skills whatsoever and must start at the beginning. In fact, if alien beings ever land on this planet and want to know how to get along with humans, this would be a perfect book for them. The author starts many sentences with”People often feel . . . People often react. . .” as if librarians might not actually be people.
There was also a very handy chart of gestures to refer to when librarians didn’t understand what people meant when these “regular people” used their hands to express meaning. And most of them did not resemble at all the actual gestures we see in our library.
Still, the book has provided us with some chuckles. When a colleague mentioned that another person had not noticed her irritation, we quickly turned to the gesture page so that she could be clearer with her intent the next time. And for a whole afternoon, I kept waving my hands up in the air to show I was disturbed, although I may have been the only one who found that amusing.
Still, it occurred to me that maybe the old stereotype of librarians is still out there. So in case it is, here are some fun facts about the library staff here at The Mayfield Library:
- Terry is in a band, and I mean a real alternative band, not the marching band where perhaps you expect librarians to hang out.
- Pam is a banjo player who has shared the stage with the likes of Porter Waggoner and shared a studio with Dolly Parton.
- Sally rides her bike all over Nashville and Mount Juliet.
- Charles can wear some pretty crazy-looking socks.
- Emily is a cook. Last week, her repertoire included roast duck and lemon-raspberry muffins.
- Alison is a style maven. Who else comes to work looking like Stevie Nicks one day and Coco Chanel the next?
- Faye can bend any computer program to her will.
- Andrew can quote Mr. Rogers one minute and an episode of South Park the next.
- And the Jolly Librarian herself likes nothing better than running at the Y while listening to Snow Patrol.
So, you see, we are not computers that spit out information about resources. We can do more than hush you if you talk too loud and tackle you if you try to take a reference book from the library. We actually do leave the library and mingle with ordinary folks each day. And, often, and let this be a warning to you, you often can’t tell us apart from the regular “people” out there.