I began this post thinking that maybe Librarianship wasn’t a bad place to travel in my career, after all. Then I wrote out a few paragraphs, and realized…no, this…Public Services is something I really shouldn’t do. I mean, really should not.
When I first started a job as a Library Aide, I got a lot of pushback from patrons (including the guy who tried to get out of his fines by doing a “Godfather” impression). I was thinking how, after two to three years, after I learned to expect the unexpected, that mostly ended. Even given that: in reality as a Library Assistant, I was only on the Reference desk for seven months before COVID forced the libraries to close.
That is, I didn’t get the chance for things to become easy. They were never “easy” for me, at the Reference Desk, because that work is basically having to respond to the environment in the moment, never knowing what is going to happen next. It’s fielding random questions that I almost never know the answer to, offhand; and even if I did, best practice is to look it up, anyway. The problem is, when you’re at the Reference Desk, the patrons seem to always expect you to already know the answer to their questions. Because, you know, you’re the Librarian, and Librarians all know everything. Well — no. We know how to help find information, we don’t already know it.
Of course, finding information isn’t the hard part. Even trying to figure out what you really need to know so we can help you, isn’t the hard part.
The hard part is dealing with disruptive and criminal activity (most apparently from what I can tell: stalking), protecting some of our patrons (like youth) from others of our patrons, and routine policy violations: e.g. eating inside; letting one’s “Service” Pitbull sleep in the middle of a walkway around a blind corner where someone can trip over her or step on her or run her over with a 120-lb cart (and we’re trusting her not to bite? Not to bite?); leaving one’s dog tied up outdoors where he’s obviously in great distress and crying loudly for you to come back. For 45 minutes. Or worse, running around loose and unattended.
(Okay, maybe I have a thing about dogs.)
Then there are the people who are lonely and want to sit and talk to the person who is at work and can’t leave the desk (and just assume that she also wants to have a conversation — with them — at that time); or incessantly ask for assistance they don’t need, because they want social contact. As much as I wish I could say that we aren’t paid to be friends with people (which feels one step away from prostitution/consort work), upper Management seems to have no problem with expecting people to do so.
Then there are the people with (usually, assumed) mental problems who behave erratically (and/or ritualistically) and sometimes in a hostile manner, depending on the brain chemistry of the day. Not to mention the ones that will comment on librarians’ bodies (is that worse?), or ask intrusive personal questions. I guess, “because they want to know you.” And they don’t think that maybe you don’t have an interest in giving out facts about your personal life to someone you don’t know.
And yes, I did break up with somebody who insisted on calling me a, “sexy Librarian.” That **** doesn’t help. I don’t get a buzz out of being called “sexy,” especially when you’re simultaneously misgendering and stereotyping me. You are supposed to know better. I imagine you smacking your lips, self-satisfied — I am not the person you want me to be.
That is, there’s a host of interpersonal difficulties that come with being behind that desk, which are made even harder when one gets into libraries for the perceived safety, the inclusivity, and the information; and not, so much, to serve the public (meaning, “everyone who doesn’t violate policy [regardless of whether you agree with policy]”). When that’s compounded with a lack of effective training from Management on dealing with these points (and then chalked up by Management to the employee’s [or Manager’s] personal failing when it isn’t handled well), it’s not a good situation. Especially when one asked for applicable training, and had it denied.
But seriously: it was only seven months. Although that list up there ^ is from 10 years of experience.
Well, actually, maybe it is a good thing that I’m not in Public Service right now, and I really should aim for Cataloging Librarianship. The thing is, I’m not sure to what degree I will be able to both handle a job as a basic, “Librarian,” and also avoid Public Service. Kind of like I’m not sure to what degree I can be a Metadata Librarian and also avoid Computer Programming.
And no, I didn’t know what I was getting into before I got into it.
I’m thinking it has a lot to do with all the vocabulary getting mixed up together: entities, attributes, elements, relations, values, etc. And the teachers using the terms like we already know what they mean, when I have to think about the definitions of words within at least three different compound terms just to try to understand a single sentence.
Given that…I realize that, in contrast, I have a lot of insight into social dynamics, even though I’m not a particularly social person. Last night, I was writing a post on my own…facilities, and special knowledge. I realized that my personal experience with disability (my own, and others’), and my mental focus around the area of marginalization in general…probably would help me in a Public Services capacity. (Not so much as a different temperament would, but.)
I do suppose that with everything that I’ve experienced, I’d also likely be good as an Academic Librarian.
What I realized, when I was writing my post, is that I have deep, visceral knowledge of what it’s like to be a multiply-impacted minority in this country. It’s…something that I am not entirely aware of, until weighing the benefit I could bring someone else through my experience, and realize that — for something like Ethnic Studies or Gender Studies (and hey look, there is a Disability Studies [now]), I have direct experience of what it’s like to live through what a lot of people just read about.
That is, I forget that my experience could be influenced by others altering the way they deal with me because of my (ambiguous) race in addition to my sex in addition to my apparent gender (which is not my gender) in addition to my apparent age (which is not my age), while my disability’s stigma (after I reveal I have one) can cause fear in those who are supposed to help, and none of the random sexual attention from men on the job is wanted (that is, I’m not a heterosexual woman, and I certainly don’t want a man who starts off by playing power games based on who he thinks I am [that is, subordinate to him], based on my appearance).
Maybe I should just be a Writer. It’s a solitary vocation. Of course, though, it requires a second income. And also, reading; which is not entirely…something I feel comfortable prioritizing while I’m in classes, but it would feed my writing.
I’m having two issues with my writing, right now.
One, when I spend the majority of my time writing, I cut down on time that I should be spending reading in order to enter into dialogue with other ideas and other writers.
Two, when I write, I write some things that I don’t feel safe publishing (even with the First Amendment; this country can be grievously unfair when it comes to the full protection of minority citizens), and that stops the entire discursive process in my mind. What I know I need to do is write my way through that content, without intending on publishing it, so I can get to what’s after it. Or, develop what I’ve written before. I don’t even necessarily know what I’ve been doing for the last week, but I know I haven’t been working on any of my Creative Writing projects. Or art projects (other than setting up the new palette).
Ah, that’s right: I’ve been working on second language acquisition (which by its nature is very basic) — particularly, new kanji — and my class. Hmm.
Then, there’s the point that major life decisions have come up within the last week.
I’ve also been writing, here, and that takes more time than I realize. One recent post took five hours. I’ve been writing this one, since last night.
I don’t feel so bad, anymore. The thing is, in my evenings, I can write here or in my notebooks, and/or study Japanese language. In the daytime, when my mind is sharper, I should be studying Library Science. Maybe after that, I can read in English and, you know, develop content…though perhaps the book I’m attempting to read isn’t actually interesting to me, right now. Regardless of its disputable topic aligning with my interests.
I still need to be looking at Writing and Editing jobs. Seriously. Even if Editing is an interpersonally-intense vocation, at least I wouldn’t be dealing with the general public. I’d be dealing with approved Writers and other people in the Publishing Industry. Not that that would necessarily be easier…
…but I know Writers. I’ve been around Writers. I’m a trained Writer.
Maybe it would be. (There’s also the fact that if I’m an Editor, the authors of the works I commission probably wouldn’t be as likely to overstep their bounds — because hey, it’s hard to get a book deal. And Editors aren’t designated as, “Public Servants,” which some members of the Public interpret to mean, “sub-human and unworthy of respect.” [And we wonder why minority Librarians are apt to leave the field?])
So right now…I know that I want to be reading and writing, and learning Japanese language (nihongo), and working on my class. That’s enough to plan on — right?
Reading and writing could further my career in the direction of becoming a published Author, which could help me become an Editor or Professor. Learning nihongo could further my career in the direction of becoming a Japanese Language & Literature Professor, and/or an Academic Librarian with a Subject Specialization in Japanese Language and Literature and Creative Writing. And my current class allows me further specialization in Cataloging Librarianship.
As for hobbies: drawing and watercolor, fountain pens/stationery, sewing, beadwork (weaving, stringing, micromacramé) are current…but the only things I’ve been doing recently have been playing with pens and stationery, and trying to organize my watercolors.
As for specializations: we have diversity & inclusion — especially in regard to LGBTQIA, cultural and racial diversity, neurodiversity. Then there are color interactions & color harmonies, which tie together my hobbies. Beaded micromacramé. Jewelry design. Parapsychological thrillers. Library Science.
…and maybe…just maybe, I should work on sewing that blouse I cut out at the beginning of lockdown. Making and altering clothing could be a valuable skill, even if I can’t see myself as a clothing designer, at this point.
And, regardless…it might take my mind off things…