Hello and welcome to Stacking Up, a blog for the "modern" librarian! The great thing about today's librarians is that we are so diverse: different ages, backgrounds, personalities, looks... this blog is here to share this diversity with ideas, insights, stories, experiences and opinions for anything and everything having to do with being a librarian!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"You Know What Really Grinds My Gears...?" A Much-Needed Rant from a Substitute Librarian

**Long, heavy sigh**

OK, I don't want to include too many "rants" here, but there's something I have to get off my chest. Let me preface this by saying- I am a substitute librarian for a city. As such, I am sent to sub at approximately ten different branches. Now, these are all under central administration, so technically they're all supposed to follow the same rules and policies, but in reality this usually isn't the case. Each branch has a slightly different way of doing things, different places where they keep things, completely different layouts, and about 50 different names I have to remember to match to faces. I really don't mind working in such varied circumstances- in fact, I enjoy the experience of getting to see the unique character of each library and the community it serves, while also getting really good on-the-job training as a newer librarian. I consider myself pretty lucky to have this job.

But here is what I cannot stand: I am sent to a new branch I've never been to before and the staff treat me 1.) like I'm a complete imbecile who has no clue how to work in a library or 2.) like it's incomprehensible that I don't know something specific to that branch. Usually, though not always, this is an issue I have with the clerks. And today I got to work with some real gems.  The two clerks there had clearly been working together at this branch for a long time and were not too thrilled to have to work with someone new (ie. me). The entire day I was there they either ignored my presence completely or acted like I was a nuisance/in their way. And forget about asking simple questions like, where do you put the holds, or what is your policy on computer use? Each time I received the most condescending answer ever- like how could I not know how they do things? And get this: they actually said I needed to be initiated! Now, I don't mind some good-natured joking around or poking fun but really? C'mon, this isn't a sorority, although I kind of felt like I was in one with these two...

I took it all in stride but by the end of the day I was super frustrated. Even worse than their incredibly unprofessional behavior towards me, they were very unpleasant and abrasive towards patrons-- and even justified being rude and grumpy because "they had been there so long." Apparently I was supposed to be impressed that they had such a long record of working there. Ugh.

Honestly, I very rarely run into library staff that act this way, and in most cases I receive the greatest help and understanding from librarians and clerks who get the fact that, hey, how they do things at one branch can be completely different from how they do things at another, and it can be very difficult to keep tract of all those things. To all of those wonderful library staff, I am very grateful, because they have taught me a lot and have been very supportive as I learn the ropes at all the different city branches.

I guess what really irritates me is that I try at all times to be as professional as possible. I am only 26 years old, but I still expect the people I work with to be equally professional and to treat me as their colleague, not as their inferior. I don't know if any other younger librarians, or substitute librarians, or other professionals for that matter, have experienced less-than-desirable treatment from certain people who assume that age is an indicator of competence and ability to perform well on the job. 

I will end this on a positive note: besides the two "sorority sisters" I worked with, I really had a great day working with patrons. There were a lot of reference questions dealing with all sorts of different things, which kept me on my toes and made the time go by really fast. Thanks to my patrons, I left in a good mood, knowing that I had been of some useful service to them :)

And that, after all, is what really matters.


  1. Ick. What a day. For a second I double-checked your profile to see if you were in Baltimore, because I can definitely picture a couple of people you might be talking about! But, I'm pretty sure you're not here :)

    I'm sorry you had to deal with that! Hopefully you'll be at another branch soon...

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  3. Ah, it sucks that you had to endure something like this! My local library seems to be exactly the same, there are two elderly women working there and they seem to think they own/rule the place. They give you *this* look, they watch your every move, they're very unpleasant and snappy. Unfortunately I don't have any other library in a walking distance, so want it or not, I have to put up with this BS.

    Anyhoo, I enjoy reading your stories here! Great blog. I am following you! Thanks for stopping by my site :)

  4. Thanks for sympathizing with me guys! So glad to have you as followers too :)

    Yes, I mean, there are some awesome branches that I work at where the people are more laid-back and super friendly-- but then you just get some staff who think they rule the roost, and they seem to think that substitute librarians are clueless! Glad to have patrons who make my day better though!

  5. Ugh, sorry you had to deal with those people! Hopefully you won't have to work with them too often. At least you had a good patron experience :)

  6. That's terrible, I'm sorry lady!

    I bet you're a fabulous librarian, and those people are jealous and most likely completely unapproachable. Hopefully you'll get transferred soon!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  7. Thanks Ashley!
    Also, I don't know if you saw my book review blog, which I just realized I didn't have listed in my profile (oops!) but if you didn't, here's the URL:


    Have a good day!