Thursday, July 29, 2010

Library Day in the Life: Late Shift Edition

Whereas for past Library Day in the Life postings I have divulged the thrilling secrets of a normal nine-to-five day and an exciting Saturday shift, this round it is time to discuss the wonders of working the night shift. Every Monday and Wednesday, I alleviate the tedium of working normal hours by coming in at noon and leaving at eight. Those are actually the hours we are open to the public for those days, although some of my co-workers come in for 9-5 and get additional off-desk work done, such as collection development and email reference. I, on the other hand, usually spend those morning hours wrangling a baby and occasionally attempting to run errands. This Monday morning, rather than be productive, I took a nap.

11:00  Leave the house for day care. I am listening to His Majesty's Dragon in the car at the moment, and completely do not mind the hour long commute, because then I get to hear more scenes of man-dragon bonding.

12:00  I clock in to work on time, YAY! Luckily, I am rarely on desk the first hour of the day, so I have time to put my things down, boot up my ancient Windows 2000 computer, and check my email(s), Google Reader, and Twitter for news and exciting developments. If there are no exciting developments, I will hope to create some.

This morning I had the pleasure of coming in to find a Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) waiting for me on my desk. Apparently, the purpose of this study is to "continue our on-going efforts to ensure that we can attract and retain qualified employees." It comes with a FAQ and a glossary. It requires me to describe my basic purpose as an employee, primary responsibilities (which have to be divided into the percentage of time spent "accomplishing each responsibility"), education, communication, work experience, decision making, problem-solving, supervisory responsibility, budget management, and physical and mental demands of the job. Some of the items on the latter list are nonsensical and unintentionally hilarious (to me), such as how often employees:
  • Use hands to "finger, handle or feel"
  • Use hands, arms, feet and legs sequentially or simultaneously
  • Are able to identify and distinguish colors
The reason I am spending so much time discussing this is because 1) I actually had to take a lot of time on it instead of doing my job and 2) this is a good example of what being a municipal employee is like. I briefly considered the idea of directing them to this blog post in lieu of filling out the form, but it seems to be required. Sigh. I am going to try to think of this as a good exercise in how to justify why librarians = awesome. Also, I do love a survey!

Eventually, after puzzling out the form for quite a while, I get ready to go on desk and help actual patrons. I leave my cozy cubicle with my name badge and flash drive (my "portable brain") and find that it is, for once this summer, not oppressively hot in our un-air-conditioned public areas.

2:00  My two-hour shift this afternoon is on the main reference desk, which is adjacent to our 33 public computers, several large library tables, the microfilm and microfilm readers, and the reference collection. Once in a while, I go through the room and count people to see how many are in my realm of responsibility (which I share with one other reference librarian when staffing that desk). I have counted over seventy on occasion, but today it was closer to forty, even though they seemed to be the most high-maintenance forty people one could possibly imagine, including:
  • The guy who wouldn't believe us that someone could have locked the bathroom from the inside because they were using it.
  • Numerous people with computer issues, including: can't get on (typing in card numbers incorrectly or expired cards); can't get to the internet; can't close browser windows; need to print; having trouble filling out complex online job applications; need more time; and just want the computer for "like five minutes!" and are frustrated at the wait and reservation system. 
  • The most troublesome computer issue was a deaf patron's inability to load [unnamed evil browser] on her laptop, considering that her computer was showing as connected through her wireless card. After wrestling with it myself, I chose to call the IT department, which is a luxury I have working at a large library. They eventually got the problem sorted out, with a few more difficulties than usual due to the communication barrier. We have a TTY phone that is infrequently used, none of the librarians here (that I know of) are proficient with sign language, so most of our communication with hearing-impaired patrons is done through gestures and writing on small pieces of paper. This interaction was a good reminder to 1) not assume that everyone can hear and 2) slow down and enunciate for the purposes of lip-reading.
  • I also ended up having two reference questions that required longer contemplation. The first was a woman who started out saying she wanted one thing, but upon further application of reference interview tactics turned out to probably need a lawyer. I gave her the numbers for the Hampden County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service, the Legal Advocacy and Resource Center, and the name of a local lawyer with free consultations. The other question came from another library looking for assistance from us as the largest public library in the region. However, despite researching it on and off for the rest of the day, I couldn't find a concrete answer for the number of Palestinian deaths (related to the conflict) since 1948. On the advice of @shinyinfo, I tried the UNreference form as well as some websites that seemed to at least cite their sources. It was not a very satisfying conclusion, but that happens sometimes. If anyone reading this post has a better idea for a reliable source, please send me an email!
4:00  Time for a dinner break! Those two hours on desk seemed to take an eternity, but I do actually enjoy being constantly busy with patrons and questions. For dinner I had homemade pesto with pasta, red potatoes, and green beans that I picked at our CSA, as well as snacks and a sanity-preserving Coke.

5:00  Back on desk, this time in the Fiction and Media area, which is in the air-conditioned part of the library. Evening patrons are a little different than those that come in on days we are open from 9-5. There are definitely  more parents with their children (toting summer reading lists, especially this time of  year). There is a different set of people that comes solely for the computers and will stay the whole two hours allotted. A group of raucous teens usually haunts the YA section for most of the night. The pace is a little slower, and there are fewer opportunities to call other libraries with questions or for shelf checks. My three hours on desk were much quieter than the two in the afternoon, allowing me to contemplate deep, deep questions such as which hour to put my statistics in if the reference transaction occurred at the turn of the hour and whether there was a patron-friendly way to describe "fiction" and "non-fiction" so they would actually understand it. I had fewer and fewer patrons as the night wore on, and therefore the opportunity to order some paperbacks and perform other collection development tasks, in addition to considering the topic of my upcoming display, the new self-checkout machines, and whether or not it would be advisable to divide the popular movies by genre. Another moderately productive day!

    1 comment:

    Doris Madsen said...

    Hi Anna - am glad you commented on the JCQ - I was livid -- I was rushing today to get as much of it done as possible - in between a YA SRC crazy t-shirt program - etc., etc. I really thought I did a bang-up damn good job - went to save it so I could catch my breath and then it was gone! So now I have to do it over - what an exercise in futility! Your day sounds terrifically exciting and your supper delicious. What else would make it better - maybe hair up in a bun (oops, I don't wear that style)