Archive for October, 2006

The Dynamics of the Librarian-Patron Relationship

October 21, 2006

I read a blog post earlier this month – Two-way Street by the Feel-good Librarian – which dealt with: Why do patrons sometimes tell us their life stories when we give them information?  She concluded by saying “Information is a gateway.  It’s also a two-way street.”  I agree with her – even for basic requests, we need to interact with our patrons in order to figure out what they know so that we have the best chance of providing them with information that, even if it does not fully answer their queries, will at least direct them where they need to go for further help.  To do that, there usually needs to be some kind of rapport established, otherwise the transaction won’t be as successful as it could’ve been.

But to return to her question about why patrons also tell us about their lives, I think there are several reasons.  One may be what the Feel-good Librarian suggested herself – patrons feel a need to unburden themselves to someone else because they cannot resolve their personal crises without help from another person.  Also, librarians have the reputation of being able to find accurate sources of information, so patrons may feel safer relying on us to point them in the correct direction as opposed to asking friends or family members.  They might see librarians as unbiased third parties who are there specifically to help, and who won’t judge them.  This could make us easier to confide in regarding certain issues because we don’t have our own agendas in the situation, and if we perform our duties ethically, we won’t allow our own personal beliefs to affect how we treat our patrons.  And in some circumstances, it may just come down to how we look or our personalities – perhaps our appearance reminds them of their parents, children, or other people in their lives that they respect and trust.  Or else it could be due to our treating them kindly when they approach us, so they feel we will be sympathetic to what they are going through.

I personally love knowing that my efforts have resulted in providing a patron with helpful, relevant information that he or she may not have been able to uncover otherwise.  Tied to that is another two-way street because through working with patrons, we also learn about information that could solve a future problem of our own.  But there is a risk that just comes as a part of the two-way street of interaction that comes with this job – becoming too emotionally invested in a patron’s problem.  It might be an issue that has touched our own lives, or we, like the patron, see someone we care about in him or her.  I don’t know a foolproof formula to avoid a query mushrooming into something that keeps me up at night, since I still remember some patrons that I spoke with when I was a library page almost ten years ago.  Maybe an answer is just to keep in mind that providing information can’t always completely resolve every question or problem that patrons have, but we can do our part by providing avenues for them to explore.  It is ulitimately up to the patron to decide how to proceed.  We just have to hope that what we did for them made some kind of a difference.

Snow, Anyone? The “October Surprise Storm” 2006

October 16, 2006

I had planned to post about the dynamics of librarian/patron relations last weekend, but I’m putting that on hold in favor of reporting on events that took place in Western New York thanks to the peculiarities of Mother Nature.  I live in the Buffalo, New York area, which is notoriously associated with receiving ungodly amounts of snow every winter (never mind that Syracuse, in the middle of the state, almost always gets more).  But even we were taken by surprise when it began to snow heavily on Thursday, October 12th.  By the time I left UB at 6:20 that evening (I was a good girl and had stayed for my Library Management class despite it looking like Christmas was coming), there was at least 6 inches of snow on my car.  Luckily I always have my snow brush in my back seat (which people have laughed at repeatedly, but who’s laughing now?), and I was also fortunate to live about 5 minutes from campus, so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time negotiating the unplowed roads.

What made the storm so problematic was its coming so early in the season – the leaves were still on the trees, so the added weight of the snow (which was wet and heavy to begin with) weighed down the branches enough that many of them bent and snapped, bringing down power lines.  I lost power sometime after midnight on Friday the 13th (and tried not to notice the date), along with over 350,000 other places around the region.  Again, I was fortunate – I have a gas fireplace that I used for heat, and a gas stove for cooking (which I had to light with a match, and I’m very proud that I never came close to setting myself on fire).  Being a woman also paid off in that I had a huge stockpile of candles in various sizes and scents to use for light in the evening.  Thousands of people were stuck with no means of heating their homes, but Buffalo has lived up to its nickname of “The City of Good Neighbors” – everyone is helping out where they can.  Our Congressional delegation got the storm zone declared a federal disaster area, so we’ll be eligible for government aid.  (I’m trying not to remember the mess that FEMA made out of its response to the Gulf Coast.)

I got my power back at about 6 on Saturday evening, but there are still a little less than 300,000 places without it, and it’s estimated that it’ll take the rest of this week to get everyone back on line.  But electrical crews from other states and Canada are working 24/7 to try to restore normalcy for everyone, so hopefully it won’t take quite that long.  Several schools are closed because they have no power, and some areas still have driving bans (mostly due to downed tree limbs and power lines that need to be cleared).  Thousands of us also have to boil water because one of the pumping stations lost power for a while, so there are water purity concerns. 

So to wrap up, we still have a lot to deal with, but the Western New York region is used to snow and its problems.  We’re tough people, and we’ll make it through the aftermath of this storm just like we’ve made it through so many others.

Here are some Buffalo News articles about the storm (they will be available for a short time without having to subscribe to the News’ archives):

Killer Storm Devastated Region’s Trees (about the number of trees that were damaged because of fallen limbs)

Surprise Storm Leaves WNY Reeling (general overview of what happened)

Parks’ Treasures Badly Battered (Buffalo has a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmstead that was affected by the storm)

4 Counties Eligible for Millions in Federal Aid (about our disaster status and FEMA)

Library Students at UB Launch Library Student Journal!

October 2, 2006

The inaugural September 2006 issue of Library Student Journal has just been released!  It is an Open Access publication, with a primary audience of library and information studies students throughout the world.  Any library student who wishes to submit papers to be considered for publication should check out the submission guidelines for information about how to do so.

Congratulations to the editorial staff for a job well done, hopefully indicative of a ton of future success!