I would like to share with you a few lines from a book I found in the LIS collection at MPOW. Bear in mind that we have not taught LIS here for more than 15 years – so our collection is dated to say the least. This particular gem comes from a 1961 book called ‘Librarianship’, from a series called The Sunday Times Career Books. Chapter 15 is really called ‘Specially for Maidens’. It probably won’t come as any surprise that this book was written by a man! Here we go:
Librarianship, too, is a profession with a distinct appeal to the female sex and the work is well-suited to women. It requires at many stages such personal characteristics as accuracy, persistency, neatness, orderliness, and a liking for work with the public…Many women, of course, do not enter the profession as a long-term career. Marriage is the ultimate objective (and incidentally work in a library has its advantages in this direction too) but until then at any rate they are able to earn a reasonable salary…
The work is interesting in all its aspects, but that which is particularly attractive to women is work as a Children’s Librarian…Cataloguing work, too, is well suited to the feminine temperament, for it demands great accuracy and consistency…On the other hand, many women seem to fight shy of the administrative posts, which carry more responsibility and need greater organising ability. Perhaps this is one more reason why the majority of such positions go to men!
I don’t think there’s really anything else to say.
I’ve mentioned before that my book club uses a rating system on books – we put a score out of 5 against our name on a card in the back of the book and then everyone else knows who enjoyed it, who couldn’t finish it and so on. This is really useful in a group where everyone’s reading preferences are different – you can work out who else likes the same books you do and pick those up to read.
The rating system over the years has been controversial. At the very first meeting more than 10 years ago we decided on a scale of 1-5 where 1 = couldn’t finish it and 5 = couldn’t put it down wish I could read it again tomorrow. We have never allowed half points – preferring to make people commit one way or the other. Some of us love the no half points, others hate it and it comes up for discussion at least a couple of times a year.
I was thinking about this system in relation to some quantitative outcome measurement we do at MPOW. One of the measurements we use is ‘significant’ – in the context of has this resulted in significant change from the way things were before. I had a meeting on Thursday that I think had ‘very significant’ outcomes – but just like my book club, there are no degrees of significance in the system so we can’t sit on the fence, and I don’t think it merits the next measurement up in the scale, so significant it shall stay.
How often do we make compromises at work and at home, based on something like this?
Principles are good and fine and I believe in them – in principle. I try not to squirm too much when I find myself compromising something I hold to be true in principle – because I also don’t believe in setting myself up to fail.
Perhaps flexibility is the word I’m searching for?
I’m slowly getting used to using Outlook’s calendar function as a time management tool – I’ve used this functionality before but never to the degree that we use it here at MPOW. We all share calendars, so it’s easy to see where people are, or what they have on for the day if they ring in sick.
At first, it feels strange putting in a meeting request for a ‘quick chat’ at someone’s desk, but I’m learning that it’s the only way around here to fit in around the seemingly endless meetings everyone goes to. I’m learning to use the scheduler, which helps me see a time when everyone is free to attend, (even if it does still sometimes feel like ‘snooping’) whether for a quick chat or a more formal meeting.
I’m still a little Outlook-challenged, but getting there.
At the risk of sounding like I may have been employed under false pretences I have to say that when my current manager was interviewing me for my position and kept mentioning the term ‘bibliometrics’ I did a lot of nodding and smiling and quite frankly, pretending I knew what she was talking about.
Sometimes I feel like my whole professional life consists of nodding and smiling and pretending I’m following the conversation. I’m pretty good at absorbing information by an almost osmosis-like process – working on the theory that if I listen long enough, then go away and do some background reading everything will eventually make sense. Most importantly, I don’t commit myself to an opinion one way or another too early (I hate to appear ill-informed or under-prepared, even when I am).
On the whole this works. In a large academic library with 160+ staff one has to do something about the information overload and I have found that getting up to speed has come much faster by adopting a ‘nod and smile’ approach and not worrying too much about the details in the first instance. I find that absorbing the culture and the big picture of a new environment (whether it’s a new job, or a new soccer club the kids are involved with) is the quickest way through the confusion of those first few weeks and months.
I digress, as this was originally going to be about bibliometrics! However, I have probably reached the limit of your patience dear reader, I know you’ve got dozens of other blogs to pop off and read as part of your commitment to #blogjune so in my now familiar style, I’ll leave the specifics until another time.
Last night I attended an interesting PD event put on by the newly rejuvenated ALIA Sydney group. Billed as ‘How to be library senior management in 12 easy steps‘, it quickly became obvious from the impressive panel of library senior managers assembled that there are in fact no easy steps. While some of it appears to be sheer dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time, mostly it comes down to the commonsense approach of making the most of your opportunities and being proactive about career development and career progression. This includes taking on roles you are a little nervous about (it’s good to challenge yourself) and taking on opportunities to improve your skills with further education, PD events, attendance at conferences, writing papers and all that other (obvious?) stuff. It’s good to be reminded of these things, particularly as I’m in a spot of down time in my career mojo.
So, this morning I have finally enrolled in a Cert IV Training & Assessment. In all the dithering I have been doing about whether to do any more study, I’ve overlooked the fact that I could probably just be getting on with this little qualification and getting it over with. It will probably be useful and will certainly be a good addition to my CV. I am pretty vocal about my issue with LIS education leaving important stuff like pedagogy out of the course when most librarians end up, in fact, teaching. I like the instruction side of my job but am aware that I am making stuff up as I go along when it comes to developing learning outcomes and effective programs. I’m hoping this will help. There’s a lot of studying going on in my household at the moment, including a HSC student so I have been a bit reluctant to add yet another one to the mix! However, everyone who has done the Cert IV tells me it’s not terribly difficult or time consuming so I am trusting my PLN on this and getting on with it!
Feels good to have taken some control and made some decisions about my own career.
What’s in a name? Well, everything really. Welcome to a short rant about one of my pet peeves – the inability of otherwise seemingly educated people to spell my name correctly. I don’t have a particularly difficult first name to spell, in fact it’s a very common name. However, there are quite a few variations of the spelling and it seems to me that when doing business with me, checking which version I use is probably a) polite and b) professional. I can cope with my name being mispelled if its the first time I’ve heard from you, or if you have taken a guess having only ever heard it spoken (because I don’t use the most common spelling).
However, if I have sent you an email, with my name on it in AT LEAST 3 places, why, why, WHY would you reply with the wrong spelling? It makes you look a) slightly stupid b) unprofessional and c) completely uncaring.
To use my favourite phrase : It’s not rocket science.
Good customer service ain’t rocket science.
This is one of my favourite expressions – usually trotted out when someone is reporting either a good or bad customer service experience as it’s an equally appropriate comment in either circumstance. I feel that I know a thing or two about customer service so am somewhat qualified to comment. Working in libraries is all about customer service – it makes me laugh when someone says “Oh I’ve always wanted to work in a library, I love books”. It’s not about the books, that’s for sure!
Over the weekend I had a couple of customer service experiences that have triggered some thoughts about customer experiences in libraries to share.
On Friday evening, it became apparent that our modem at home was borked. The modem was installed about 2 years ago when I changed over to my current telco so I suppose it was getting on in modem years, but it gave us no warning, just up and died. In a fit of DIY troubleshooting I dug out the manual I had carefully stored away all those years ago and tried to look up the troubleshooting pages, just to confirm for myself that it really wasn’t going to come back from the dead.
- Customer service stopping point #1. The manual very helpfully pointed out that for detailed troubleshooting I might like to access the detailed ‘help table’ on – you guessed it – their website. Let’s recap. The modem was borked, remember? Meaning I had no internet access. Making the online troubleshooting manual a bit, well, useless really. Then, without access to the internet, the next challenge was finding a contact number to ring for technical advice from my telco. It was in the instruction manual, but buried on about page 35, in really small print. The helpful, “need help?” message splashed cheerfully across the back page of the manual referred me to…. the website.
- Lessons for libraries? Make sure help and advice don’t put unrealistic expectations onto those seeking the help and advice. Put contact information prominently on literature, websites, emails and social media pages. Make it easy for folks to find you. Go and check whether that’s the case now – yes, right now. Just because I know where to find the telephone number to renew library materials (and I should, I put it there) doesn’t mean that a newbie to my website will be able to find it. We need to view customer service initiatives from the customer’s point of view, not our own.
I’ll skip straight on past the part where I finally got through all the voice activated software and onto the help desk only to have them tell me my modem appeared to be borked. Yes. Thank you, I was glad to have that confirmed.
As our family home cannot function without access to the internet it was straight off to the shops to replace the modem. Despite previous terrible customer service experiences in my telco’s retail shops I headed there first. (I should point out here that while I consider myself to be a modern, up to date, savvy user of technology I have absolutely no idea what goes into making that happen for me. The technical nuts and bolts of how my internet access works is beyond both my understanding and my interest). Hence, as I was about to spend a not inconsiderable amount of money I was hoping to get some advice before simply schlepping up to a shop counter with a modem tucked under my arm.
- Customer service stopping point #2 This particular retail shop practices ignoring customers, they must do. Not for the first time, I found myself standing about in this shop clearly looking as if I needed assistance, loitering near the modems but looking around at and towards staff – giving what I consider to be fairly obvious signs. OK, some of the staff were busy with other customers but not all of them. Perhaps the staff who were free were unable to sell me a modem but surely they were not unable to come and talk to me and let me know that someone who did know about modems would be with me just as soon as possible. Result? After 5 minutes of being totally and utterly ignored I walked out – resolved yet again to never walk into that shop again (this time I really mean it).
- Lessons for libraries? We all get busy. Sometimes I’m on the phone when a student wants help from me, or perhaps I am helping someone else. It’s not rocket science – I make eye contact, indicate I know they are there – they are not stupid, they can see I’m busy but it has cost me nothing to let them know I have seen them and will be attending to them when I can.
There is a happy ending to this story.
- Customer service winning point #1 I walked out of that telco shop and straight into a major hi-fi/electrical goods store. I picked up a modem randomly from the shelf and was approached by a young staffer wanting to know if I needed help. Yes, I said. I need a new modem, will this one do? He asked me a few questions – what did I need it to do, how many computers are on the home network, what sort of warranty was important to me and then said, yes, that one will do. I paid and was out of there in less time than it took the staff in the other shop to ignore me.
- Lessons for libraries? Actually, this is one libraries can teach retail. The power of the reference interview cannot be underestimated. Those few questions he took the time to ask reassured me that the product I was buying would probably do the job I wanted it to do. He greatly reduced the chance of me coming back to return my product and becoming a disgruntled customer and in fact, he inadvertently became the trigger for this blog post because he converted me to a happy customer.
Yes, sometimes our customers (patrons/students/co-workers) are rude or difficult to get along with. Doesn’t mean we can’t practice great customer service.