Sunday, November 04, 2007

What time is it?

That's the first question I got when I sat down at work tonight. One might think, if I were about to launch into a "stupid things that annoy me at work" thread, a question like that would be at the top of the list.

It's not. After all, we moved our clocks back in the middle of last night, so suddenly it's an hour earlier. And we have plenty of students from all over the world who just arrived here in August, so this whole Daylight Savings Time thing is kind of new to them. Heck, it's still pretty new to all of us in Indiana - I'm sure I'll discover unswitched clocks sometime around Christmas. So "what time is it?" is a pretty reasonable question.

Besides, there are so many other things to be annoyed by:

1. We are the Humanities library. It says so in big letters, right over the door. There are 10 other libraries on campus, and the people there are probably far better equipped to help with designing an airplane wing or researching the effects of global warming on single-celled organisms than I am. Should a History major on be giving advice on designing airplane wings? Does anyone want to get on that airplane?

2. "I need it for tomorrow" is not an incantation that will make books appear. If we don't have it, we don't have it. Procrastination is an art which requires careful planning - if the sources for a research paper are to sit untouched for months, they should be doing it on the procrastinator's own personal bookshelf. The only substantial advice I can give for something due tomorrow is "wow, you're fu**ed," but I'm probably not supposed to say that at work.

3. An amazing number of people come in wanting their course textbooks, and usually don't get them. I really need something more than a title like Calculus to do any sort of search. I nmight even be able to check under the professor's name - but usually people don't know that. We probably don't have it anyway - see the part about "Humanities." But there's a nifty place right across the street that will sell a copy, and would have done so back in August. For now, we're back to the "wow, you're fu**ed" part of #2.

4. I am distressed by the number of people who come in looking for an assigned reading, but don't know how to extract information from a bibliographic citation. I have to give my "How Journals Work" talk several times a night during Term Paper Season. I try to understand that something isn't obvious just because I know it, and it's neat to have the chance to teach students something useful, but I really wish I could send them back to their High School English classes to demand their money back.

5. All the signs in this library are invisible. "Where are the copiers?" is not a stupid question, in spite of the large sign that says "Copy Center," because the sign is cleverly done in black letters and hidden in a shadowy corner over the door. The sign for the Periodicals area is screened onto a piece of Lucite, and helpfully lit - with a light nicely positioned to put so much glare on the sign that it's unreadable. There is no way to say "right there under the sign that says 'Copy Center'" without sounding like a total smart-aleck jerk, but I get to practice it several times a night. I also routinely have to inform people that we have three floors stocked with books, and the main room is laid out so that if a person stands at my desk to ask where the restrooms are, they're hidden behind columns, but would be visible from almost anywhere else in the area. Some day, I hope we'll be a final exam project for one of the Visual Communications classes.

Sometimes I'm tempted to start a "Stupid Stories From the Library" blog, but I don't really have enough material. I hope.


Blogger Laura said...

As a grad student who works in another library, I can at least say that your stories are unfortunately not unique. Maybe there *should* be a book on this...

My favorite came today when a student asked me, two days before her midterm paper is due, if it's ok that she hasn't started either the research or the writing part. What exactly am I supposed to say?!?

4:09 PM  

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