Advice from the Reference Desk

Dear Student*,

I’m sorry to inform you of this cold, hard truth:  The ubiquity of desktop computing in your educational process does not equate to being able to do everything you need to do all day long in the last 30 seconds before your class starts.  Your failure to leave enough time for the computer to boot up and log you into all your campus accounts so that you can print an article for class does not mean the library’s computers are too slow; it means that the level of service you expect from campus computing takes a certain amount of time to implement, and by failing to take that into account, you planned badly. I’m also sorry that you were displeased to learn that I cannot wave my magical librarian wand** and make the computers “be faster”.  Would that I could, but I cannot.

On another note, while I myself am capable of swearing like a proverbial trucker and feel no shame about it, telling me that you “don’t have time for this shit” does not, in fact, impress me, nor does it drive your point home as I suspect you hoped it would.  I can be far more creative than that, and I also have a sense of appropriate time and place for my verbal creativity.

You may be interested to know that the bitter aftertaste of our encounter was wiped from my mind by the very pleasant young woman*** who approached the desk after you, equally pressed for time, who asked for help politely, thanked me sincerely, and didn’t swear at me as she left, instead pausing to wave and mouth “thank you again” across the lobby when we made eye contact.  She and the others in our community who are more like her give me hope that you will perhaps outgrow your current attitude.

Please know that while I am saddened by your clear lack of respect for our library and our library’s staff, my colleagues and I will still be sitting here, with smiles on our faces, offering to help you with whatever problem you have, the next time you come in.  But please also remember:  We can’t provide you more time in the day.  Only you can do that part.



*”Student” is a synthesis of several guests at the Reference Desk during this evening’s shift, so merged to provide anonymity with regards to their identities and behavior.

**Much like Buffy’s Slayer handbook, I did not actually receive a magical librarian wand.

***”pleasant young woman” was, in fact, one pleasant young woman.


  1. Oof. This makes me sad. Also making me sad: You mean there aren’t any magical librarian ones? We aren’t going to get them with our diplomas? Gah.


  2. Gwen, the diploma, which may well reference the “privileges” of the degree, is seriously misleading. No magic! No fairy dust! Dude! We were robbed!

    And, well, to paraphrase my husband, sometimes people suck. Keep smiling. The next one to come to the desk deserves cheerful help, no matter how irritated you are at the last one…


  3. On the heels of my relatively benign “day in the life” posts, I thought it was worth recording this — it’s not all sunshine and roses and fulfilling experiences — but I didn’t want to just be whiny. I’m glad it came off as witty; I was trying. 🙂 Sometimes being a librarian (insert other service profession here) totally sucks. But we keep doing it because it’s worth it… right?


  4. Wow, I never realized that one of the perks of working at a Catholic women’s college is that I have never once been sworn at while working the reference desk. (I suppose that revelation doesn’t do anything to help bust the stereotypes of Catholic women’s colleges, but there you have it.)


  5. Our student body is normally very, very polite, which is why it set me so far off balance! I’m thinking that Imbolc pushed a whole bunch of people off kilter, or something. (This is equivalent to blaming it on the full moon.)


  6. My circ students had a book thrown at them yesterday, as punctuation to similar profanity. I usually associate this amount of stress with the end of a semester, not the beginning. I wonder if dire news everyday and distinct lack of sunlight is partially to blame.


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