putting on my positive face

I have, so far in this reference shift, refilled the stapler, directed two students over to the computer lab to find an available computer, helped one student find her professor’s website and then helped her open a .pdf file, told a student to turn down the volume on his iPod, and explained to two students how to print to the color printer.  And also helped one student to find sources for her paper on the transition of the Jeep from military to civilian vehicle.

It would be very easy to get grumpy about all of that.  I’m the Director of Libraries, for heaven’s sake.  What am I doing refilling staplers and troubleshooting the printer?

I’m helping our students, that’s what.

I’m also watching how our library is used, and by whom, for what tasks, in what way, all of which is information I need in order to make informed decisions about how to lead and direct this library on this campus for these students.

And… I’m helping our students.

I wasn’t in the mood when I sat down here at noon.  “Cranky” is the word that comes to mind.  A little manic, even — I’ve got a pile of Big Problems and Big Decisions on my desk, and it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the day to get to them all.  Personnel issues, budget issues, strategic planning decisions, documents to be written, revised, submitted, responded to… And meetings.  Oh my god the meetings.  So sitting still, smiling, and waiting to help whoever walked up to the desk… yeah.  Not so much what I was in the mood for.

But.  While I was out here, watching the students come and go from the reference computer area and listening to the buzz of mid-semester activity at our group study tables, I was also reading First Impressions and Rethinking Restroom Questions in the online version of RUSQ.

If you are tired of hearing “where’s the restroom?” then maybe it’s time to rethink your choice of jobs or how you perform it. Simply put, either stop working at a public help desk or take the challenge to rejuvenate your patron interactions and become a positive face for your library.

And so.  I’m helping people.  It’s what I’m supposed to do while I’m here, and why I do this work.  I can do it with a smile.


  1. Right before I read your post I had just finished reading a librarian’s rant about “Where do they come up with all these obscure requests?” Thanks for staying positive, and thanks for posting. It helped diffuse my annoyance (and sadness) at Mr. Crankypants Librarian. I love when people look at situations like you did — turning challenges into opportunities (even though it sounds incredibly hokey).


  2. “For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want…” Yes, sometimes even Generals have to dig that nail out of the horse manure when the underlings can’t seem to find it anywhere. Part of being Leader is sometimes showing the troops how a trivial task is done really well. That’s one way the Leader can raise the level of expected performance. Ironically, the Leader usually can’t choose the trivial task. Leaders are overworked, and so the trivial task is whatever is falling into the cracks or what nobody else can seem to get right. If you can smile while digging through the manure and say how much fun you’re having, you deserve to be Leader.


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