(Don’t Take It Personal) Just One of Them Days
There are moments in life that at the time seem so trivial and mundane that you feel like you forget them as they are happening. Moments you can’t possibly imagine holding onto for years, and somehow despite this, they stay with you. In fall 2007 I was deep in my first semester of grad school practically falling asleep in one of the most boring classes I’ve probably ever enrolled in, Human Information Behavior. The things I remember about this class are varied and weird and mostly have to do with Brenda Dervin and her concept that context is hot. Don’t click that link. Information seeking behaviors are boring even to librarians and it is fundamental to our chosen profession. I’m only linking because I’m a damn good librarian and I can’t not include the link. But I digress…
One such mundane moment came up in this class where I attempted, yet again, to not fall asleep and somehow participate in the discussion with only marginal success. My professor popped a seemingly innocent question to the class, “How will you act when you’ve had a long, bad day and patrons continue to come to the Reference desk? What will you do? Will you be able to give quality customer service?” Ooooh 21-year old Kristi(e). You’re adorable. You went ahead and raised your hand to reply, “Of course. That’s my job.” The professor, having worked in a public library for many years might have even called me adorable or said something else that indicated that I had no idea what I was in for as she politely chuckled at my answer. And she was right. I really didn’t.
Up until that moment I was Customer Service Girl. I worked retail jobs steadily for six years and CVS in particular was great training for my future library jobs, if only I knew. I’ve been yelled at for a whole host of inane things, from countless sick customers taking out their frustrations with their insurance companies on me down to the time I was acting Photo Lab Supervisor and had a particularly uppity woman hurl insults at my work because the blue represented in the image wasn’t as blue as the tropical ocean she remembered from her vacation. And I get their points. I really do. It sucks to expect something to be one way and then have it turn out completely differently. Because that’s what librarianship has become for me. I went to library school because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help people. That idealistic version of me that answered my professor’s question has been missing for years and I can’t find her. At CVS the only thing that got me through those moments of insults with a smile on my face was the fact that one day, one glorious day, I wouldn’t have to worry about people taking their inane concerns out on me. And then I became a public librarian.
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I guess I just wish someone wrote this post in 2006 when I was obsessed with how much I was going to love being a librarian so I would know. It’s hard. A friend commented on facebook the other day that a job like a librarian isn’t hard because I get a proper break, but as an introvert working with people all day, I respectfully have to disagree. Sure, I get to sit at a desk and spend time on the internet all day. Other days I get to make forts in my library and hang out with some kick-ass teenagers. I’m not slogging through sewers and I’m not performing a surgery that could possibly end someone’s life if I mess up my job. Tedium is a different type of tough though, and to discredit that is to do a disservice to the people that deal with it day in and day out. And it is more than just librarians. It’s customer service call centers. It’s someone working spreadsheets in a cubicle all day. It’s a first world problem, but sometimes those are enough to kill your morning.
My best piece of advice to 21 year-old me is this: You’re going to have shitty days at the library. Sometimes it is over something legitimate like the time your coworker walked by someone masturbating in the stacks, but most of the times it isn’t. Doesn’t matter, because it feels freaking shitty. Your best bet is to just pause and remove yourself from the situation as best you can. Remind yourself that you’re there for a reason and sometimes that reason is to repeatedly get out of your chair no less than 7 times within 3 minutes to show the same patron where the “send” button is located in their email. Is that tedious? Damn right it is. Does it matter? No. You’ll be fine. Oh. And you’ll probably want to go to the deli for lunch even if you don’t want a sandwich because the ridiculous people that work there and their silly antics always put you in a better mood. See also: today.