Saturday, April 29, 2006

Where old librarians go to die

A customer just came up to the counter while I was running a search on the database for another customer, waiting on the other side of the counter. 'Bear with me please, I'll be right with you,' said I. The man looked at me and asked 'Are you busy?' I said 'Yes,' and carried on looking at the computer screen, typing in keywords to do with copyright and intellectual property. 'What are you doing?' 'Serving that customer,' 'You don't look like you're busy...' Do people do this in shops? Well, I suppose they probably do. But The Public's attitude to local council/ public service workers is so weird. I'll never get used to it. The other day I got into a real pickle with a customer. I was at a different library for the day, where I'd only worked for three hours previously. Sitting in the reference section chilling out. He came in and asked for the electoral roll. I turned to the colleague next to me and asked 'Where do we keep the electoral roll? She told me there was no copy in the library. Much surprised, I rang another colleague downstairs in lending. He told me there were no longer any copies- they'd been moved to the Town Hall. So, slightly bemused, I redirected the guy to the Town Hall. He said he'd just come from there and they'd sent him here. Right, I thought, I'll call the manager. Manager was on lunch break; spoke to Duty Manager. When I'd explained to the Duty Manager exactly what an electoral roll was, she told me we'd never had one. Customer was now becoming irate. I tried the manager's office again, got her assistant. He told me to try the Town Hall. When I came back from my tea-break twenty minutes later I found the customer was now being served by my manager. He had gone downstairs and asked in lending, been sent back upstairs and demanded to see the manager. She asked me to make a copy of a page from the electoral roll. I asked her exactly where I could find it and she pointed immediately to a shelf directly behind where I'd been sitting. Rather embarassing for everybody working in the place, if they only cared. I'd be the last person to claim that the customer is always right. But it's useful to bear in mind the possibilty that they might not always be wrong.

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