I am a fan of Bill Maher's show on HBO. My favorite part of the show is when he presents his New Rules for the week, which consists of riffs on pop culture topics (except I can't go there with him on Catholic-bashing; I plan on going to heaven...). In the spirit of Mr. Maher, I am presenting New Rules for Libraries and Librarians, based on my experience as a grad student who works in two libraries. Here we go...
1. Anyone who wants a leadership role ever in their library career should be assigned to shelving books for one month. You can't fully understand patron behavior, collection management, acquisition issues and cataloging until you see how books are organized and how important this task is. You can have the biggest book budget, the best acquisitions librarian and catalogers trained by Michael Gorman himself, but if the shelving system, or the shelvers themselves are undervalued and not trained, the patrons can't find materials. And patrons cannot use what they cannot find.
1.a. There should be a law forbidding use of the bottom shelf for books. It is easier to reach up than down.
2. Libraries need to let people know what they have and what they can provide, especially in this economic environment. I was talking with a lawyer yesterday who had just gone out on his own and was lamenting his having to pay for Westlaw service. When I told him that the public library provides that for free, I thought he was going to faint with joy. I haven't bought a CD in years, because of Freegal, the free and legal music downloading source. There needs to be a better way of letting the taxpaying public know about all the services available.
3. Stop treating librarians like they just walked in off the street and started checking out books. Librarians are highly trained, professionally-degreed individuals. They are constantly studying their craft. They probably should wear capes, they are such superheroes. So the next time you approach someone behind the desk with superiority just because they're behind the desk, remember, they can catalog and classify you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet in less than 5 minutes. They are service workers, not personal slaves.
4. Cutting funding to librarians should not even be a part of the conversational zeitgeist. A quote I love says "Cutting libraries in a recession is like closing hospitals during a plague."The libraries are the great equalizers in a community. The inmate who sends a reference question will get the same stellar service as the millionaire who donates to the library every year or the person trying to use the computer to apply for food stamps or the middle schooler who's working on their science fair project. Good librarians see questions, requests and patrons, that's all.
5. Librarians have to start flying their freak flags higher. Yes, we are a weird bunch. But we rule the world...