Communication Breakdown

Or maybe I should say that the library staff is not Google. We are not required to give instantaneous information. Information, yes--and quality information at that. I will not sacrifice quality for speed.

I also will not sacrifice boundaries for information. What do I mean by that?

You might not agree with me, but my feeling is that unless something at my job is a life-or-death situation (which, um, at a library, never comes up), my job should not be calling me at times when I'm not on the clock.

Don't call me because you can't find something right away. (And most likely you didn't even bother checking the standard locations.)

Don't call me because you don't feel like doing a little deductive reasoning, like to find out the hours of the next teen event (hint: there's a calendar on the library's website; or you could, I don't know, take a walk over to the YA section where there are flyers posted? There's no anti-adult force field).

Don't call me when you are too passive to tell a patron, "I'm sorry, I don't have the answer right now. Let me take your name and number and I or one of the other staff will call you with more information as soon as possible." We may have a few patrons that are doozies, but most people do not get PO'd if they have to wait not even a day to get the answer they're looking for.

Don't call me about something I don't need to know right that minute. A note in my mailbox will work just fine.

I'm sorry for the rant; it just really baffles me that, for some reason, it is largely accepted at my workplace that I am on call for them anytime I'm not there. I am the only librarian who is not salaried; I am the only one who is part time.

I'm also the the only librarian who is not married, and I wonder if that's part of it, too. Even though they know I have another job (or two) outside of the library.

Additionally, I wonder if the do-it-all-myself attitude of my supervisor has conditioned the rest of the staff to regard me in the same way. The thing is, I wasn't hired for all this back-of-the-house stuff--I am very happy to delegate as much of the non-librarianship procedure as I can. I'm no micro-manager. Not at all. I will not complain that you're stepping on my toes if you take care of something yourself.

This afternoon I had a bunch of last minute minutiae thrown at me, and I have to go in even earlier than planned, ahead of tonight's event. I'm annoyed. Because (A) I had other personal things to take care of beforehand that now I don't have time for, and (B) it's not going to change.

If anything, I have to try to work within their dysfunctional paradigm, in order to get through to them--give them what they need in order to preempt that ridiculous impulse to pick up the phone.

And really lower my expectations, so my blood pressure stays down.

UPDATED 10 p.m.: The event went O.K. Slightly better attendance at the event than at the last one. Wondering about the kids who made total messes--including leaving a dropped/dumped soda in the middle of the parking lot (guess they didn't pay attention to the kid who read a "stop pollution" poem). Had a little conversation afterwards with a desk person whom I didn't expect to stay late tonight. Interesting perspective. Confirmed my sense of raging politics and that any change to the status quo isn't really welcomed (even though several really want change. . . she's on the fence). Praying that the new director, who was felled by illness right at the start of his directorship three weeks ago, will be able to come in soon and start easing this library into, I don't know, the late '90s at least.


Amy Giglio said…
or...get caller id and don't pick up when they call. Or... bill the library for the time you spend on the phone with desk staff. I'm serious. If you say to your boss, "I spent an hour this week answering calls from the desk staff so I'm cutting that time out of when I will be here this week." Or even better, "I submitted 26 instead of 25 hours because I spent time on the phone with X for an hour on my own time this week," your boss will tell people to stop calling you at home. But seriously consider not picking up their calls. They will be forced to look up answers for themselves. Nip this now, Kate, or it will be too late.
Kate P said…
I've done that, but I've wound up returning the calls after listening to the messages because it's clear that the PATRONS ARE STANDING THERE WAITING FOR AN ANSWER. And I don't think that's right, either. Plus, in the case of my supervisor, who lifted my cell from my resume', she just calls both places--and she's so passive-aggressive that the messages she leaves always require a response.

Besides, do I really need to add "never responds" to my "never there" reputation? *sigh*
Mr. Bingley said…
Yeah, there ain't no way they should be calling you at home...unless that want to pay you a heck of a lot more.
Amy Giglio said…
I really think that you should bill them for your time on the phone then, especially in cases where you have re-juggle your schedule due to poor communication. You may work for a non- profit, but you are not a volunteer. I hope it gets better when your director gets back in.
Amy Giglio said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
maggie said…
I wrote this super long comment about YESSSSSSSSS I AGREE WITH YOU! but then it got eaten up by the TypePad typekey comment thingy and MAN DO I HATE THAT THING. But anyway. I am so in love with boundaries that I don't even want to go out with my coworkers for drinks after work. And I am a fan of drinks! And work gossip! And I also wrote about how Phillip thinks it's completely NATURAL to hand out his cell number to all and sundry and chastises me all the time for my bad attitude about it. And yes, his line of work is a bit different and requires a bit of on-call-ness, but STILL. NOT COOL. I totally agree with Amy, and also totally sympathize with your response. So this is just to say: BOO HISS.
Kate P said…
Bingley: My feelings exactly!

Amy: I agree, and I have billed them for hours I spent at home writing newspaper articles for the library column--sometimes it's nearly impossible to do writing where my desk is. . . in the middle of the public computers area. And co-workers acted a little put out when I said I was leaving early to go home and work on the article.
I can't win.

Maggie: Man, I hate it when comments get eaten. You've recovered nicely, though! YES to boundaries. I actually enjoy work more when I can cultivate a life outside of it. :)
Dave E. said…
Hourly is hourly. They shouldn't expect you to do ANY work and not be compensated and they shouldn't expect you to be available outside of scheduled work time. That's the stuff of salaried workers.

If that was a job that was full-time and you wanted to stay there I would encourage you to look at the brownie points aspect. It sounds like that doesn't really apply here.
Amy Giglio said…
in talking to other people who have worked in libraries, I can safely say that the only other polace I know of where more politics is played than a local public library is at the county administration building. You can only do what you are capable of doing, and you should only work at what you're being paid for. The workers who gripe about you never being there will never stop griping about you, even if you are there every day from open till close. I have worked with those people too. Here's praying that things improve when the boss gets back in.

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