Monday, December 31, 2012

"Chatty" Patrons Welcome Here

I am going to end this year with a rant because I saw someone I like retweet a tweet to the tune of dealing with "chatty" patrons by asking them "Can I help you with something LIBRARY related?"

Now perhaps said patron is holding up a 10 deep circulation line, or a reference desk with 25 people waiting eagerly to have their question answered. But somehow, I doubt it.

Yes, perhaps you have other work to do. Perhaps you really need to go to lunch, or relieve someone on another desk. Perhaps you're burned out after 2 story hours in a row, or you need to make 15 more cunning flannel boards that are totally unnecessary because they're of great picture books, or you need to cut out 50 craft items that the kids can stick on paper to make 50 identical, boring, uncreative crafts.

I get that there are times when you don't want to talk to anyone. Hell, in my first years in this profession I was happy to go home and have no one to talk to but my cat, and there are times that I still feel that way.

But here's my news for you, girlie:



Most of what you can get in a library, you can get WITHOUT the library.

You can get book information from our catalog. You can get your book reviews or suggestions from Amazon or Good Reads or a hundred other places. You can look up your reference questions on a computer.

People want more than that when they come to a library. They want HUMAN contact.

I have spent 25 plus years working in libraries and a lot of that time has been spent talking to people, from little old ladies who just needed to chat to moms who need some thoughts on parenting along with their toilet training books, to teens who like having an adult who talks to them like a grown up, to small children who want to be silly. 

I've chatted with our crazy and or homeless patrons who just want someone to speak to them and acknowledge them like people.
Frequently it has nothing to do with books, or reference questions or anything else "library related: And none of it has been a waste of my time. I've built friendships. I've built trust. I've learned from every conversation I've had. When you talk to that "chatty" patron you are building  a relationship that will bring that patron back into your library. Isn't that the point?

In this day when the NY Times actually has had discussions of whether we need libraries, when e-readers and Amazon make it easy for people to get their books without us, we need more than ever to make our patrons feel that this is place where people WANT to talk to them.

And if you don't get that, please go work in a frickin' research library, or work on-line, or somewhere where you don't have to deal with "chatty" people.

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