A Small, Temporary Negative Digression

Things have been going well at the library. The weather has been getting better incrementally, which means people have actually been showing up to storytimes – I’ve had my usual attendance of two or three kids, which isn’t exactly a booming turnout but it does give me a chance to really focus on each kid, which they respond very well to.

The longer I work here, though, the more of a particular off-putting trend I see in the way that our patrons respond to and treat us as the librarians. I feel weird commenting on it at all, except…well, you’ll see.

I see it mainly with our teens, but also with their parents. Adults are guilty of it too (as I’ll mention).  Younger children might be the worst about it, but the most easily redirected. The problem is this: it seems sometimes that people expect us (us being the librarians) to be able to solve all of their problems, and be on hand to assist them with any need, at any time.

Even reading that makes me feel ridiculous. I’m a librarian. I help people. It’s what we do. But should that extend to, say, providing personal answering service to our patrons? Because every day, especially after school hours, our phone rings off the hook with parents trying to reach their kids, leaving messages for them that we are expected to deliver. Just this afternoon, I had a gentleman call looking for his wife, and when I couldn’t locate her in our department he asked me to, if I saw her, ask her to call him.

I frequently have kids ask me for things that either we don’t own or doesn’t exist (I’ve been asked for light boards, better computer mice, cups, forks, and other dishware, etc.). Multiple times a day, I’ve had patrons ask if we had phone chargers they can use – and as a follow up, since we don’t, can they borrow mine?

This is not to mention every time a kid or teen asks if we can bend or ignore a rule so they can check something out (despite hundreds of dollars in fines), exceed the person-limit in a study room (despite it being a safety hazard), let them have more computer time (despite the line of people waiting for their turn). Also adults feeling entitled to use our spaces with little to no warning, regardless of whether we’re hosting or preparing a program in the space they want to use. I don’t know how much of this is intentional or not, but there comes a point when it feels like patrons expect us to accommodate their every need, regardless of how plausible, possible, or inconvenient it may be.

I’m proud of the services we offer. I’m proud of how well we serve our community and patrons, and every time a patron thanks me for my help I am proud that I made a difference in their day. Is there a limit to how much we should accommodate our patrons? Should there be?

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