Thursday, August 11, 2016

More time, more helping

I have long found that the number of people a clerk helps in a given time at the front desk of the library is a strong measure of the quality of that clerk. This is not absolute, and I do work with people who can cut through certain patrons quickly by using off the cuff, often wrong, answers, and lots of directions to other desks and locations elsewhere. But the options for telling people to go away are surprisingly limited when you're a front desk clerk, and though I have seen clerk evasion techniques such as lying, inventing work avoiding policies on the spot, and being repulsive, rude, and truculent to get rid of people, even those techniques take time. And so ever we fall back to the original barometer. With my worst co-workers, during perverse phases where I have kept close track, I have clocked five to one ratios during notable hours, and more than seven to two ratios on a steady basis. By that I am saying that I help seven people for every two they help. And that doesn't even take into account when they tell someone that they can't look up a book for them, or when they inform some new patron that they will have to go to another library if they want to get a card.

But no matter how excruciatingly long these awful co-workers (or perfectly nice, but inept co-workers) take with the patrons they help, it is incredibly hard to see just what it is they are doing with these patrons for all that time. While I am reasonably efficient, I am also a loquacious, helpful, over-explainer who considers it a personal defeat if I have to send a patron for assistance anywhere else. That is, I mean, unless I am intentionally punishing the patron or the people I am sending the patron to by such a transaction. 

I'm just saying that, as it is, I am a full service desk person.

But despite all my confident feelings of superiority, because I cannot fathom what is going on (endlessly) over at that desk next to me, I am left with a little doubt. What if, despite all appearances to the contrary, my seemingly inept colleague is doing something amazing over there, something that is utterly beyond me? What if they get to discussing the patron's health and my co-worker says "Oh, you have liver cancer. I can cure liver cancer. I just need to hang out with you here for twenty minutes, fiddling with stuff on my computer and my desk and looking very confused the whole time."

"Wow!" The patron exclaims. "Thanks!"

I want to be able to cure liver cancer out at the front desk too! That's better than any front desk tricks I can do. Can I learn it online? Do I really have to go around all addled and looking like a hypnotized chicken to be able to do it? 

Ah well, I guess there's a price for everything.

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