Thursday, February 2, 2017

Not assuming the worst

Not assuming the worst is not the same as assuming the best.

I could not sustain my spirit in the face of the disappointments I would constantly encounter if I were assuming the best about the patrons I deal with at my library.

"I bet he's going to compliment me on how cleverly helpful I was in tracking down two dvds he wanted." I would think, only to be met with:

"Did you give me my library card back?" Asked suspiciously.


He skeptically rifles through his wallet some more, with an occasional distrustful glare in my direction. Then, suddenly "Oh. Here it is."

"Anything else I can do for you?"


Haven't I done enough already! I practically stole that guy's card!

But I always try to do my best to not assume the worst. My long experience has honed my instincts so that sometimes I can be pretty accurate in wanting to assume the worst, but not only can it uselessly set people on the defensive, but on the rare occasions where I was wrong, or can't verifiably prove I was right, it can make me look bad.

"I can't find my request that you said would be there." A patron might say to me.

My instinct says "That's probably because you barely listened to me when I told you how to find it and walked off before I was even finished." And I can still hold onto that in a little pocket in my mind, but with my open mind I'm going to assume maybe the patron looked correctly, but the book wasn't quite in the right place.

"Oh, maybe it got pushed back behind something." I go look. "Here it is!" I say brightly, finding it conspicuously in exactly the correct spot.

"Oh, the first initial of my first name. I see." The patron says. "I'm sorry that I made you go look."

"I'm just glad to have found it." And I am.

If I'd said, when he couldn't find it, "You probably just looked in the wrong place." I would only have set myself up for one of two unappealing results. If I found the book the patron would not feel so much guilty as they would feel faintly embittered. No one enjoys being proven wrong. And if I hadn't found it? It's too horrible to contemplate.

Today a man called and wanted to know why the computer wasn't letting him place a request on a Jeffrey Archer book. My deep library instincts said "Because you already have a hold on it and forgot you already did it." I did not think this because it is common, or a frequent issue, or the usual explanation. It was an odd guess and nearly a psychic one. I would have enjoyed showing off with such an inspired guess. But I doubt he would have been impressed or understood how clever I was being. And if I was wrong he would have enjoyed it a lot. Who wouldn't? No one enjoys a know-it-all clerk.

So I didn't assume the worst. "Let's take a look and see why you couldn't request it." It was a roll up our sleeves and the whole universe is before us approach. Oh what fun we could have playing detectives! And when the reason turned out to be that he'd already requested the item, well, what a surprise. He laughed at his folly and was on his way. And I'm still magic, either way. 

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