Friday, March 22, 2019

Working with the worst of us

I have been working with the very worst one of all my co-workers for at least ten years now. So I've had a good deal of practice in not getting too put out by this person. With a lot of effort and emotional development over the years I am now at the point where sometimes I almost find it funny, but generally don't. That's pretty good, isn't it?

I am still occasionally astonished. I am regularly horrified. But it is all now mostly in a calm, detached way, like when you hover above your temporarily dead body at the scene of a catastrophic car accident. "From a distance there is harmony". I concentrate on my coping mechanisms. I try to roll with it. It's okay. I don't really work closely with this person all that often, an hour or two together at the front desk of the library per week. I stay darkly entertained, like when you're playing a card game or a board game and your luck turns so comically bad that there is a fascination in its predictability: "Only a 12 will land me in jail now and so I know I will roll a 12. And it's a... 12. Ha!"

Remember that. We'll be coming back to it.

Sometimes I like to count patrons. How many do I help compared to how many this hapless co-worker helps? Historically it runs at a one to five ratio, but this afternoon I really applied myself and got it to one to seven! I could take some satisfaction in that! I thought to myself "Wait til I tell my blog!" So this is pretty much the joy I labored for all those hours ago. It's every bit as wonderful as I dreamed it might be.

At one point I was helping ten people while someone asked this co-worker where an event was that we had at our library every day at that time. My co-worker looked at the woman like maybe she was crazy. She had no idea what she was talking about. She asked for clarification on this strange request. She asked several more times. Ever endeavoring to be helpful, she consulted a pencil cup, some video games, and the ceiling light fixtures for answers. She shuffled through a stack of informational papers looking for help, not noticing that several of those papers told her exactly what she needed to know. I quickly wrapped it up with my tenth patron and started to tell my co-worker's patron where she needed to go. The patron came over to me with palpable relief, listened to my explanation, and went where she was directed. My co-worker was somehow still helping this patron who had now left though, bustling about with an earnest, busy look on her face. So I had to help the next patron too. 

 I was glad to do it. 

12. Ha!


  1. I think you might like the staff system at the Calgary library. A library which, by the way, is extraordinary.

    There are no service desks or information desks. Staff circulate and watch for places where they are needed. Need a card? There's a nearby computer with the half-page application and a staff person will walk right up to help. Standing in front of a display looking puzzled? "Hi, can I help you with something?" Lost your map and can't even remember the hotel name? "Here, let's bring up google maps. Here we are...there's the Westin...why don't you use the back of that application to note these directions. You need to turn right..." Each of them carries a phone and iPad and it seems that everyone can do everything. I must have had at least ten visitor/staff interactions, and not one was a dud.

    Once or twice someone used her phone to get an answer, like "do we have a t-shirt for sale and available?" (Yes, they did.)

    I think the shelving was being done by volunteers.

    But I do have a little trouble picturing you in the ID lanyard and blue vest. Though it IS a nice vest, with pockets for the phone etc.

    1. Eh, suprisingly I'm okay with the vest since the concept sounds delightful. I already wear a lanyard ID! I'm just so tired of our programming/outreach obsession at the tired neglect of advance on collection and, well, I guess what you'd call customer service ala your, what sounds to be, excellent experience.

      But then, they are Canadians... so...

  2. It was an excellent experience in the sense that whatever trouble I got myself into, like losing my map, there was always someone to help me get out of trouble, in the library, on the light rail, and on street corners that drove me crazy with streets and avenues and SE and SW. There are a few cases where I rather wish that I hadn't got into these minor pickles in the first place, but still...

    And the vests are quite good-looking, nicer than what RCL volunteers wear.

    1. That's not much of a standard. If I ran the library it would be, instead of vests, funny hats!


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