Yeah. Right. Was he being ironic ?
It seems he wasn’t. Ah !
Most people think that libraries are quiet places and all people do is read and put books up on shelves. Not quite.
There is a silent hierarchy in libraries : Librarians (top of the pyramid), Library technicians (middle) and Clerks (bottom and biggest number of employees). Directors are the top of the pyramid and are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They manage the employees and all the problems (water floods for example). Clerks do put books on shelves, they also loan and return books, call for reservations and late books. Librarians plan and manage the collections. Technicians do everything in the middle : cataloguing and indexing, interlibrary loans, verifying that things are in order…
Being unionized like many other workplaces guarantees that nothing goes on smoothly. Plus, we work with the public so every day brings its load of doo-dah.
Libraries are the work places where there is the most harassment at work. It’s the harassment lady at work who told me and I wasn’t surprised. Just go and have a look at the people who work there, in the libraries. It should be called the Psych Ward.
Not only do we have to deal with patrons who don’t want to pay their late fees even if they only have 0.50$ to pay, some throw their library cards in our faces, bring back their books full of coffee rings, pages torn apart and written in ink in the margins and we can’t say a thing. At the interlibrary loan office, if patrons bring their books back late, they don’t pay a fee but the library may not be able to borrow books at that other library (McGill or New York for example) ever again because of that single patron. We have to deal with patrons everyday who harrass employees because of fees or because they enforce the rules.
Besides that, clerks are mostly students or adults with different scholar backgrounds than librarians and technicians. Most Librarians are aged 40 and up. Technicians are aged 50 and up at 97%. I was the first technician to come in after 15 years of no job postings. And I was the youngest at 30 years-old. Since then, two years have passed and two other younger technicians came in aged in their 20s. The gaps in work philosophies, expectations, work experiences and loyalties are flagrant between boomers (95% of employees) and younger employees who view their job as a way to pay the rent even if they like it which creates conflict.
Not only that but there really is different « species » of librarians and technicians. Employees have to adapt to these species in order to survive the work day.
- The Dominatrix : Dresses classicly, seems cold, doesn’t like to be talked to in a familiar tone, very highly educated. Is likely to hide a whip in her desk. And she might look at you with her nose turned up.
- The Feminist : Dresses classicly but also has dresses and skirts which the Dominatrix hasn’t. She most likely wears jumpers in black. Is very interested in women’s studies and marches solidly. Looks VERY serious.
- The Goth : Woman or Man, dresses all in black, black hair, nervous, walks quickly, very thin. Is preceded by a block of perfume or by irony which penetrates a room before they do. Quite intense if you question her or him about his or her domain.
- The Nervous Child : Still looks like mommy dressed her or him and looks like he or she could cry or doesn’t know the answer to your question, namely « Hi, how are you today? ». Mostly the victim of many commentaries and workplace jokes. Are often afraid of the Bogeymen in the catacombs. Generally uncertain if they should talk to you.
- The Bombs: They know what they want and what to do, they are hard-headed, talk loud, laugh loud and everyone that are not in their place doing the right thing are dimwits. They are walking timebombs likely to explode in your face.
- The DungeonMasters : Are identified by their interests in Dungeon or computers or movies or bikes. They come to work, talk a bit to some people, read the newspaper at lunch, work some more and then go home to play, workout or whatever they do.
- The Union Freaks: Is on the Union board and you can’t talk against the Union and they can’t talk against it for fear of being taken away. Has been brainwashed. thinks the Union is the mafia.
- The Anal : In his right place as a technician or a librarian, has no option but the Rules and will not budge because NOTHING has changed in 20 years ! Do not sit on his chair, or touch his desk or…be original. Wears ironed pants or jeans and even his or her underwear has creases.
Anals and Childs are bullied by Bombs and Dominatrixes, Goths don’t speak to anyone. The Dungeons laugh at everyone else…Union Freaks are paranoid and propagating rumours about the union and cuts in the budget…
Around us the library explodes in cell phone rings, photocopiers jamming, student talking, toilet door squeaking, outside employees screaming because they have no idea that you have to talk softly in libraries (and neither does the architect or the janitorial staff). No old-fashioned librarian will shush you but you may be looked at funny.
I’m kind of a mix between a Bomb and a Dungeon Master, my interests outside of work being more important than my work. And I have more trouble at work than I wish for…So no, working in a library is not super quiet. It is cool for different things namely being surrounded by books and knowledge but professors are a pain in the doo-da, some students are really dumb and you have to wonder how could they have been accepted to any university.
One time, someone took a crap in a supposedly locked room where we keep paper stuff like envelopes and we have mice ! Silent and stressless the libraries ? I think not.
But books are cool.