Many years ago, I was scheduled to attend a library workshop about an hour away and I was running late. I knew that the library where the meeting was being held was closed that day, and the attendees had received instructions to ring the doorbell at the back door to be let in. I got there and rang the bell, but ten minutes later, I was still waiting. I texted a co-worker who was also attending the workshop and she got the word to one of the facilitators who came and opened the door for me. No one wants to be the one catching the cow by the tail, not knowing what you’ve missed and having all eyes on you, but soon I settled into my seat, and the discussion and had a question for the instructor.
The administrator responsible for handling the housekeeping portion of the workshop announced to everyone that my question had been answered prior to my arrival. In other words, “shame on you for being late and for having a question.” When I realized that a mini shaming session was happening, I tried to make light of the situation and said with a smile, “I knew you would find a find a way to mention that I was late!” There were nervous chuckles throughout the room. Looking back, I can’t even remember if my question was answered, but I know that I felt I had to defend myself.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have been mistreated by a colleague, and a stranger at that! In my 21 years as a librarian in public libraries, I’ve noticed that sometimes, we treat our customers with a lot more consideration than we treat each other.
Have you been following the Netflix series “Stranger Things”? Without spoiling anything for those who have not, here is the set-up: There’s our regular dimension, the “normal” world, and then there is a dark, sinister and dangerous reality called the “upside down”. The right-side up and “the normal” in my career has been the rich experiences of interacting with children, parents, teachers and members of the community through the years. They’ve let me know that what I do matters and that the work I do is valued. You know, it is not easy to foster an environment in which young children feel safe enough to come into your orbit, and where adults know that you are there with only good intentions. Sadly though, there is also the upside-down that can sometimes be found in Libraryland that the public will not see: Pettiness about very small things(I am sure you can think of some of your own)that really do not matter at the end of the day. At the end of the day, what matters in my opinion is that I showed up to do what I was hired for and what I love-sharing information, literature and fun times with the public that I serve.
We all have our good days and bad days. Keep in mind that there are a few stereotypes that still persist in library services, despite cheerful ads showing cool, modern librarians that are less uptight than we have been depicted. Sometimes we are not all that gracious when things are not done a certain way. We are not allowed to treat our customers this way, so why would we treat each other in that fashion. Most of us have either taken courses in customer service in library school or have attended the obligatory customer service workshop. We are taught how to respond in a positive manner to even the most difficult customers, but behind the scenes we can be competitive and unkind to those we work with.
If you have been treated only with kindness and have been supported and encouraged to be stellar, you ought to be smiling as you do that thing you do with children and their parents. And if not, here is something to think about. How can you get to that place where you are treated with dignity and respect? The work we do is far too powerful and valuable to also be a source of mental stress.
What a great reminder Ericka! Being bullied by a colleague is NOT why we get paid the big bucks! Ha ha.
Ericka Chilcoat Post author
Thanks Dianna. I appreciate your response!
Internal customer service is so important. And it translates into how we treat not only our co-workers in other departments across the organization, but also our colleagues and members of the profession. Great reminders here. Thank you.