Way back in uni, when we learnt about the history of libraries and librarianship, we learnt about an argument that still goes on today:

Should we, as librarians, cater to our patrons wants, or should we strive to lift them to higher grounds?

There was a time, in some public libraries, where you wouldn't be allowed to pick books yourself. You had a little booklet that listed all the books you had read already, and to gain the right to read a Marlitt novel (for those who've never heard of Marlitt, insert Rosamunde Pilcher instead, same thing), you had to read two Shakespeares, figuratively speaking.

Personally, I tend to believe that we should cater to what our patrons want. What is the point of making them check out Goethe's Faust when all they want to read is Where is my cow??

That was the theory.
However, now that I am faced with the practical side, I can't help thinking that it would be okay to at least stretch my patrons' limits a bit, get them used to more challenging books.
And we are still a far stretch away from anything that would deserve the word "literature" by the definition used in my family.

For example, there is this one girl - or woman, rather, she's the wife of one of my friends from work and she has a little baby boy herself, so she's rather past the age of "girl" - who lets her husband check out books for her.
She's the Maeve Haran / Marian Keyes / Sophie Kinsella / Susan Elizabeth Phillips sort of person.
Now, there's nothing wrong with that. I own a Maeve Haran myself, which I read when I feel sick and depressed.
But whenever I put together books for her to read, I want to put in something a bit different, something she probably wouldn't pick up herself.
As I said, this is not about getting her to read Shakespeare.
But I think that I could start small, let her read a Georgette Heyer, something that is well written and has a romantic, funny plot she might like.
From there, we could go on to less fluffy, without her even knowing I'm changing her reading habits.

But is it my job to change reading habits? Should I influence a patron's choice just because I think it's a waste of time to read the same old plot line over and over again, by a bunch of different yet interchangeable authors?
Should I let get the soldiers who love to read our war novels get to read Remarque instead of Konsalik?
Or should I just do what they want me to do, which is find them the books they know they will like rather than suggest the books I think they might like?

When somebody comes to check out a Wolfgang Hohlbein novel I can't help but cringe and suggest that if they like fantasy, how about trying Tolkien or Pratchett or Douglas Adams? Not that I devoured Tolkien, but Hohlbein is so horribly bad it makes my eyes bleed. (At least, the two of his novels I survived did.)

How do I keep my own preferences out of the picture? Just because I adore Thomas Mann's command of the German language and love Shakespeare's wit and admire Tolstoj's insight doesn't mean they do. And there are so many things I haven't read yet and it's unlikely I ever will, how do I know I am right to think there could be better ways to spend a day reading?

Things were plain and simple in theory. Practice is much more difficult.


Aug. 13th, 2004 01:55 pm
In the German librarians' mailing list I read, I came across the plush book worm, the librarian action figure, and right now they are discussing their own action figure, with a card catalog drawer insted of the shushing action button, with cards that can be taken out and sorted following the Prussian Instructions (an old and really terrible system, predecessor of AACR and the German RAK, for the librarians and those who wanted to know), and the plush library patron for the reference desk. How about an inflatable patron you can set up to make it look as if you are busy?
Gosh, and these guys do that at work. They get paid for it. I shouldn't worry about checking my emails at work once I have a job.


Aug. 11th, 2004 01:16 pm
I just got a call from one of the places I applied for a job. At the moment, I'm the candidate favored for the position.
If I get it, it will mean at least 2 years in a pretty good, well paid position, and most likely longer. If I don't steal any silver spoons, I could stay there for life. Which might not be what I want, but it's good to know.
They're going to decide after I send them my diploma, the nice little paper that actually says I'm a librarian. I don't get that until the end of August, but as it will be really good, I don't think I have to worry.
Gosh, I'm happy now.
Unsure whether I will be able to get the job done, but happy. They seem to think I can, so I shouldn't doubt my own abilities. I am able to work hard, what I don't know I can learn, and it's not as if one wrong decision will result in the complete breakdown of the organization. I'm just a little librarian, not the president. Still, I am a little anxious. But right now, I will concentrate on being happy.
I just felt like a kid, now I feel like I'm grown-up and very sensible.
I'm watching a librarians' mailing list. There was - and most likely still is - a very silly discussion going on, all these serious librarians (all from university or special libraries, all with long years of practical experience after studying librarianship and most likely somehting else, too) picking at each other like primary school. Just for staying out of this discussion, I gain a few hundred years to my actual age.
I went to a few libraries today to check out books for my brother-i-law. In Berlin, they are reserved for the next two years or so, so I thought that would be nice, as he needs them for an exam.
Just now I read a post in [livejournal.com profile] baronbrian's LJ about the basic rules of customer service. That reminded me of a few interesting things that happened at the libraries.
The first thing was a small branch library of the university. They don't do the borrowing thing with computers, OK, so I'll fill out their forms. But can't they say that nice and friendly?
And if somebody comes into my library and looks around helpless saying "I don't know where to find this book", couldn't they at least lift their fucking ass out of their chairs and help me find it????
Apparently not.
The second small branch library of the same university was even more interesting. The first thing is, I tell them the title I want to have, they say "We don't have that."
I say that it is in the computer, marked as available and not supposed to be borrowed outside of the reading room. They don't check out by computer, so what the OPAC says doesn't really mean anything.
I say "if one copy is out even if it isn't supposed to be, how about the other?" And wonder upon wonders, it is available.
So can I copy some pages?
The copying machine is on the next level.
Does it work with coins?
Can I buy a copy card?
So how can I get copies?
Take the book to the copy shop or to the central library.
That's the book you're not supposed to check out. We end up taking the book without checking it out, leaving an ID behind, setting of the alarm as we leave. We go to the central library and stand just inside the doors of the reading room and start copying. At first it works well, then it doesn't work at all. The gal behind the counter tells us that the reason is a paper jam, and that it helps opening and closing the copying machine. (There really isn't a paper jam, it's just that the machine thinks there is. It has a few problems, but what can we do about it? - Hello? What about repairing it? Yeah, I know. No money.)
So we copy a few more pages, then another librarian walks bye.
She: Is this a book from our library?
Me: No.
She: Then why don't you go to a copy shop?
Me: It is a book from a branch library that doesn't have a copier, and we we're here anyway.
She: There is a copier in our other building across the road. And you can't have any bags in here.
Me (thinking): Our bags aren't even big enough to put in the book we're copying from. On the shelves here are dictionnaries about threee times the size. How are we supposed to steal something? Why would it make any difference to use the copier across the road?)
Me: We're standing right at the door, in full view of the desk.
She: Just lock in your bags, we don't want them in here.
Me (thinking): What you mean is you don't want us in here.
So I take mine and my sister's purses and walk out, asking whether my brother-in-law can keep his wallet or whether it might be feared that he steals books in there.
She starts almost yelling at me about how many books have been stolen in this section. I tell hear to calm down.
I understand the problem, I just don't like her tone. For heaven's sake, I'm the customer! She doesn't react to that and walks away to chat with the gal at the desk.
When we leave, we don't want to set off the alarm with the book we didn't have properly checked out at the other library, so we just hold it up high above he security gates. Nobody sees us, nobody says anything. Now, it's no wonder books get stolen from them. But that doesn't have anything to do with somebody taking a purse inside!
Returning the book to the library we got it from was surprisingly easy. They gave us back the ID without looking at the book, and then let it lie on the counter without looking at it. I probably could have taken it back out with me if I had wanted.
A simple sentence for these people to keep at their desks, borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] baronbrian: The customer = your paycheck
Today I had my final exam, I passed it and am now officially Diplombibliothekarin (FH). That is: librarian, but a degree somewhere between an American Bachelor and Master. The FH stands for Fachhochschule (University of applied sciences), setting me below a librarian who studied at a "real" university.
Isn't hierarchy a great thing?
So now that I'm done, I'll have to go find a job. But at least I can calculate now what my final mark is and write that in my letters of application.
I am awaiting your congratulations!
From everybody, even if they post anonymously due to not having an LJ-account.


Jul. 6th, 2004 09:04 pm
Well,I don't know whether I snore, but this is just to make clear that I am dead tired. But I need to stay awake to watch Six Feet Under.
I rode my bike to town today to go into the library and read some journals. I managed to get through two years of "Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie" (Journal for library science and bibliography). Yeah, it is just as boring as it sounds. OK, this might be a little too hard on poor journal. It is just that I'm not really interested in discussing the Balanced Scorecard for scientific libraries.
As an explanatory note to those unfamiliar with German library system: there is a huge difference between Öffentliche Bibliotheken - public libraries, where you won't get a lot of scientific literature, and Wissenschaftliche Bibliotheken - scientific libraries, like university libraries, company libraries, special libraries...
The ZfBB, the journal I mentioned, basically concentrates on the scientific libraries and the Scientific Librarians (that is a degree that requires you to have a degree in another subject first, the top level of librarian hierarchy in Germany). So none of that is really me. However, there were some interesting articles about the RAK and AACR2 (RAK are the German cataloging rules, AACR the Anglo-American). The discussion is whether Germany should switch to AACR2 or keep our own system, which is considered to be more flexible and practical - don't ask me why, cataloging is the most disgusting thing I can imagine in the whole library work. But no matter whether I like it or not, that might be a question in my exam, so I actually feel like I learned something.
But reading through all this and the biking kind of drained me. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to be as fast as that "professional" biker who passed me on the road. Maybe I shouldn't have myself get carried away by the music coming from my portable cassette player (more David Bowie). It is not allowed to listen to music when biking anyway, it's supposed to make you deaf to the noises from the street. Now, if some kid turns up the volume of the radio on Daddy's car, do you think they'll hear anything? So that rule is one I don't follow if I don't feel like it. Haha, I finally discovered the rebel side of me...
There are so many different things on my mind today that I couldn't even create a title for them.
For one thing, Apartheid officially ended in South Africa ten years ago.
Yeah right. Just change some laws and people won't think what they have thought for decades. So maybe there isn't a law saying that black people are not allowed to sit in the park, or ride the bus or whatever. But that doesn't mean that white South Africans stopped believing in that. It will take generations to really change. Kids have to grow up without hearing that they are more important thansomebody else just because of the color of their skin. That means that their parents and grandparents have to believe in the equality of the races, too. And that means the kids born in the last ten years most likely have to be grandparents before the end of Apartheid can be seen. And even then there will be some people who still believe that segregation is a good idea.
I can see something similar in Germany. It has been almost 50 years since the end of WWII, but there are so many people around who actually believe that Hitler was not that bad after all. That's a minority, but they still exist. Most people, though, are very careful to be politically correct. That means that in Germany, you should not say aloud that you don't like a person if that person happens to be of foreign origin. It also means that you can't critizise the politics of Israel without being called anti-Semitic.
Germans are so eager in blaming themselves for anything bad going on in the world, it would be ridiculous if it wasn't so sad. I think that habit, which also goes along with trying to be as unpatriotic as possible (some Germans are actually proud of not knowing our National Anthem), has led many young people to rebel against this way of life. Leading them closer to some old admirers of Adolf Hitler.
I guess as long as we don't start talking about Nazi times opnely and get a real discussion going, we will never be able to move on.
Maybe I just don't know about it, but I don't see a huge discussion in the USA about slavery, or in Great Britain about colonial times. So why is it that the Germans always apologize without anybody asking them to? That is no way to live in a nation. You need to develop some kind of patriotism. And German history really is much more than 1933 to 1945.

The other thing that really bothers me this morning is much less solemn.
It's a library thing again. I'm trying to search the Online Catalogue of a large public library. But I can't. Because they allow only a certain number of WWW-access at the same time. And that number is - 10.
Now how ridiculous is that? You don't allow more than 10 people to search your catalogue at the same time???
And this is the town that wanted to get the Olympic Games 2012 for Germany. Maybe it was good we lost. I guess this town would have never been able to manage that amount of people to come and visit. (Michael, I know we talked about that - now don't tell me 'Told ya so...')

I should be learning. But I don't feel like it.
I should be practicing the piece of music I want to play at my sister's wedding. But I don't feel like it.
I should do some housework. But - you might have guessed - I don't feel like it.
Oh, well, get going! Switch off the Computer and do something. Anything.
I guess I'll take my own advice for once.
I don't feel like writing anything else anyway, so it really doesn't matter.


Jun. 9th, 2004 02:33 pm
OK, so maybe this is a topic rather close to my heart and far away from everybody else, but hey, this is my page, so I write whatever I want.
I went to Halle - a town close to where I live - with a very simple idea. I wanted to go to the public library and get some David Bowie CDs and some sheet music for me to play at my sister's wedding. For one thing, this library does not have a catalogue that is accessible over the internet, so I couldn't check what they had.
It was my own fault that I didn't think of checking the opening hours of the branch library I wanted to go to - the music library. So I rode my bike all the way through town to find out that this particular library is not open Wednesday mornings. I didn't really feel like waiting several hours, so I decided to go to the main library to at least search the catalogue. (Interestingly, inside the library you can search the collections using a computer...)
There were like 6 people queueing at the return desk, even though there was a librarian sitting around at the information desk with no customers to serve. (Oh, wait, this is a German library - they don't have customers, they have readers or users) So she was basically sitting around and didn't seem very busy, but she couldn't go over to the other desk and help with the returns...
Anyway, after locking in my backpack - you are not allowed to carry any kind of bag with you, nor jackets when entering the library - I went over to the computer and checked on the CDs I was looking for. And I found them listed in this library! Great, I thought, and started looking aroun for the CD shelves. There weren't any. So I braved the menacing looks of the librarian at the check out counter and asked her where to find the CDs.
This is rather funny, if it weren't the 21st century and a so called civilized country: After looking the CD up in the computer, you have to go over to a table with large boxes. In these boxes, there are cards, a little larger than the cataloguing cards. There's one card per CD. You pick out the cards for the discs you want and take them over to the check out desk. The librarian there goes to a shelf behind her and gets the CDs for you. Apparently, users are not allowed to touch these valuable objects. Feels more like a museum than a public library, really.
And then all the librarians run around with a look on their face as if you were their meanest enemy - on one level with bookworms and mould, I suppose. Sometimes they don't even look at you, even when talking to you. Maybe they expect you to vanish if they just ignore you long enough...
Dear friends, if any of you ever gets the impression that I become that kind of librarian, kick me! Please.



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