Booksellers v. Librarians: GO!

[Ed. note: I started writing this at the end of January of 2009 but never published it for whatever mystery reason I may have had at the time. Nearly 11 months later (eep!), a lot of what is written here is still highly relevant, so I’m cleaning it up and pubbing it.]

I wish I had some witty story about a patron to give this entry more punch but the best I can come up with is the “faculty” dude who came and started yelling at me about “throwing out those kids” who were apparently disturbing his royal highness while he was working. I was, at the time of the yelling, walking over to work with another patron who needed access on the all access computer (no Internet access but allows students to install and run software for classes. Thus, “all access” is kind of moot, I suppose.). Even though I motioned that I would be with him in a second, he kept yelling across the open area about how they were bothering and disturbing him and I HAD BETTER DO SOMETHING! Right sparky, I’ll get right on that.

After helping the student get logged into the all access computer, I looked for the librarian on duty for consultation and it turned out “those kids” were two girls who were talking quietly while working on a project together in an area designed for such a thing. The open plan area is not a quiet study area and that information is posted as such all over the place. The librarian on duty spoke quietly with the girls, his royal highness kept glaring at the librarian on duty and at me and didn’t say a peep after that. It was one of those “what the fuck, becky” kind of moments.

And I’m only two weeks into my new job.

The one thing that has been stressed since my starting this program is that you need experience, experience, experience in order to make it in the real world and winning this job has been a $deity_send in that it is giving me not only real world reference experience but experience in an academic library to boot. But here’s the thing: my classes that were to prep me for this job have really had no impact on how I handle myself at the reference desk. This sentiment was also echoed by several librarians I have interviewed over the last six months who have all told me that while lib school was great for the theory and some of the application, they really didn’t feel that they learned their jobs until they were on the jobs.

This, then, becomes the catch-22: You need some experience to get an entry level position but you must obtain an entry level position in order to get the experience. Lots of libraries like to hire in-status students, which is a boon to many of us who have had no prior experience in libraries before lib school. But this goes back to the teaching moment in that how you are trained while working in the library whether as a volunteer, intern or paid employee. These experiences can and will shape how you handle your professional career thus one must also take this factor into account when one is looking for a starting library position.

One thing I have noticed is this slightly playful but not really competition between those who work in a library and those who work in bookstores. For some reason that I cannot fathom, there seems to be some sort of unspoken rivalry between booksellers and librarians, and I’ve heard more than one librarian on various message boards bitch and complain how booksellers “try” to be like librarians by providing reader’s advisory and reference services without proper training and booksellers complain that librarians try to treat bookstores like libraries or that librarians feel like they are slumming if they come and apply for a job or work in a bookstore.

This is the part I don’t get: Bookstores are out to make money and to the corporate bookstores, the bottom line is ALL about the money. Whether or not someone gets interested in reading or enriching their life based on the books they purchased means nothing to the higher ups in corporate America – it’s just about how much the customer has spent and is there a way to get them to spend more. It’s about discounts, volume and bestsellers. It’s not about education, enrichment, support or education. This is not to say the average bookseller is not a reader, I’d roughly guesstimate that about 90% of the people I worked with were huge readers who read in a variety of genres and many of us had subject specializations. We were a very well rounded crew with a broad spectrum of education and backgrounds.

And this is not also to say that every bookstore feels this way – but having worked in $corporate_bookstore and being told time and time again that I spent too much time educating the reader rather than hand-selling them crap, I speak from experience. The other big argument that often comes up in discussion is how the bookstores are attempting to be like the library system (“help desks” that imitate reference desks, library-esque setting, comfy chairs, etc) while the library system is attempting to try to be like bookstores (cafes, overhead music systems, wider range of programming). But my question is: Why spend all this time arguing about who is trying to be like the other? All this mudslinging is ridiculous as libraries and bookstores can co-exist AND live together.

It’s like watching a never ending game of Tekken and in the end, the ones left holding the “WTF?” bag are the customers/patrons who just wanted help finding a damned book.

A recap, an update, and the like.

Right now there is a battle of noises happening between Wednesday and the radiators. Wednesday wins, hands down. For an 18lb Pug, she snores like no ones bidness. A lot has happened in the last month, way too much to document in one post, so I’ll give the run down (in no particular order):

  • Moved from Grand Rapids to Royal Oak on 1/11/09 and am currently enraptured with my new surroundings.
  • Started my new job as a reference librarian at Wayne on 1/5/09. Yes, notice the disparity in dates. For the first week, I commuted from E. Lansing to Detroit. (As I’m still in school, I am not technically a librarian, but a GSA. Technically, I’m not a GSA but a library intern. Manager refers to interns AND GSAs as “GSAs” to keep it simpler for her, and well, I’m doing reference librarian work. It’s all semantics.)
  • Am attempting to transfer from $corporate_bookstore in G-Rap to one that is (obvs) local to me. Downside to this development is that one of the stores in my new area closed and currently they are placing the displaced employees in local stores first before transfers. I’m not getting a paycheck BUT my bennies will hold out until the beginning of March as a last case scenario. Broke but if anything happens, I’m covered.
  • I got a 4.0 last semester, which is awesome (obvs). This semester the classes are more challenging and I need to get my groove on to keep up with the work. I’m taking a digital imaging archiving class, library management and cataloging. Currently, my plan of work is still to obtain the IS and Archival certification along with my MLIS but who knows how that will end up.
  • I’ve got a new man in my life – Justin. It’s almost like out of one of those torrid RomComs: We met, fell in love and immediately shacked up together over a decade ago and were together for a year or so while we were both living in California. We split, I moved out of state to D.C. and haven’t spoken to him in nearly a decade. He got in touch with me shortly after TheEx and I broke up last March and we became friends again. He stood by me and worked with me while going through all the residual shit from the break-up. Ideas were tossed about seeing each other again, as friends, and the idea of getting involved with anyone romantically seemed highly stupid (of me) and made me queasy. But we talked, and talked some more, and continued to talk almost every night for over eight months. Decided somewhere along the way we should reconnect physically as friends and talked about the probability of romance — but there were no guarantees that anything physical was going to happen, rather, just the excitement of seeing each other was enough. But the romance DID happen, organically, and it’s better than before. MUCH better. It’s downright awesome. Everything I liked about him is still there and everything that irritated me changed for the better and he feels the same way about me. The biggest difference is the passion is much higher and hotter and we talk – about everything, even if it means that what we are saying is not going to bode well for the other person. While a decade younger than TheEx, he handles things much more maturely and Justin gets me — he’s always gotten me. The awesome part is that this has all the sparks of something “new” while we have memories of the old. He’s a wonderful man, I’m so glad he came back into my life. He means the world to me, I’d be completely lost without him.
  • shesgotplans.net has garnered enough hits on the library school front to encourage me to continue to write more about my experiences, trials and tribulations of going to school and working in an academic library (and possibly holding down another part-time job). This upcoming weekend, I’m doing the final push to get everything unpacked and sorted before the semester gets into full swing so that I can concentrate more on doing updates here. Sometimes I feel like I have so much to write about here and I don’t because I didn’t make the time for it but I want to change that (for the better obvs). There is a lot going on in librarianship that is not being addressed or overlooked and that just makes the profession even farther behind in viability and interest to potential students. I feel I have a lot I can contribute to this discussion so of course I will be opening up my mouth and talking about it.

It’s late and I have a zillion things to do tomorrow before my cataloging class. Yay Dewey and LOC! Go team!

Reviews: Books: Break, break of dawn

I’m taking advantage of the “post in the future” feature on WordPress. When this posts at 12:01 A.M. on August 2, I’ll be at $corporate_bookstore flinging copies of the fourth and (hopefully) final book of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series into the (overly) eager hands of her “fans.” And I use that term loosely.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Meyer’s series is being touted to become “the next Harry Potter.” Where as in HP you had this fantastical world that was built upon mythology, legend, and folklore that essentially breaks down to good versus evil, in Twilight, it is a convoluted twist on the trusty Romeo and Juliet story, and like HP, is made contemporary. Other than the plot and storylines being radically different, there are also two very important slight differences between HP and Twilight: Twilight has enough sexual tensions, longing, desire and drama to cater to every 15 year old teenage girl’s inner sanctum in their heart of hearts (HP has the teenage angst of first love in the later books but it’s damned near chaste and virginal compared to the apparent “searing” heat in Twilight) and secondly, Twilight is so poorly written that it makes HP look like high brow literature.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Continue Reading