Friday, June 30, 2006

Diplomas, Displaying

[Note: The humble editors of A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette seek your opinion by presenting a rare reader's poll... Thanks in advance for your participation.]

Is it pretentious for a librarian to hang the framed MLS diploma in his/her office or work space?

Polling provided by

Office supplies, Hoarding

Hoard office supplies in your desk and filing cabinets. Some day you may find yourself needing to dispose of a patron's body and all that library mailing tape and bubble wrap will come in handy. Just remember, it takes A LOT of paper clips stuffed in a person's pockets to make them sink to the bottom of the river.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pencils, Supplying free

Provide complimentary pencils to your patrons so that they can write down call numbers from your online catalog. Just be sure the provided pencils are small golf pencils. Nothing says, "We value your patronage," like an awkward writing experience and the resulting hand cramps.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Patrons, Stalking

Some say that stalking is the sincerest form of flattery. Don't get caught flattering your patrons by looking up their personal contact information in your online system, delving into their circulation history to gauge their reading habits, or going through their web browser's history file after they leave a public workstation.

Once you get up the nerve, you may have a difficult time asking the person out given that restraining order filed against you.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Conferences, Returning from

Upon returning from a library conference, be sure to complete the following checklist of items before catching up on all the email, gossip, and office drama you missed while you were gone...
  • Cull out the good vendor give-aways for yourself and then dump the rest off on your coworkers or the homeless (15 minutes)
  • Make a list of all the practical things you learned at the conference (10 seconds)
  • Erase all the boring "Why the hell did I take these?!" conference photos from your digital camera (10 seconds)
  • Recycle all the PowerPoint print-outs, business cards, and other ephemera you collected, but will never look at again (5 minutes)
  • Congratulate yourself on doing a good civic deed by helping boost the local economy of the conference's host city (until you get your credit card bill)
Once all of these things are done, be sure to spend a few minutes detoxing your body and mind by talking to someone who doesn't work in a library and doesn't speak in acronyms.

Freebies, Collecting conference

While at a library conference, run around the vendor booths collecting free give-aways like a whore in a cucumber patch. Grab the free bookmarks, catalogs, tote bags, and flashlight pens with a desperate, wild-eyed passion that would scare your non-librarian friends. Need and practicality are not issues in the vendor booths. ("It's a highlighter AND a laser pointer?! Brilliant!!") It's all about getting as much free crap as you can fit in the rolling suitcase you brought along just for the occasion.

In order to make the most efficient use of your time, don't look vendors in the eye. Just grab the freebies by the handful and go! Do, however, stop to acknowledge the vendors whose companies have obviously spent an egregious amount of research and development money coming up with new ways to reinvent the ink pen. Let them know that they are the ones who keep the librarians coming back.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Soul, Selling your

Sign up for Google AdSense and load money-making ads on your blog. If anyone reads it, you can get rich and quit your day job.

If no one reads your blog, try sneaking some Google ads onto your library's web page. Be sure to load the ads in a prominent place on your web site to ruin any aesthetic you have going.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Kick-ass reference librarian, Being a

Don't be annoyed when your coworkers come to you for help with particularly difficult reference questions they can't handle on their own. While it may seem like an inconvenience to you, they are indirectly telling you that you have developed a reputation as the kick-ass reference librarian on your staff and that they value and admire your skills over those of your colleagues.

Or it could just mean that your office is closest to the reference desk, and that you're the only librarian working that particular Friday in the summer while everyone else is at ALA.

Interviews, Dressing for library

Never wear a suit for a library job interview. Instead wear a threadbare blazer, unpressed khakis, a stained tie, and well worn shoes. Women... if you can't stomach an ill-fitting pants-suit, wear a dowdy skirt and an oversized cardigan. Remember, most search committees are suspicious of style.

Plus, if you dress too well, it becomes obvious to the potential employer that you have unrealistic expectations about library salaries and their ability to keep you dressed in your fancy clothes.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tote bags, On hating

The next time you go to a library conference you will be given a tote bag with your registration materials, usually emblazoned with some type of library-related logo. Unless you want to look stupid, make sure you throw the tote bag out or refuse to accept it in the first place. Tote bags are cheaply made, ugly and totally impractical. There's nothing worse than a librarian carrying a tote bag...nothing! Stop making an already bad image worse. Stop it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Books at work, Reading

Always keep a stack of books on your desk. Though most non-librarians and naive LIS graduate students think that librarians spend their work days reading books, nothing could be further from the truth. While this image is romantic and quaint, the reality is that most librarians spend their days dealing with annoying administrators, attending mind-numbing meetings, and pushing paper of the non-book variety. Keeping a stack of books on your desk will help you maintain the romantic image of librarianship, and should you find yourself (by some stroke of luck) with the opportunity to actually read at work, you'll already have a book within arm's reach. In the meantime, books also make good paperweights.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Prospective new boss, On Googling the living sh*t out of

A new prospective employer will probably do a minimal background check to ensure that you fit the qualifications for a job at their company... and you should do the same on them. The last thing you want to do is to leave a pretty good job for a new position working for an insecure, immature, bi-polar workaholic (true story, btw). Do your own due dilligence on the person who interviews you by Googling the living daylights out of them. Remember, blogs and MySpace profiles probably won't use the person's real name, so get creative. And if you find the person's personal website, run it through a domain search tool in order to find the joker's real email address and Google that too. Remember, the job interview is a two-way street.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Interviews, Doing presentations at

When hiring a librarian, many academic libraries try to fill part of the obligatory eight-hour interview with a presentation by the candidate. More often than not, the candidate is asked to "demonstrate a database." Zzz. When inviting candidates to your library to interview, make things more challenging by asking them to...
  • Speed-weed your ready reference collection.
  • Work a real-life reference desk shift... blind-folded.
  • Make a halfway decent pot of coffee... then catalog it.
  • Play a game of Trivial Pursuit/Scrabble against your most cantankerous faculty member.
  • Explain Ranganathan's laws of library science through interpretive dance.
  • Wrestle a cataloger.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Signatures, Using email

Put a little spice into your correspondents' lives by adding a personality-filled signature line at the end of all your outgoing email messages. In addition to your name and contact information, include a quippy quotation from A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette, a particularly poigniant Bible verse, or your favorite Garfield quote ("I hate Mondays"). This extra little gem at the end will make it worth your readers' time to wade through your boring everyday library talk.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vacation, Going on

If you go on vacation, be sure to come back to work with a photo album or scrapbook, a tan, and souvenirs for everyone. It's important to remind everyone that you were off having fun while they were at the library working. Plus, if you don't celebrate your own return, you may come to the painful realization that no one even noticed that you were gone.

Faculty, Addressing

Teaching faculty are very important people. Be sure to address a faculty member by his or her earned title, "Dr. Smith," rather than by the familiar name, "Sally." This shows the important teaching faculty that you respect them. They will no doubt reciprocate this respect by letting you pull their books from the stacks, forgive their overdue fines, and babysit their classes while they're away at conferences.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Territorial, Being

Librarians often find themselves in uncomfortable situations where there is not a clear consensus on who has jurisdiction over a certain library collection or service. Some examples:
  • Who orders the DSM-IV for the reference collection -- the head of reference or the subject bibliographer?
  • Should the music education collection be managed by the music librarian or the education librarian?
  • Who controls the web page to which everyone contributes?
  • Who has the final say on how the public catalog records display -- reference librarians or catalogers?
Confused as to how one stakes a claim on a given collection or service?

Pee on it.

Yep, like a dog. Pee on your call number range in the reference collection. Pee on the music education books. Pee on the web page. Pee on the catalog. While you're at it, pee in your office. Pee on your favorite chair in the director's conference room. Pee on the reference desk. Pee on your coffee cup.

Note: Do not pee on people, even if they do report to you.

Drink lots of fluids. It can take a lot out of you to have so much control.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jobs, (Desperately) Looking for

There is nothing wrong with religiously checking for new library job ad listings a few times each workday. It does, however, border on tacky when you start cold-calling libraries that just sound like cool places to work to see if anyone there is expected to retire or die soon.

"Uh, hello? Vanderbilt University's reference desk? Are any of your reference librarians sickly?"

Monday, June 05, 2006

Email, Setting up

Apparently this whole electronic mail thing (a.k.a. "email" or "the email") is really catching on. To stay in the loop, you might want to set up an account and make yourself contactable. Don't know anyone who has email? Sign up for a listserv to make some new library friends.

Or send a message to your newly-emailable (yet ever anonymous) editors of A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette at We look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Panic, Inducing

When your next library committee meeting works its way down to Other Items on the agenda, ask the room, "What if we eliminated the use of costly LC Subject headings in favor of patron-initiated tagging and social bookmarking in our catalog?"

As mass hysteria ensues, quietly slip out and return to your office for a quiet cup of coffee and a few hours of Text Twist.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Lifetime appointment, Recieving a

Academic librarians retire, die, or take better paying jobs. They do not get fired. Unless you are prone to felony crimes, this glorious job is yours until you choose to leave it. Yes, you have a de facto lifetime appointment.

Take advantage of this fact by doing just enough to jump through the promotion/tenure hoops, then coast into retirement with as little work ethic as you care to muster.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Elephants (or whatever), Addressing

There are often unspoken issues in library meetings that everyone knows exist, but that no one wants to address. Instead, librarians tend to talk around the real problems without getting to the root of it all. Examples include our desperate grasping for relevancy, our reliance on pitiful software vendors, ineffective management, etc. Any such issue is often referred to as "the elephant in the room." Or "the elephant in the corner." And sometimes the elephant is pink. Or purple.

One good way to force everyone in the meeting to address the unspoken issue is to come up with creative things to call it. Put your heads together and brainstorm. Here are some ideas to get you started...
  • the dead elephant on the table
  • the pink moose in the corner
  • the 300 lb. gorilla at the door
  • the turd in the breadbox
Once you've reached consensus on a clever thing to call it, addressing the problem will be a piece of cake. Just don't feed the cake to the elephant.