Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Things I disagree with.

I found this on Tame The Web. Usually I agree with most of what Michael says or quotes, but this particular soundbite did nothing but annoy me.

"If you have staff who have butts in seats and they are just me a retail operation that would let people sit."

for one thing: I am rarely if ever "just sitting". I'm usually doing other work at the desk because I have to work about four hours of my eight hour day at the desk.

For a second: I can name you half a dozen retail operations where at least some of the people are sitting. They tend to be the more upscale places where transactions are more than just passing items through a checkout. Not that passing items through a checkout is an activity to be scoffed, and it's an activity I have done for a living, but it's in general less in-depth than working at a reference desk.

For another: why in the world are we comparing ourselves to a retail operation? Why would we want to be compared to a retail operation? I've worked retail, I've managed a retail store, and the motivators are entirely different to the motivators that exist in a library. In retail your main motivation is to sell. Sell stuff, make a profit. To do so, you want to treat customers well and get them what they need, but that's secondary to the bottom line, which is to make money for the business. Actually, as a retail clerk, your motivation is not to be yelled at by staff or customers, and (in the case of the bookstore I worked at) to sell as many discount cards as possible. In a library, the motivation is to help. To get each person that comes through the door the information they need in the way they want it. We don't charge for this (except for particular items and particular circumstances), we don't consider it a failure if someone walks out without a book, as long as they walk out with the information they want. We are not a retail establishment, and I really don't see why we should behave like one.

If you find a retail operation where the staff will find books for you, search for information on the Internet and beyond, help you with your computer problems, help you with your research, tell stories to your kids, and do all this for free, then firstly, congratulations, and secondly, I guarantee they will be sitting.

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Blogger Ed said...

I also don't like this movement toward roaming. I tend to avoid retail stores that have roaming salesmen like Circuit City that hound while you are browsing.

At my branch we can sometimes spend eight hours on the desk on a Friday. If I'm a'roamin' how am I going to work on my side projects?

Also, when I see someone who looks like they need help I get my butt out of the seat and approach them. Businessifyin' the library don't seem like the way to go for me. I worked in retail for a while. That's why I work in a library now.

6:49 AM  

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