Library Furniture: Planned Obsolescence

It’s finally, probably, going to happen.  A few years ago, a new branch manager wanted to eliminate the fortress-like reference desks built to accommodate several librarians in favor of a much smaller desk and roving staff. Things didn’t pan out then, due to staffing & finance issues. The discussion has been revived, now that we are open fewer hours.

Librarians are an interesting lot: trained to provide resources exploring all sides of an issue without prejudice so the patron can select what is relevant to his thesis, we are genius at coming up with arguments on all sides of desk-less roving, clouding the bottom-line issue: how to provide the best customer service – without actually stating an opinion or being able to justify it.

I fall into that trap often outside of work. When there is more than one acceptable way to perform a task, I have to stop myself from getting bogged down in the minutiae differentiating one way from another.  Picking one is just too simple – it might not be the best way! And so, the waffling and start-overs never stop.

Is it better to stand behind a desk looking hopeful, or to carry a laptop and wander the floors, ready to offer our expertise to those looking lost? Given today’s collection of patron interactions, I’m ready to vote for the desk. One guy pulled out a handful of Tootsie Rolls and  gave me detailed instructions for shaping shaping them and chopped nuts into a facsimile of feces. He seemed genuinely amused, thinking about the reactions he’d gotten from his “victims” when they found it.  Another asked a colleague for a date. Having a barrier between me and them may not be all bad!

I didn’t attend this morning’s staff meeting due to a class I was teaching, but I heard there were several issues that created sticking points.  I am looking forward to hearing what my colleagues will propose as an implementation plan.


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