I thought librarians were supposed to be educated…

March 29, 2008 at 9:49 pm 20 comments

So, I’ve discovered the wonders of the local library, which I discovered is a) not too far from my house and b)on a different system than the Smallany libraries…and therefore I needed to get a new card.

Well, I went in to look for some knitting books, and didn’t find them on the shelves, so I ventured over to the reference librarian to see what I could do about getting them on reserve.

Here’s the conversation….

me: Hi. I’m looking for a knitting book. I’m not sure who wrote it, but it’s called Wrap Style.

Librarian: Ok. I’ll take a look and see if we carry that.

librarian putters on her computer, clicking through various options…

Librarian: Umm..that’s not a book that exists. I can’t even find it on Amazon.

me: What? I just saw it at the yarn shop the other day. One of the employees was knitting a project out of it.

Librarian looking SUPER confused here… : Wait. Are you spelling that as one word or two?

me: two. W-R-A-P S-T-Y-L-E.

Librarian Looking up in utter shock: Wait. You’re not spelling itΒ  R-A-P, like the music?

me: flabbergasted at the stupidity, because I said it was a KNITTNG BOOK: No, W-R-A-P like wrapping a present.

Librarian: Oh, wow. I thought you meant the music.

Me: That’s why I said it was a knitting book

I’m too flabbergasted by this whole conversation to be anything but nice…and just genuinely shocked…

Librarian: Oh, wow. Ok…here it is! We carry it, but it’s not in at the moment, would you like to reserve it?

Me: Most definately.

But do you all beleive this conversation?Β 

I thought librarians were supposed to be SMART….

oh, save me.


Entry filed under: stupidity.

An Open letter to the entity that controls the weather Attention Entity that controls the weather:


  • 1. eksith  |  March 29, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Librarians are no where near the same breed that existed even 10 years ago. Now it seems the only qualification is the ability to use a keyboard.

    Knowlege of books (or the ability to read beyond kindergarten level for that matter) is completely optional.

    Clickity-Click Clickity-Click
    Hmm… Do you mean Martin Luther King or Stephen King?

  • 2. Robyn  |  March 29, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Gosh they’re idiots!

  • 3. amey  |  March 30, 2008 at 2:24 am

    This is one of the many reasons why I love reserving books online.

    Tho I think most of the librarians I’ve dealt with here would’ve asked “w-r-a-p” or “r-a-p”?

    Do you know about this: http://www.libraryelf.com/?

    I cannot believe we didn’t get to NY to see snow this year. Don’t go check the weather channel for Phoenix.

  • 4. marigold  |  March 30, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    maybe not smarter, but i definitely expect librarians to know how to search their catalog. For ALL possibilites!

  • 5. J  |  March 31, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Okay! I’ve got to stand-up for us librarians and library-workers. You just ran into a bad one there. Personally I would have known what you wanted because I’m also a knitter.

    But the problem really was that you encountered someone who didn’t listen to what you said and didn’t get enough information to actually find what you wanted on the first try. This is getting to be a common customer service problem all over the place, not just in libraries.

    Don’t give up on libraries people! Please! πŸ™‚

  • 6. Colleen  |  March 31, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Well, you can fault a single librarian for not asking you all of the spelling possibilities, but it’s a tad harsh to think that she’d know it was ‘wrap’ and not ‘rap’ right off the bat. They do sound that same. And if she’s not a knitter, how would she know? A librarian’s job is to try and figure out all the ways it might be in the catalog – when she asked you if it was one word or two, that was one way to do it. Her next question may well have been how you were spelling it. Save the snark.

  • 7. morandia  |  March 31, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Unfortunately there is not one search that covers both rap and wrap. That would be two separate searches. Something to consider is that justs because someone works at a library, they might not be a librarian. In some situations, they might even be a community volunteer, not a trained librarian.

    Please don’t judge all librarians by one misstep. And remember, just because a librarian has their Masters degree, it doesn’t mean they know everything about every book ever published. We all have different backgrounds. In my case, I would have gotten it right – I’m a knitter, but someone with absolutely no background in knitting might not get it right the first time. You have no idea how many times we get “I need a book – I can’t remember the title and author, but the book is red”. And in many cases, we can figure out from the discussion what the topic is and actually find the correct book!

  • 8. Renee  |  March 31, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    You’re experience was unfortunate and yes, this person is indeed, quiet stupid!

    But, as a librarian, I would like to confirm that there is MUCH preparation that goes into becoming a librarian. We must know books, we must know computers, we must know how to ‘interview’ the patron, to understand the situation. Most librarian’s these days have at least two Master’s degrees, and many have a Doctorate degree as well. We must be able to have a strong understanding of all disciplines, as well as understanding our chosen disciplines expertly.

    One huge thing that people need to understand is that the government is continually taking funding away from libraries, which forces libraries to higher assistants that are NOT librarians. They do not have the training we do. They are trained the in the library they are working and they SHOULD know general things such as searching the catalog. Unfortunately, I’ve come across more than one assistant who is lacking. I’ll tell you this, the assistants at my library are on par. They are excellent. And, when they do have a situation they don’t know how to handle, they immediately bring it to me or one of the other librarians.

    99% of the time, when you approach the desk in a library, you are speaking with an assistant, NOT a librarian. We have SO MUCH work to do, classes to teach, private research consultations to give…we do not work the circulation desks all the time. If you want a librarian – ask for the librarian. But, I’d at least give the assistant a try. Many assistants are very, very good.

    There are masters in professions in every day and age. I don’t think librarians were better or worse in past times – but I do think that librarians are far better prepared in todays age. Librarians in the past did not have to be published scholars, as we are. Librarians in the past did not have to spend great amounts of time researching, learning, apprenticing, and teaching that we do. In fact, in the past, a person could become a librarian in only a few short months. The study to become a librarian was much like that of the administrative assistants of today. Librarianship is a complex world and a complex job.

    If you are experiencing horrible interactions with librarians and assistants at your local library, please don’t just assume all librarians are horrible. Remember that libraries need financial support too, and just like Arts programs in schools – decreased funding from the government and decreased support from the community will only lead to decreased libraries.

    Also, as a librarian, I’ve had some horrible interactions with other librarians and assistants in other libraries in my area. I make a point to voice my concern. I send a letter to the director. This will, not only get the library staff’s attention, but will also give them something to present to those responsible for giving funding. “Look, our patron’s are complaining that we can’t give them the service they need. Please give us the funding we need to increase our services.”

    I’m just asking everyone to think outside the moment. Thanks for your time! Happy reading and researching!

  • 9. Renee  |  March 31, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Quite. I meant quite. LOL

  • 10. Renee  |  March 31, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    LOL Hire. Higher. That’s just funny. Forgive me for my typo’s. I am very under-the-weather and clearly did not edit my post. πŸ˜€

  • 11. madknits  |  March 31, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    As a knitter, and a librarian, who holds a couple of subject masters’ degrees, I know how to spell “definitely”.

    As well, at the library where I work, all the librarians speak at least one foreign language, sometimes two or three. One woman has Russian, Hebrew and French. I have Italian and Hebrew. Plus damn near fluent ASL for dealing with our Deaf patrons. So I reckon we’re pretty well educated.

    In a public library, not everyone working the desk is a trained librarian. Not everyone working at the desk is involved in your specialty. She could have been having a bad day, could have been dealing with nasty kids (like my cousin, who was threatened by a couple of teenagers at her library, which kind of ruined her day), so cut her a little slack. I’m sure you’re not always on top of your game when you’re at work.

  • 12. Abby  |  March 31, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Maybe it was loud in the room (libraries aren’t the quiet places they used to be). Maybe the librarian was having an off day (everyone does). Maybe the librarian didn’t hear you say it was a knitting book. Maybe maybe maybe…

    To address your friends who think we cannot read or do so at a kindergarten level…. As someone stated above, librarians (not clerks or other paraprofessionals that may assist you when you visit a library) go through a graduate program to receive an MLS. And yes, part of that program is being literate. Try getting into a graduate program without that ability.

    But thank you oh so kindly for judging an entire profession by one experience.

  • 13. Rachel  |  March 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    While my fellow librarians have already made a good case for the profession in previous comments, it could unfortunately be true that the librarian you encountered was just not up to par. It happens, although it is an exception and not a rule.

    It isn’t totally out of the question to ask for clarification on spelling when it could easily be done either way– regardless of the book’s subject. Better to clarify than assume. That said, this person you interacted with did make an assumption and didn’t consider alternatives, which is why I agree that this was poor service on her part. According to your descriptions, they certainly did not act as if they knew what they were doing.

    But you would be surprised the titles some books have, and one thing I have learned is not to judge a book by its title and vice versa.

    And I assure you, the ability to use a keyboard is not the only requirement for librarians these days. If that were true, it wouldn’t take two years of full-time graduate level schooling, and it wouldn’t be so difficult to find and get hired for one’s initial proper librarian position. Perhaps in some areas in the country they’re lacking qualified applicants, but that is certainly not true everywhere.

  • 14. Kelly  |  March 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    …are you sure the person was a librarian, and not just staff? Be a shame to go colouring librarians with such a broadly negative brush, only to find out it was just desk staff,…

  • 15. Eryn  |  March 31, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I passed two degrees to qualify as a librarian and studied for a further year in order to become professionally chartered. Many of the staff who serve on the desks are not qualified librarians and even those who are may not be knitting experts.

    I’d also like to point out that the idea that librarians are supposed to be geniuses who know everything is rather unrealistic. We are human and are subject to the same limitations of other humans.

    Perhaps you should write to the Universities who teach librarianship and suggest that knitting terminology is added to the syllabus πŸ˜‰

  • 16. e  |  March 31, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    She’s a librarian, not a mind reader.

  • 17. Heather  |  March 31, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I’m totally with Renee here — just because the person you talked to was in the library doesn’t mean that they were a librarian. It is a common misunderstanding, but just like everyone who works in a hospital is not a doctor, and everyone who works in a law office is not a lawyer, not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. And honestly, there is some probability that the person you spoke with wasn’t a librarian at all. When budgets get tight, library services are among the first things to be cut or tightened, and one of the ways that library systems deal with this is to employ fewer actual librarians. For example, my local branch library has a for-real librarian there only once a week for two hours because of budget woes. The rest of the time it is open it is staffed by paraprofessionals (some of whom are phenomenal, and some of whom have the IQ of a shoelace) and volunteers.

    The best way to address this kind of thing is to write a letter (or an email) to the head of the library system. If the person was a librarian, the boss will light a fire under her to get on the ball. And if not, it will provide justification to get some real librarians in there. Either way, you’ll be doing the library system a favor (not to mention doing a favor to patrons like you, too).

    I’m sorry you had such a dumb, frustrating experience but please don’t give up on libraries. They provide a mind boggling array of services, all for free (after taxes).

  • 18. Sarah  |  March 31, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Previous commenters have defended my profession already, so I’ll just throw in a “what they said”!

    Wrap vs. rap is an easy mistake to make — and besides, in a knitting world where there are books like “Pretty in Punk,” I don’t think that “Rap Style” is that far outside the realm of possibilities!

  • 19. karin  |  March 31, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I think it might have been a case of not quite listening to you…maybe? And she didn’t hear the knitting part?

  • 20. ellie  |  March 31, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Eh, sounds like she just had a brain fart. I work the reference desk and during any given shift I might have such a range of questions that my brain can be pretty tired by the end. Though by objective measures I’m intelligent, I’m sure I’ve occasionally caused a patron to wonder who hired the blithering idiot. That’s life, none of us are 100% all of the time.

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