Penguin’s Progress

Back in January, my loyal readers – all like two of you – might remember me mentioning that I was applying for another job in the library.  Specifically, I was applying to be an official librarian – a reference librarian.  So I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if I got it.  The answer is no, I didn’t, but not because I was rejected.  I rejected the process.

Cows . . . we have them.

              Because, you see, we just now found our candidates.  In July.   Seriously.  Last summer, we lost a librarian, and another moved to a higher position.  So two candidates needed.  75 people applied.  Again, seriously!   I’m thinking these people must not have realized where we are.  They probably got confused and thought we were one of those big universities with money and stuff, located in a city with people and entertainment and not so many cows. 

                So I was a bit daunted by this, but what the heck, I could hack it.  But time at a university moves like a penguin.  If you’ve ever watched these birds, you know they aren’t exactly speed demons.  They waddle, and spend lots of time huddling together.  That’s what happens here too.  We’ve needed these two positions filled since last July.  For six months the position was “frozen” (like a penguin homeland) until they decided to open it again.  But that was just the beginning.  They then had to come up with a job description.  And post it.  And wait for applications.  And cry when they realized that by leaving the position open for an extra weekend, the number went from 55 to 75 applicants.  Which just goes to show how bad our economy really is.

                The position, while a huge raise for me, is not what most would consider highly paid.  But the little addition of “salary commiserate upon experience” doesn’t exactly tell people “Even public school teachers are paid better than this.”  With all these candidates, I figured they’d find some scientific way to eliminate people, like say all candidates with names starting with M.  But no, it is required that every single application be reviewed and assigned a numerical score.  Every. Single. One. 

I dunno . . . all the candidates are startin’ to look the same.

                No one person could do this without losing all mental faculties.  So a committee is formed (remember the huddle?) of seven people, only one of whom is not on staff.  So this means about half the staff was involved in the hiring process.  Of two people.  Who will make less money than a public school  teacher.  But it’s not about the money.  It’s about the prestige that a title like “librarian” brings with it.  I mean, sure, you could be a lawyer making six figures, but if you’re a librarian, you still get to do research, only you make a tenth of the salary.  Awesome!

                As time dragged on, I felt my stress-o-meter go up.  I filled in at this position since they were short handed, and to give myself experience.  Unfortunately, this experience showed me that not only is this a rather difficult job, it is also extremely annoying.  I’ve done reference work before, but not with university students.  It turns out that university students have a lot of questions.  And they will come up and ask you for help with everything.  You might help twenty people in an hour.  And the questions range from “Where is the bathroom?” to the more complex “Why is the computer melting?”  Let’s not forget the phone either, which you’re expected to answer.  Upstairs, at my regular position, most of my phone calls come from people trying to reach somebody else.

I smile because I have no idea what I am doing!

It’s tough when you’re sitting at a desk that is literally labeled “Reference” and you know absolutely nothing.  They’ll ask you lots of homework questions, and after a while, you’re willing to just do their homework, because you have no idea how to explain it.  That is, if you understand how to do their homework.  One student I helped was an ESL student working on law, which meant I had to try and translate two different languages.  My brain was pudding by the end of that session.  And then there’s the issues with the computers and printers.  The I.T. people downstairs have locked us out of most computer stuff, for good reason I’m sure, but unfortunately this keeps us from being able to access things we need, like the ability to put a travel drive into the computer.   You have to call them when a student needs to use a travel drive to upload their homework.  Every.  Single. Time.  I’m pretty sure most of I.T. assumes we’re all brain dead, although they are usually polite enough not to tell us so.               

I’m not a real people person.  I am what you call “introverted” which translates to “nerd”.  It’s not that I hate all people, just most people.  More than once, when a student came to me with a question I wanted to ask, “What???”  Sometimes I would work on my Jedi mind powers, trying in vain to direct the students away from me with my mind.  “You do not have a question.  You want to return to your dorm . . .”

                So anyway, this experience combined with the length and stress of the application process, caused me to change my mind.  And just in time.  We finally brought two people to campus to interview, and only one ran away screaming once she realized where we were.  Luckily, the next candidate we interviewed decided to come.  I’m not sure what they told her, but it had to be pretty good.  In a funny twist of fate, one of our new reference librarians has the same name I do.  So it’s like another me got the position, only this me is younger and more accomplished!  Yay!  

                Seriously, I wish our two new people well.  Maybe in a few years I’ll be ready for that step up.  For now, I’ll waddle back to my safe little cubby in Special Collections.  Which turns out to be more special than I ever realized.

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3 responses

  1. Ha! I love using Jedi mind tricks whenever possible.

    I worked as a reference librarian throughout college. Government documents. I loved it because most of the people who came in regularly were completely cracked. Occasionally I had to do actual work looking up census data or old congressional hearings, but a lot could be found just using Lexus Nexus. And the conspiracy theorists who came in regularly were awesome beyond words. I really wish I had written down those encounters when they were fresh.

    1. That is so funny! We share the second floor with Gov’t Docs. They are on one side and Periodicals / Special Collections are on the other. Neither of us has any idea what is going on first floor usually.

      I got some conspiracy theorists when I worked at the public library. One guy said he had an open head injury and that gov’t agents had killed his wife and were now tracking him through some device implanted in his head. He would make the rounds of every public library in the city (there were four branches). He’s probably still doing that.

  2. […] Penguin’s Progress – How things don’t get done at a university or why I stay with my old job.  My first post after my switch from blogger to WordPress– (2012/07/30) […]

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