Trusting the Desk

A great many people seem to believe that we Student Library Workers are paid to do nothing.

This is not quite true. When I was hired to work in Circulation, I was given a list of expectations: scan-in returned books, build carts of books in the Sorting Room, shelve books, double-check the location of shelved books, help confused people find said books, regularly tidy up the section of children’s books (the dreaded PZs), manage the Lost and Found (which sometimes includes books), bring up packages from the Shipping Room (mostly books), and check-out BOOKS, headphones, markers, and other useful objects to patrons.

All this I signed up for–plus the added bonus of being able to sit at the desk and do homework once the books are organized. However, I have quickly learned that patrons have different expectations. They expect me to cheerfully answer an assortment of random, non-circulation-related questions simply by virtue of being behind the desk. I guess I look like I have all the answers, sitting there surrounded by books. That, or people recognize that I can’t run from their questions.

Q. Why won’t my computer connect to the printer?”

A. Hmm, I’d recommend asking that question at the other desk, the one right next to the printers, labeled INFORMATION.

Q. What is the oldest building on campus?”

A. My guess is the original portion of Central Hall, but I’d go verify that with a tour guide.

Q. Do you think Dr. Mack will mind if I use a Kahoot for the interactive portion of my presentation?”

A. Not at all! He loves Kahoot.

Q. We need you to settle an argument. Is this folder purple or blue?

A. Which of you will beat me up if I tell you that you’re colorblind?

Q. What time does ballroom club meet?”

A. 4-6 pm every Friday. Bring men.

Q. Have you seen Joy walk by in the past twenty minutes?

A. She is busy solving a moral dilemma over by the VHS tapes.

Q. When is that one homework assignment due again?

A. I suppose it would take too much effort for you to check Canvas on your phone, so I’ll look up the website on the circulation computer, type in my crazy long last name and password, and navigate to the course page to find that for you. Oh, wait. I know the answer off the top of my head. It’s due tomorrow.

Don’t worry; the sarcasm is fictitious. I actually enjoy getting asked questions that are not part of my job description. I love getting to interact with the people of campus–even if it mean admitting my ignorance of technology and history.

Still, sometimes I lament that appearances are so deceiving. I regret that I did not have to pass the MCAT (Mastery of Certifiable Answers Test) to qualify for a chair at the desk. Maybe I just need to give it more time, but the Circulation desk has yet to imbue me with its inherent knowledge. Sadly, it seems that the desk itself cannot put all your questions to rest, but it is still a good place to flag down a friend to help with math homework.

Questions to Consider:
Who do you trust for answers?
How much do external appearances affect your trust?
When people ask you a question, are you honest in your lack of knowledge, or do you “make stuff up” to look smart?

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