Brash Jobs: What Library School DOESN’T Teach You, Part 3

Hey Friends!

If you’ve worked in a library setting or read my previous post on what they don’t teach you in library school, then you know that library school doesn’t fully prepare you for what you face in the library work place. After covering customer service in Part Two of my on-going series, I noticed my poll voted that their biggest problems are often with computers and gadgets. In that vein, I thought I should cover the technological side of libraries and patron interactions for my next installment. Let’s get beep-beep-boop’n right into this mess!

Technology in General: All The Gadgets!

(But let’s break it down, anyway.)
  • Patron device problems

People bring in phones, tablets, phablets, palm pilots, Kindles, Nooks, laptops, even desktops! Seriously, a guy brought in his desktop and asked if he could hook it up to a monitor and show us what was wrong. After holidays, we often get the 80-year old man who brings in a first-generation Kindle. Oh, and he doesn’t have a computer at home (which is needed to transfer the e-books), he’s never turned the Kindle on, he’s never charged it and he wants 200 books on it in the next 10 minutes.

It’s still in the box. Hasn’t been charged, turned on, registered or anything.

Cue the rage he gets when we tell him that he needs to take it out of the box, charge it, turn it on, and register it first. No, we can’t do that for you – we literally CAN’T do that for liability reasons. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I NEED A COMPUTER TO USE THIS THING?!? IT’S A KINDLE!!!”

The worst ones I know are the 3rd-rate devices nobody has ever heard of. “I bought this tablet on the Home Shopping Network for $20, but it doesn’t work. Can you fix it?” Ma’am, the only thing that will fix that is buying a real tablet. Honestly, we can’t really help you with your children’s Leapfrog device, either. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll certainly tinker with it and give it our best shot, but please no dirty looks when we can’t figure out why it’s not working correctly.

  • Patron software problems

No, we do not know why your obscure website will not load up.

No, we cannot get you into your Bank of America account.

No, we cannot fill out or edit your resume on that job website.

No, we cannot navigate your college webmail.

No, we will not download things on your laptop/phone/tablet for you.

No, we cannot sit with you and help you file your taxes. Just because we can use computers does not mean we can help with outside things.

Most of these contain sensitive material that we can’t help you with. Of course, we’d be happy to help you click the “Forgot Password?” link on Bank of America, get to the Work Force site, get to the college webmail login page, show you how to download the program or get to the IRS home page, but that’s legally as far as we can go. Some people really have trouble grasping this one, so let’s make another section:

Legal Liability

You see everyone, we’re really fond of protecting your information – so much so, that we are legally obligated to avoid anything that has personal information. I’m going to avert my eyes if you’re doing W-2/tax form/bank statement/social security/job application/etc things of any variety. Why? Because it protects us legally. If I help you file for unemployment, you could come back a month later with, “You helped me file for unemployment and had access to my personal information – my identity was stolen, it’s all your fault! I’m suing the city/county/district/local government of some kind!” and then I lose my job.

Promising me that you wouldn’t sue isn’t going to change my mind. I will not put my employer in a position where they could be sued. Nope, sorry.

The same goes for device help. I can tell you how to download an app to a device, but I’m not going to take your device and click the download button for you. Why? Because it’s either going to end with, “I got a virus on my computer! The library needs to replace my laptop!” or something like, “This app isn’t working! I think you did something while you were holding my device! I’m suing the library!” and then I lose my job.

(I really don’t like things that end with me losing my job.)

“Can’t you just do it for me?”

No ma’am. Not how this works.

Story time again! I have a lesson to illustrate this from a few years ago. I was working one afternoon when a lady asked me how to print her Word document from one of our computers. For clarity’s sake, I’ve color-coded my words and her words. Here’s how it went:

*Lady is standing at the printer, looking on either side of it*

“Hi Ma’am, can I help you find something?”

“Yes Sir, I was looking for my pages that I printed out. How do I print from here? Did I do it wrong?”

“Oh, it’s pretty easy, let me take a look…”

*I sit down to look at her Word document*

“Ah, I see what went wrong…just click FILE here, then PRINT, select black and white or color…”

*I click print, her stuff starts coming out*

“Oh, thank you so much!”

“You’re very welcome!”

*I go back behind circulation, she tries to walk out without paying for her copies*

“Um, Ma’am, you still need to pay for those.”

“Huh? Oh, I’m not paying.”

“No, you printed those out – you need to pay for them.”

*Lady gets angry eyes*

“No Sir, YOU clicked the button – YOU printed them out. I wasn’t ready to print them out.”

“Ma’am, when you’re standing there looking for the paper to come out of the printer, I assumed you were ready to print.”


*The more I stay calm, the angrier she gets*

“I’m sorry – you’re totally correct, Ma’am. I printed those, may I please have my papers back?”

*This sends her through the roof*


“It’s 10 cents a page for black and white, and three pages makes it 30 cents.”

*Lady throws a quarter and nickel at me. She starts leaving as her phone rings*

“Hey Pastor [blank]…Yes, I was just printing out the verses for tonight’s bible study…”

*Lady walks out the doors*

Really? Bible verses? Your church would have been so proud of your behavior.

Librarians! Tell me what gets your goat at work in the comments below or on my Facebook page! Here’s to a long, no computers on fire weekend.

Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian

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