Saturday, August 06, 2005

I only have a Masters degree in Information Studies

QQ*Librarian shares an encounter with a library customer:
I used to have this guy who would come and harass staff. One day, he said to me in the most condescending tone and smirking expression, “What’s your qualification that you should sit here at the counter?” To Mr Smirking face, I said calmly, “Not very qualified, Sir. I only have a Masters degree in Information Studies to sit here at the counter.” (and that is true, because a number of my colleagues have double masters and PhD holders too). After that, I have not seen Mr Smirking face near our counter anymore.

I wonder what's the proportion of library staff getting harassed compared to sales and retail staff. Do libraries have higher incidences of unreasonable customers?

QQ*Librarian sugggests in her post that certain customers harass the service staff because those customers perceive that the service staff is lowly educated. I think the closer truth is that certain customers are just plain arrogant and nasty, who think highly of themselves.


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  1. erm i am guilty of assuming that the people who sit at the desk only need O level and then can get the job already :o u mean ALL the librarians have degrees?!

  2. Anonymous2:56 pm

    Hi Ivan, I guess it's a sad fact that this thinking is the same thru out the world (well, I am just as biased).

    I can't remember how many times my patron asked me 'casually' at the reference desk if I have a 'library cert' from TAFE (Singapore's version - ITE) and I enjoy seeing how different they treat me after knowing I am working on a thesis on some 'library stuff'.

    I am so mean ;p

  3. To Monkey - yes, at least a degree in most cases. But need not be in library science or info studies.

    To Whosoever - After almost 10 years working in the library, I've learnt that what the customers think of you -- though important -- isn't half as important as what WE think of ourselves. So let them think or say what they want. We have a job to do it, and we'll do it well.

  4. The image of a lonely spinster, hair in a bun, with reading glasses; or a former hippie with Birkenstocks seems to be the
    popular image of a librarian (in the U.S.).

    I think it's the responsibility of us librarians and the media to update this image. It would be great if they can come up with a TV series that centers on a library, similar to ER for a hospital.

  5. i agree! a library version of the ER
    otherwise the only media memory will be the librarian in indiana jones... hehe

    i mean i love the library and i worked in the university library in USA and got to know alot of the librarians and know they are highly qualified professionals.

    but in singapore... in the public libraries, arent there shelvers or any staff at all who are not degree holders?

    even the counter librarians.. i have had been disappointed by the ones at my community library ... oh well :)

  6. Ah Monkey, therein lies the problem -- when you say "librarian" I suspect you mean every one of the library staff, hence your reference to the staff who are shelving books, and the staff who are at the Customer Service Counter. Those are library staff (Library Assistants and Library Officers) who are more operations-focused.

    The librarians are the ones who facilitate the programmes, do booktalks, conduct storytelling sessions (Children's Librarians), and the are the ones are the Reference Counters (or Advisory).

  7. (continued) The Librarians are the ones who are graduates, while the Library Assistants and Library Officers are not.

    But that DOES NOT mean their roles are less important! Everyone plays their own essential roles :)

  8. ah! yep glad you understood my question although i wasn't sure how to differentiate the different roles i see but thanks for telling me their "official titles" :D

    in a university library I can easily differentiate who is a "professional" and who not. but i didnt know how to do so in a public library. i guess i seldom go to storytelling sessions and events... and there aren't reference desks at JWCL?! or maybe i wasn't searching hard enough heh

  9. PS: THANK YOU! :D

  10. I don't see why Singaporeans should equate status with education in the first place.

  11. Anonymous12:31 pm

    I only wish American libraries had a fraction of the quality I witness at Singapore libraries during my 2004 visit and tour of Jurong.

  12. I don't think anyone should feel they have a status that allows them to underrate another person simply because of the job they hold.

    I don't know much about Librarys, but I think anyone who can figure out that Dewey Decimal system is a genius.

    And any one who judges another person based on what they think about that person is guilty of prejudice.

    And we all know that someone with personal prejudice regarding race or status is small minded anyways.

  13. Hey Steve,
    I think anyone who can figure out that Dewey Decimal system is a genius.
    I don't know if that's a compliment or a complaint! :)



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