Bartending

A friend remarked once that as librarians, we are the bartenders in our schools. I laughed at that until I was gasping for breath because it was so spot on. We are the bartenders. My friend meant that because we are centrally positioned, we work with everyone in the school-all adults and all students. At some point or another, people find their way to the library...and ultimately, that leads to them talking to us about their lives-both professional/academic and personal.

Our colleagues and students do vent to us quite a bit, almost subconsciously. We learn about their kids, siblings, spouses, upper level coursework, frustrations, fears, failures, and successes. We get to encourage them by being a sounding board, and sometimes with gentle offers of support or assistance. On a superficial level, this usually means the librarians are among the first to know what's going on in the school community. We don't go looking for people's business...but the business always seems to come to us.

That's okay, though, because we tend to be great secret keepers.

Another way we're tending bar as "liberry people" is that the bartenders are the keepers of the goods. They're the ones who basically work on whatever they can to make the place run smoothly until someone shows up to place an order. They then mix it up and serve it up in a way the customer finds pleasing. Soon after, another customer arrives with a completely different type of order. How about I do that every single day with information. Kids come in and need to find an article on concentration camps or a picture of the Parthenon for social studies presentations. Teachers come in and need help changing their network password or need documents scanned into PDF format. One by one I take their order and customize their experience by leaving out or adding more of various ingredients of instruction (demonstration for some, verbal directions for others, etc.) to best meet their needs at that moment.

I also encourage "top shelf" resources...no watered down Wikipedia or cheap ad-laden sites for my people!

It's also my job to monitor my customers and keep those who are drifting wayward on track. Kids are going to push boundaries, and sometimes teachers can as well. The best experience for everyone is when the customers are served exactly the information they need at the exact time they need it, and then they move on.

If only my customers tipped. {sigh}