The Ranting Librarian

I read the Ottawa Citizen on Tuesdays for the EX column. If you don't know this column it is satirical and written about, by and for the bureaucratic lunacies we know as the workings of government. Anonymous, of course.

We librarians, AKA information specialists, AKA information managers, AKA anything -but-librarians- need our own EX column. Our own vehicle for dealing with the vagaries of the IM LS LAC LC, DDS, ILS, OCLC, load your favourite library acronym here "special" world we work in.

I want to call it a rant, but Rick does it so well on the CBC that I would be hard pressed to consider putting myself in that league.

But then again, why not? A 'you've got to be kidding', a 'you're killing me kind of column.' It needs a title. Help me out here would you dear colleagues? I decided I need to rant because of a meeting I attended the other day that has at least three columns worth of rants ready to roll. Let's start with the one that bugged me the most.

*rant on!*

It's no small wonder we librarians have an image problem! I am not at all surprised - again! We continue to do it to ourselves. And frankly! it's no small wonder we don't get respect. Some of us, don't deserve it. And with the "young ones" in the room looking up to us as mentors. Please young ones - there are certain parts of the room I'd rather you NOT look! I shake my head in disbelief.

I am talking about comportment at business meetings chers colleagues. How we carry ourselves. One would think that this would be a no brainer. It appears I am wrong. Business meetings are for business. Business defined as the work we do. Business is not hobby time. Business is not catch up on e-mail time. Boring as the meeting may or may not have been - and that's a story for the next time - we *must* always conduct ourselves as if we are interested or at least we are perceived as being interested in the goings on around us. Particularly when it is one's boss chairing the thing. It's called behaving professionally - in a business like manner. Always!

What IS she talking about you might be asking yourself about now. I was shocked and appalled - yes appalled - to see a dear colleague KNITTING socks! Seriously! knitting socks! During a business meeting in a room full of at least 100 of my colleagues. Was it life or death with the socks? Knitting in front of two (well at least one!) high-flying, fast-tracking managerial types who I am sure don't have much use for the librarians surrounding them except to use as a stepping stone to the next managerial level. Knitting socks in front of the bosses at a large group meeting does not sit well with me. Ever. It is so NOT professional, and somewhat disrespectful and it continues to play right into our image problems. If you need something to do, pretend that you're making notes about the meeting even if you're only preparing your to do list for tomorrow, but please for the rest of us who are doing are darndest trying to break the image of the glasses wearing, bad hair, bad shoes, polyester wearing, knitting librarians - someone who has a career and not a job - get out of my way or even better - please stay away from meetings where there are people who matter! Be they the newbies we are trying to ensure *stay* in the profession, or the high flyers who believe they can manage our libraries better than we can or your dear colleagues who are trying to get the job done and have to deal with the high flyers and every thing else in a pressure cooker. It's very difficult to be professional and be taken seriously when you have "professionals" knitting socks during business meetings. PLEASE! Take the knitting needles, find a cat somewhere and leave the room so the rest of us can be taken seriously for the work we are trying to accomplish.

*rant off*

Do you have something that needs ranting about in your government/special library world? Send a comment in telling us what bugs you and we will rant on your behalf!


John said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you are singling out this woman who was knitting, which I would call an effective use of time (albeit at work) over the person who is doodling or making a to do list. Are you more offended over the fact that she is actually doing something tangible with her time or the fact that she is a knitting librarian?? I am 26, a future librarian and I knit too.

Maybe you should try it before you knock it. And if everyone needs somethign to entertain them during the meeting, then the meeting was too long and pointless to be effective.

John said...

Of course you are either kidding or not yet aware of what is acceptable professional behaviour in the workplace. For years librarians have struggled to overcome their pink collar image and have tried to appear more businesslike. Knitting, whittling wood, yoga stretching, oil painting are all not things to do in a meeting; unless of course, you are a consultant who is trying to fit in with a client organization's quirky culture. If you really believe what you wrote, I say good luck with your future librarian profession. I hope you have a good knitting career to fall back on, just in case your future employers don't agree with your views.

Anonymous said...

As a manager of someone who knits during meetings (I doubt there is more than one, so I won't be anonymous long) I feel compelled to respond to this message and point out that both my director and our assistant deputy minister and even our deputy minister, those high flying fast-tracking executive types, are not, in the least, disturbed by the knitting. In fact they are quite charmed by it. So how does that happen? Well, they a great deal of respect for the knitter and her contribution to work. They recognise that in addition to knitting, she contributes effectively and intelligently to meetings, has an open mind and always provides thoughtful commentary. In fact her contributions are often more perceptive than some of the non-knitters. She has won a number of awards and is a highly respected member of departmental staff beyond our branch.

Knitting is certainly different and knitting at work is unusual that's true, but surely we have reached the level of maturity as a profession to recognise that our image is not simply a matter of wearing a red suit (1980s power suits were usually red) and sitting up straight in meetings. Surely our image has more to do with our contribution to our institutions.

I would not recommend that new librarians pick up their needles as they head into their next meeting. I would recommend they first work hard to develop the credibility and respect necessary for their little eccentricities to be seen as charming and not as unprofessional.

And the next time you see the knitter, your "dear colleague", perhaps you could keep an open mind as you see how she contributes to the meeting. Or even, now here's an idea, talk to her and ask her about it instead of jumping to conclusions and to the blog to air your concern.

John said...

Quite honestly, sometimes I generate my best ideas while drinking or during exercise. Hmmm. I guess by your rationale, you would have no problem if I brought along a six pack and/or did some yoga at the same meeting? Keeping an open mind in our profession is very important. Truly, it may be fun working with your team, as long as you accept my quirky work habits too.