Thoughts on Librarian Shaming

If you spend much time on Tumblr following the growing number of tumblarians there, you’ve probably come across Librarian Shaming. And, more recently, you’ve probably encountered the backlash against it. Librarian Shaming is a tumblr where librarians anonymously post confessions (usually handwritten on a sheet of paper and held in front of their face) about “shameful” things they’ve done (or currently do) at work.

When I first checked it out, the whole thing seemed lighthearted and funny, like pet shaming or English grad student shaming. I thought it was cute. One librarian mentioned getting stuck in a book drop and others confessed to relatively innocuous stuff like having overdue books or having lost library books as children. I didn’t follow it, but it seemed like harmless fun.

Then people began to complain about the blog. I mostly ignored them. I’ve been introduced to some important issues by the tumblarian community, but I’ve also seen people complaining about things like Kate Spade’s library-themed collection. It seemed like an overreaction based on what I’d seen. Then someone reblogged this:

“A lot of people still ask us if 50 Shades is in. If it is I lie.”

and

“Sometimes when doing readers advisory, I suggest books I know they won’t like (especially if they like books I hate).”

I was horrified. This way of treating patrons is incredibly unprofessional. Who cares if you don’t like the books that interest your patrons? Our job is to help them find the books or information that they’re seeking. We are long past the time when librarians pushed patrons towards the “right” kinds of books, as if there were such a thing.

It’s unsettling to see librarians, online or in the workplace, who don’t seem to like patrons. I always wished those people would find a different job and make room for some of us who would love to help patrons check out 5o Shades of Grey, or the next James Patterson novel, or dinosaur erotica, or whatever they want to read.

I do think it’s okay to have a place to vent. Any job involving customer service will lead to plenty of frustration. There are also shaming posts from students, which I can relate to. Library school is hard, and not all of it’s interesting. But it’s unsettling to see the posts quoted above next to someone’s admission that they haven’t read Harry Potter, especially when both posts are “liked” dozens of times. I’d hate to see those posts make crappy customer service seem funny or acceptable.

One positive response to all this has been the creation of the Optimist Librarians tumblr. It’s always nice when people share positive stories.

Anyway, if you’re not currently using Tumblr, please don’t be scared away. It’s a great place! If you’re interested in a tumblr about the weird and wonderful things library workers encounter, I highly recommend I Work at a Public Library; my favorite recent post is about a mysterious tween patron. Things Library School Didn’t Teach Me is delightful and features one amazing story of a spiteful turkey vulture. I linked to Kate Tkacik’s list of library and librarian tumblrs above, but I’ll mention it again here, because it‘s fabulous.

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