Monday, February 27, 2006

Is There a Limit?

A patron walks into a library, walks up to the counter, and tells the librarian, “I need to build a tree house.” So the librarian does a quick catalog search and finds three books with step-by-step directions for a variety of cool tree house designs. Then the patron says, “I’m not real comfortable with books. Would you read them for me and tell me what they say?” So the librarian does. The patron proceeds to run across the street to the hardware store, buy all the necessary materials, and bring them back to the library. “I’m not very good with my hands. Would you build the tree house for me?” So the librarian does. Sound ridiculous? I think most people would agree that it does.

So why, then, does the same scenario not seem outrageous to people when it applies to computers? From sending and receiving emails to writing resumes to doing taxes, patrons are not satisfied with the library simply providing access to the information. They want the librarians to do the actual work for them. I try to draw the line at providing step-by-step directions, even if it means reading the website and making sense of it for them, but there have been a few instances where the person was insistent enough that I actually gave in, took over the computer, and did the work for him or her. It’s tax season right now, so most of the demands relate to taxes. I’m sorry, but we’re librarians, not CPAs. We’ll gladly do what we can to help, but we won’t do your taxes for you just because a computer is involved in some way.


Gobula said...

Jesus, you ask someone to build you a treehouse just ONE lousy time....

scott said...

I completely agree with you, Degolar. Well put.

The Blue Pamphlet said...

I agree with you. Whenever I get stopped while dashing between my desk and admin, or when Staff OR Patrons come calling, I've got a step by step process I follow, and it works every time.
1. Introduce yourself, or have the co-worker who brought you over introduce you.
2. Take a knee. Literally.
3. Tell them that their driving.

By placing myself lower than their line of site, I give them control of the situation. Poor guy was having a hell of a time with Word's BS resume, so I showed him how to select all, copy, paste special, unformatted text, use some bullets to reformat, and call it good. Took me 5 minutes, but five minutes well spent.

Checked back 10 minutes later on my way to lunch to see if he needed any more help, and this time, he offered his hand to me, and I gladly shook it.

The ONLY time I take over the steering wheel is when it looks like the patron is going to throttle the monitor.