As I titled my post, I realized that in libraryland that actually has two meanings. Yes, there are challenges working with students, teachers, budgets, and purchasing decisions, but there’s also the literal challenge that librarians (and teachers) face when stocking their shelves or picking a class read. I’m choosing to focus on the former, but wanted to recognize that the latter is just as important to discuss.
I’d like to focus on student interactions and challenges I’ve faced over the last ten years in the high school library. Part of it also comes from the immensity of our district and therefore high school. While we have two additional campuses that focus on vocations and one as an alternate setting, our campus still receives 2,500 students daily. And while we see approximately 40-70 students per period, we still don’t interact regularly with all of the student body. Yes, there are the heavy users that we do know well, but there are others where we may only meet them once while instructing a class or on their own when they need a printer, a textbook, or a book for class.
I constantly remind myself of Doug Johnson’s quote that the goal of the library is to get back the reader, not the book. This is valuable advice when you don’t know the student’s history personally and academically. So each interaction must be caring but firm, helpful but educational. We have procedures to make coming and going uniform and for some first-time students this may be frustrating, but it is necessary. Likewise, we’re in the business of helping, but we’re also there to teach. This also can be frustrating when students want it done for them.
So the challenge is to provide the best customer service which includes a positive attitude. I am occasionally guilty of letting negativity get in the way, but I always want to remember what the ultimate goal is. I’m one librarian who represents the dozens they might meet over a lifetime or be the first one they’ve met in the hopes that they’ll return to our library and their own college and public library, so that focus should always be on winning back the user and gaining their trust.