PUBLIB is running a thread on why people are reluctant to ask for help in a library. Several posters state it’s a no-no to use the h-word when asking patrons if they need assistance. I had no idea that the simple act of asking someone if they need help sends certain individuals screaming into the stacks without a even an ISBN number.
So why is it so hard to ask us for help? Is it the pilled sweater pulled over last summer’s reading contest t-shirt? The latte stain on the knit tie? Or that blizzard of crumpled kleenex that spills out of our sleeves when we bend over to pick up a miniature golf pencil? Maybe it’s because some patrons harbor a deep, dark fear of the library and its inhabitants, from the homeless guy snoring face down in the middle of the latest issue of Allure to the slightly creepy library tech who just loves shelving books in the true crime section. So what do we as professionals do? According to the latest research in phobia treatment, sufferers who confront their fears head-on or even try slightly risky behavior (running to the edge of the roof of a high-rise building for those with vertigo, for instance) do better than those who indulge in avoidance behavior. As a public service to those of you dealing with shy patrons, I present possible opening salvos that are guaranteed to help them face their worst lack-of-knowledge nightmare:
- Give up?
- I have a master’s degree in this–what makes you think you can find it on your own??
- You should have learned this stuff in high school, ‘ya know.
- It’s for me to know and you to find out.
- There’s no such thing as a quick question.
- So who wants to know??
- The answer is not @ your library.
- We’re not into managing your knowledge right now.
- Read. (in the corner, over there, away from this desk….)
- You waited in line to ask me that???
Please–no need to thank me. The next time see a previously-timid patron sauntering up to the reference desk bursting with confidence due to your constant barrage of humiliating questions, just think of me.