What Story is the Newberry Library telling?

Jessamyn blogs her recent visit to the Chicago-based Newberry Library:

guard: “Do you have some RESEARCH you’d like to do?” (clearly the emphais on the word, to me, implies “hey dumbass, it’s the most obvious password in the book. Here, I’m giving it to you”)
me: “No, I just wanted to look at the reading room, but I think I’ll go home instead.”

I really try to not use this space to complain about customer service incidents unless I think they can somehow be useful teaching tools, but I just was floored here. I had done my homework and read the website where it said “The Library asks that they have research interest in areas supported by the collections but will give one-day passes to people are who are uncertain and just want to explore.” but at the point at which I was not given that option, I quit.

And Andy, who was in my summer session of LIS753, blogs in response from an employee’s POV:

Because that’s the bottom line here. Every day at the Newberry I have to balance concerns about protecting and preserving materials in the collection with the desire of patrons to use them. The Newberry prides itself on being “free and open to the public.” But reading Jessamyn’s post, I find myself thinking about how many obstacles my library sometimes places between the materials and our visitors.

To my amazement, feedback from my comment was almost instantaneous. I knew Jessamyn’s blog is read by thousands of people, but I’m amazed how many people in and out of the Newberry have contacted me to say they saw this. Anyone who doesn’t take blogs seriously as a medium of communication is really kidding themselves.

Internally, I met with my supervisor, who encouraged me to share the post and my feelings about it with the Newberry’s Director of Reader Services. I have faith in the management of the library to take Jessamyn’s post seriously and to address these issues in a thoughtful manner. I hope I can be a part of that process.

To that end, I also met with the Newberry’s director of Human Resources and encouraged her to consider adopting a “blog policy.” I wanted her to know that I blog, and that as a graduate student in library science I would like, from time to time, to write about my workplace in an open manner that also respects the institution which supports me.

What face is the Newberry putting on for the public right now? Wowza!

Great posts from both! I was dumbfounded reading Jessamyn’s and overjoyed reading Andy’s – thanks to you both. I’d like to agree with a comment on Jessamyn’s post as well – I’d like to see more folks blog the successes and failures of what we do and how we do it in our libraries. Customer service is key to our future — both in person, in the form of a welcoming librarian and access to the library for folks like Jess, and online, where I think it would behoove the newberry to jump in and start a blog!

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