They Need a Person

Hi, I’m the Feel-good Librarian and I’m honored to be your guest poster for today. I’m a faithful reader of TTW. Although my library doesn’t use all the technologies that are talked about here, TTW is my line to learning about them, thinking about how we COULD use them and using some of them myself.

That said, anyone who reads my blog knows that for me, people are first. Customer service is my thing. Technology is cool because it takes the library where the patrons are. It improves customer service by giving us more interaction points. It gives patrons the tools to find and use information in ways that are personal and meaningful as well as efficient and cutting edge.

But librarians must be well-rounded. Sometimes, technology isn’t the answer. Some patrons don’t need a machine or a program, they need a person – and it’s you.

I was at the desk with a coworker on Friday. A homeless man was standing completely still, staring at us. “Can I help you?” I asked.

He finally unfroze and walked over to the desk, took off his sunglasses, and held out his hand to my colleague. “Jeremiah,” he said, and started to spell it. “J – E – R…”

“John,” my colleague said, taking his hand.

“John the Baptist in the desert sand,” Jeremiah said.

“That’s right,” John said.

“The river Jordan is deep and still,” Jeremiah went on.

“What can we do for you, Jeremiah?” John asked.

“I am a troubled individual,” he said.

“But how can WE help you?” John said.

“Bless me!” Jeremiah commanded.

“Bless you!” John said immediately.

Jeremiah started to laugh and then to dance in front of the desk, his feet and arms moving wildly. When he was still, he said, “See? That’s all I needed.” And he turned and walked out the front door.

All I did was stand there and smile. He scared me.

John turned to me and said, “Sometimes I miss my old job. That was the kind of interaction I had all day, every day.”

Did I mention that John used to work at Psychiatric Center? He was comfortable, efficient and sent a satisfied patron on his way. And he enjoyed the experience.

I have to say it: some days, it’s just not about the machine.