Sunday, April 30, 2006

READERS' FEEDBACK: Bad library manners

From: [name withheld]
I just had to respond to your column about people leaving microfilm out and volunteers putting it away, titled "Library Manners"

At the John F. Germany Library in Tampa, there are many signs begging patrons not to refile the microfilms or any other books. This is because it is easier for the library staff to refile the films than it is to find a film that has been misfiled.

What gripes me about library manners today is that the librarians feel it is acceptable to talk loudly in a library. At the John F. Germany Library, the patrons frequently comment to the librarians that it seems strange to hear "people" talking so loudly in the library. (The "people" are the librarians.) These librarians always respond that it used to be expected that people would be quiet in the library but that was a long time ago. The librarians talk to each other about personal matters, complain about their work schedules, and make personal phone calls that disturb patrons. Most patrons don't want to incur the displeasure of the librarians by asking them to be quiet because we might have to ask for their help in the future.

Patrons look around annoyed, cough, hush, and occasionally, some intrepid soul will ask the librarians to be quiet. Then the librarians will say that nobody else seemed to be bothered. It is a losing battle.

I hear the same thing at the downtown library in Cincinnati. There is a screened-in area next to the genealogy section where employees work, socialize, plan lunch, look for the can opener, etc. There is much loud, private conversation going on that is very annoying. I think the employees think it is a private area because there is a screen around it but everything they say carries all over the floor. But it is best not to complain because the librarian you annoy may be the one you have to ask for help with the microfilm reader.

I am not signing my name because I don't want the librarians to identify me. If you include this in your column, please don't use my e-mail address. I really want to continue using the library without incurring the ire of the librarians. Thanks.

I know exactly which librarians you are referring to at the John F. Germany Library in Tampa. I am 50% deaf, but the problem is annoying enough to readily recall when reading your email. One librarian is particularly loud, and it IS nearly impossible to concentrate when she is speaking. It is almost like she wishes to be known as the authority on a given subject. I wish her supervisor would do something about this matter. This subject has come up in the car among my fellow researchers several times as we've returned home to Bradenton across the bay. But for all the noisiness, the Tampa genealogy references librarians have been most helpful; and, as you mention, it IS painfully difficult to criticize.

As to the subject of the original column about refiling the microfilm: each facility is different. For instance, I visited the Seattle branch of the National Archives Records Administration on Thursday afternoon, where signs request that each refile his microfilm. They use a simple system of a block of wood to take the place of the microfilm in the drawer while I viewed it. The block had the number of the microfilm reader I was using. They even have some magnets to mark the outside of the drawer. The Family History Library requests that researchers do not reshelve books, but microfilms are to be refiled. Wouldn't Ol' Myrt's readers agree it is a researcher's job to familiarize oneself with the guidelines at each facility and govern himself accordingly?

As to bad manners, I should mention the NARA in Seattle is wonderful. However, you barely step in the door at a Southern NARA branch (to remain unnamed by Ol' Myrt) and a woman practically jumps down your throat about a researcher card. Guess there is no accounting for taste when it comes to the choices individual workers make about their on-the-job deportment.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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