Sunday, October 25, 2009

Miracle Workers, Or Not

It’s so peculiar how people think librarians are capable of performing miracles.

A man walked in an hour before closing, which means only 45 minutes before the computers shut off, and he needed to type up his first resume, not even knowing what a resume contains, for a job that required all applicants to submit their resumes by tomorrow morning.

I’ve written and re-written my own resume more times than I can count, and even I couldn’t confidently compose my resume in 45 minutes to be sufficient for a specific job I sought. How the hell am I supposed to abandon my reference desk for the last hour we’re open, leaving it unmanned without anyone else in the building who could back me up, and sit down with this complete stranger to teach him the fundamentals of resumes, how to use the resume wizard, and what to say to get him this job?

But, he said, someone had done exactly this for him last year, when he applied for his current position.


Well, sir, I though, I guarantee that person was not alone in the building, 45 minutes before the computers shut off, on a busy Sunday afternoon. And I guarantee this was not a taught lesson or you’d have taken away from it some semblance of recall about what to do this time. And I can only assume that the copy you’re showing me of the application you turned in a year ago, which was written entirely in the very distinctive handwriting of my coworker, will not quickly translate to you knowing how to input what was written down for you a year ago into a resume you can write today. It’s fairly obvious that what you are actually doing here today is asking me to write your resume for you, quickly, so you can take it to work tomorrow morning to apply for this promotion.

That pays $15K annually more than my job pays.

Which we are both qualified for, judging by the job description.

Except that of the two of us, equally qualified, only one of us knows what a resume is.

I did what I could, plopped him down in front of a computer, walked him through Word’s resume wizard, brought him books about resumes, complete with examples, and told him to fill in the blanks, like his own name and address, then I would check on him again after helping the people waiting at my desk.

This was too daunting for him. He thanked me for my effort but didn’t think he could handle the wizard, had hoped more for someone to be able to sit with him and fill it out themselves, so instead he’d have to get his son to help him.

They won’t come to our classes about how to write a resume. They won’t come to seminars about how to deliver an awesome interview. They don’t even want to touch the computer themselves. They want someone to do it for them. And they need it in an hour. They don’t have a library card to get on a computer or check out a book, a dime to pay for the printed resume, an email account to send it from, a media device to save it to, or the common sense that says maybe this last minute bullshit is unfair to the free servant at your local library.

So, either they are completely without any of the tools necessary to function in today’s society, or they think I’m capable of performing miracles.

When I see the look in the eyes of these people who want me do whatever it takes to get them their next job, I think it’s a little of both.

Some of us buckle and deliver the goods, even if it means getting them into a job they didn’t even have the skills to apply for, and others sadly shatter their views of us as deities and say we are sorry, but we simply cannot write their resume for them.

Today I let a man walk out the door without the one gift he dared to ask me for. While I know I did right by my job, I don’t like the idea that someone thought I could do something great, and I let him down.

I want to be able to perform the miracles they expect of me.

What does that mean about me?


Amanda (the librarian) said...

I guess I'm a cynic, but I don't think it's our job to perform these kinds of "miracles" and I'm not going to do it. I see a lot of these entitlement-generations type at my university library as well - expecting an A for the minimal amount of work. I'll show you HOW to do it, to the extent that I am able given the need to assist other patrons and supervise the building, but I'm NOT going to do it for you.

You did fine. Don't sweat it.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

I meant entitlement-generation types, not entitlement-generations type - got the "s" in the wrong place.

BeckEye said...

Hey, I'm going to a wedding this weekend and the bride and groom don't have enough money for wine. They've just got a bunch of jugs of water. Do you think you could swing by and, I don't know, wave your hand around or something to fix that situation?

Anonymous said...

Agree with Amanda. I can be the most helpful minx in the world but I'm not gonna sit and hold your hand and I'm not the least bit sorry.

GeekChic said...

I agree with Amanda too. I would have done exactly what you did with this patron - only I wouldn't have felt sorry about it. Then again, I know I'm a cynic.

Kate P said...

Personally, I'd just want to find the person who did it for him last time and punch him or her in the 'nads for (A) setting this wonderful precedent and (B) not freaking SAVING the stupid thing somewhere on the web or something where it could be retrieved.

I guess I'm kind of a tough-love librarian. But you made the best offer considering the time and resources available to you.

Anonymous said...

Things I have asked do for patrons that I would not:
1)Take care of their kids while they go shopping
2)Type (remember typewriters?) their paper while they wait
3)Fill out tax forms or give any sort of tax advice that would get the snot sued out of me and the library
4) Diagnose the goiter on their neck, boil on their bum, fungus on their footsie
5) Create a professional resume for a patron, "since you're so GOOD on that computer".
I can do miracles in finding "that blue book with a picture, I think, of a wombat on the cover", that I can do.
Doing patron scut work--nyet!