So, okay, male librarians are the smartest, most tactful, most socially savvy, trustworthy and generally special-est people around. And in the spirit of Sassy’s “Dear Boy“column, we get one of them to answer your questions every so often. This installment features our archivist pal Mark Matienzo, who holds it down at archivesblogs, thesecretmirror, and most recently, the food blog, Feeding the Hungry Ghost. Topics include pantyhose, bad breath, and cultivating your blog persona…
I’m a cataloger and rarely work with the public, but my library director has made a few statements implying that I’m expected to adhere to a traditional dress code- and wear pantyhose. However, several of the male reference librarians wear jeans 2-3 days a week. Can I point this out and negotiate a compromise without pissing off my boss?
This is one of the most common questions and workplace problems for everyone, not just librarians. Unfortunately, women are subjected to this issue the most. A sneaky, spiteful way to address this would be to talk to your supervisor — or even better, the head of reference — that you’re concerned about how the reference staff presents itself. You might not be prepared for the fallout that causes, though. However, there are ways you can point this out to your boss without causing a scene and remaining professional. Obtain a copy of your library’s dress code and employee manual if you don’t have one
already. If possible, ask your boss for it, because it will seem like a good faith gesture on your part. Study both carefully, and ask yourself if you think you’re following the dress code. You should also take note of the grievance procedure. Hopefully you won’t have to fall back on it, but you should be prepared to if the need arises. Approach your boss when you’re comfortable, but as soon as possible. Your supervisor should be your advocate, and if you can adequately explain your concerns to her or him you will be better off. You should also determine what you are most comfortabl wearing and what you think looks professional, because your boss might ask you that. You may want to indicate that you feel singled out, but be careful and try not to make it too personal, no matter how you feel.
If a patron offers me gum, should I take it?
If you have reason to suspect that you have bad breath, keep some Certs or a toothbrush around. I had a hair dresser once offer me gum only to find out later that he’d done that because I had been inadvertently subjecting him to my halitosis when I was describing how I wanted a fresh, new coif to look. In
general, if a patron gave me anything more than a polite thank you, I’d feel uncomfortable taking it. In fact, I’ve had patrons buy me entire boxes of candy before after helping them, but I was never quite sure how to decline it (I suppose I should let that go, because it was before I’d finished library school). While some patrons might just be nice enough to offer you gum, others are a bit more insidious and trying to buy your favor. In addition, check with your employer, because certain workplaces have prohibitions about employees taking things from customers. I’ve worked in a few places like this, so I know it’s not incredibly uncommon.
I’m a librarian and want to write a blog about crafts and cooking, but feel like that would make me a cliche. What should I do?
First of all, you shouldn’t be concerned about being a cliche too much. Do what feels right. I happen to have a cooking blog myself, and within that I never mention my chosen profession because it’s just about never relevant. If you’re really concerned about being a cliche, try to focus on something that
would make the blog a bit less cliche. Focus on your specific interests, as blogs with too wide a scope often end up getting neglected by their authors. Hell, you could be the only serials librarian who writes about both preparing Polish food and spinning yarn out of golden retriever fur.