BackTalk-Memo: New Librarian Orientation

By Michael J. Schott

From: Amanda Rogers, Director
To: Tom Smithers, Assistant Director

Tom, Carly Henderson will be starting as a new reference librarian on the 15th, and we should meet and go over her orientation. As you know, we here at Really Too Big Library (RTBL) pride ourselves on our top-notch new librarian orientation. In exit interviews, which occur on a regular basis, our orientation is cited more than any of our programs by outgoing staff.

Have you express mailed the 40-pound orientation packet? I can remember what you said to me when we put first it together: 'Let's just stuff every slick, worthless document we have ever created in there.' I particularly like the DVD made by the Chamber of Commerce, especially the way it focuses on the lush, natural beauty of our snake-infested swamplands, while glossing over the crime rate and exorbitant housing costs.

FYI, this is Ms. Henderson's first professional library job, so I know you'll want to start her off on the right foot. I suggest the following.

Begin with human resources

A day filling out forms seems like the best introduction to the library. We were nice to her during the interview, so no need for that now that she is an employee. You should personally review with her all appropriate documents related to the EEOC, Americans with Disabilities Act, American Library Association, Medical Library Association, and JCAHO; the library employee manual; and HIPPA requirements for the hospital.

Mention our official response to the Patriot Act. As a library school grad, she will surely agree with all our political views. Please don't forget the test! If she does not get a 95 percent on the test, she will have to repeat the course. And remember the mandatory drug and blood tests and the Sexual Harassment Course. Since the instructor is a harasser, she should learn quickly.

Library orientation

Have the head of reference, Clarissa, as her new boss, do the library orientation. I know we have had the discussion before about her being only semifunctional, but she has to perform at least a few core duties to keep her job.

Unlike with the last new hire, Clarissa can't alternate between screaming at Ms. Henderson and ignoring her. Also, insist that Clarissa come to work at least five days in a row before staying home three days. I have checked and neither 'ailing cat' nor 'chronic feline cystitis' is an approved reason for sick leave.

Sink or swim

After a month, if Ms. Henderson stays, let's plan to review her performance. Neither one of us got any encouragement or support when we came here, so why should we give any to a new employee? I know we have made some minor mistakes in the past with our orientation, but with enough bureaucracy and the accumulated weight of our history, we can still stifle all new staff who come into the library ready to take on the world, brimming with new ideas for improving service. Because we do not give merit pay or comply with the city employee review process, there is no rewarding of good employees or refocusing of poor-performing employees.

Remember, our employees fall into two types: the never here and the angry-to-be-here. Eventually they sink firmly into a third type: 'waiting for retirement.' I think our primary problem with new hires is that we seem to take too long to crush their dreams and destroy their hope. Every time they come up with a new idea, we should tell them that there is a history involved and explain what happened ten years ago that would make their proposal unworkable. We can more effectively destroy their egos by nit-picking and correcting them in front of patrons and staff. Also, don't overlook the value of making mean comments in the break room sessions.

On my end, I will start telling Carly she is not very good at her job and no other library would hire her. See if you can't start pitting her against other staff.

Your slogan

If we work hard and are vigilant, we can make Carly as disaffected and unhappy as we are. Then, together, we can more effectively stand against our common enemy, our customers.

On another issue, remember last year we did that customer survey and found we were almost at median level in customer service? I think almost as good as the other libraries is good enough. Personally, I'm not convinced that your idea of a staff slogan campaign of 'Dare To Be Mediocre' is a good one. If we set standards, someone may make us live up to them.

Author Information
Michael J. Schott, Director, West Virginia University Health Sciences Library, Charleston, drew on 30 years in public, special, and academic libraries for this satire.

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