What's So Funny About Reading At Work?
I forgot if it was something I overheard at the recent NJLA conference, or something I read on a blog, or overheard in a conversation. But it was along the lines of this: that librarians should clear up the misconception that we "just read" at work by showing all the valuable work that we do. Outreach! Programs! Website stuff! Reference!
And I wonder -- what's so wrong with reading at work? Why do we have to let people know, "oh, silly, we don't read at work!"
Truthfully, shouldn't employees be encouraged to read during the working day?
Librarians are expected to give readers advisory. And to create booklists. To do storytimes. To visit schools to talk about books and read stories. Arrange author visits. Run programs. All these things require reading. And if the library discourages reading at work, when does this reading get done?
At home; not on library time. One of those things that librarians are "expected" to do.
So why do libraries discourage reading at work? Why don't they encourage it?
I think it's partly fear: if the patron sees someone reading, they will assume it's the equivalent of watching TV & eating bon bons. In other words, it's not something for work; it's something for fun. And why should librarians be paid for doing something that's fun? The patron is looking at that reading librarians and thinking, my tax dollars are being wasted.
I think its partly the belief that being a librarian is a calling, not a career. And since librarians enjoy reading, they'd be doing it anyway, so why make time at work? It's something you love anyway, so of course it will get done! But to tell the truth, sometimes I don't want to read another picture book or a teen book. I want to read something grown up; or I want to read something because it's what I want to read, not what I have to read.
Finally, I think its the belief that the reading will be a barrier to a patron approaching the librarian. "Oh, I don't want to disturb you." Except, the patrons say that anyway. If you're on the phone, if you're working at the computer, if you're helping another patron. So why should reading be any different?
If the issue is public perception, then the answer shouldn't be to go along with the misconception. Encourage staff to read -- and be loud and proud about it. And educate people that no, we're not reading; we're working. And that work happens to involve reading.
- Have posters in the children's area listing all the books librarians have read so far that year.
- Keep a running total of all books read by staff on your website.
- Have buttons: "We read so we can give you the best."
- Just as you schedule desk time, schedule DEAR time.
- Have an article in the local paper that explains why staff reading is important, and include numbers -- books published, books bought, books read, books used in storytime, books appearing on booklists.
Does your library encourage reading on library time? What ideas do have to let patrons know that it's a valuable use of staff?