My current place of work is the first library I have worked in that has had 24 hour service. We are open 24 hours Sunday-Thursday. I was quite surprised when I started in January at the actual number of people who are in the library at 2, 3, and 4:00 in the morning.

To cover these service hours my staff work across three shifts: day, afternoon/early evening, and overnight. We have an excellent overnight crew and the past few weeks have really highlighted how capable they are.

Surely there is a different atmosphere in the library during the wee hours of the night and morning. And though during this time we are only open to students, faculty and staff, there are unusual incidents that take place. I have yet to hear about a true safety or difficult situation, most of them have sort of been extremely funny.

Now that classes have begun and the students have returned there has been a steadily increasing number of them in the library at night. While idealistically we would like to think that most of them are coming in to study and do work and are coming to us after classes or dinner or whatever, the reality is that a small number of students do come into the library straight from the bar or party.

We are one of the only places on campus open 24 hours, so students come in to get away from their dorm room or because they want to be someplace with other people, or they just don’t feel like going home yet, and yes, most of them do want to study and do school work. But it can be funny when a well meaning, harmless, intoxicated student comes into the library and tries to pull a prank or does something ridiculous.

And when we see that happening, we have to intervene or ask someone else to. The majority of the time it is a harmless prank or just drunk stupidity. And to be quite honest, some of the drunk stupidity is downright funny.

But the staff has to take it seriously and act professionally and in the best interest of the library, other patrons and of the individual at hand. Knowing that I have very capable people dealing with this while I am at home sleeping, allows me to actually sleep.

Something else to think about when working in customer service.


A Hard Lesson

May 29, 2007

I have received a lot of email from friends, former co-workers and colleagues about this. I really don’t have much to say about what happened. I received the same letter that the other 89,852 people received. I don’t know the details of what, why, when, how, and who; and I am certain that I don’t want to know more than what is written in the letter and what is posted on the university website.

All I can say is that I feel this is very unfortunate. There is a lot of good work happening in that library. The librarians teach many classes, do charity work for the university and the community and the library is gradually implementing new and innovative services for patrons. Unfortunately, until this dies down, no one is going to remember or hear about any of these things.

I also think that this incident is a chilling reality check for other libraries. Something like this can ruin any goodwill or credibility that the organization has within and outside the institution. We ask our patrons to trust us with private, personal information; whether it be their name and address, or their circualtion history. The take home lesson from an incident like this is to take a hard look at our IT security and ensure that this doesn’t happen at another library.