Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

No one enforcing rules, ARGH

Today one of our full time circulation staff was *actively* peer pressuring one of our student workers to break a rule (technically set by the reference librarian who 'manages' the student workers but does no day-to-day interaction) because "who cares" and well, everyone else does what they want, so why does it matter, amirite? Needless to say, the student appropriately said "no thanks". But I sat there and was mortified on everyone's behalf and felt really disenfranchised to say anything about it because I only pinch hit on the desk 5 hours a week.

The stupid part is that the rule isn't exactly something special to our workplace. It's a standard practice that's been the rule at every other library I've worked at.

The frustrating thing is that it happens with a bunch of other stuff all the time-- And then the students do their own system gaming to the point where I'm just surprised we even bother to check the books out to people anymore half the time. And when I try to follow the written rules, I'm afraid that I'm the one that comes off looking like the out of touch 'mean one'. Although, to be fair to the students, when I do things like check out stuff that normally isn't bothered with, no one gets in my face too much about it.

So I've started letting certain things slide as well because at this point I'm just like "the culture here is too entrenched and I don't think I'm equipped for this fight". And with our almost paranoid level of "students MUST BE HAPPY AT ALL COSTS ALSO JUST FLY UNDER THE RADAR/DON'T PISS ANYONE OFF, EVER, KTHNX" mentality, I'm afraid to rock the boat and say "hey, if we don't enforce these rules we look like ineffectual weak managers" and I'm not sure that saying "hey, we don't seem to enforce rules x, y,z, should we maybe consider getting rid of them if they're not working for our customer service vibe?" because honestly I'm afraid it'll come off sounding horribly passive aggressive or insulting. Which, I mean, no one is doing their job, really, so it is kind of insulting? ARGH. What do you do????

I don't even know what to bother getting bothered about anymore.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the rec on kadymae's post--I'll definitely try to find those!

I'm definitely not a manager, although I am one of the full-time librarians ..so theoretically I could say something to day-to-day people. I think there's been a lot of discontent with student worker behavior (or assumed behavior...we had cut a lot of hours so students are alone at the desk with no full-time faculty or staff supervising a lot these days so a lot of stuff we just find the morning after with no context).

I've been thinking about this a lot and honestly things are going to get crazy and hair-tearing-out levels of annoying once finals kick in this term and it's probably not the best time to rock the boat. However, maybe our summer would be a good time to revisit the idea of student behavior and working on a list of guidelines among other things. We ended up with our student hours (and supervising hours) cut a little bit last minute last year and going in I don't think we had a lot of time to discuss what sort of support needs to be place to better support student workers handling a lot of unsupervised alone time.

The rule-laxity/non-enforcement is a slightly bigger problem---I'm not sure how much of it is due to our day-to-day staff just blowing off 'rules' that they find tedious or are just tired of enforcing (of course, if this is the case, are they just being poor employees? is it a case of the rules being poorly chosen? are they necessary to sanity and good service? if not, why are we using them? etc) or if there's a big disconnect coming from the reference side of the library (who deals with student hiring and ostensibly last-word on management issues) vs. the actual front-line people who have good (or bad) reasons for not enforcing rules that were mutually agreed upon. I have a bigger problem with everyone mutually agreeing on rules and THEN not enforcing.

Some of it is I think fatigue (e.g. "we've had this rule in the past, it was a pain in the butt, we dropped it and then brought it back for some reason, rinse repeat") and to some degree with access services you have the "we're never going to make everyone happy so why bother enforcing stuff" I think is pretty heavy--esp. after working the same job for 15-20 years I think some of our circulation staff are tired of the fight, y'know?
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 3rd, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
It's really hard to push back against firmly-entrenched culture, especially if you're working from only 5 hours a week on the desk. Letting some things slide might not be the worst outcome (if another outcome is you being perceived as a malcontent, passive-aggressive, nagging coworker/manager). And with that "please students at all costs" attitude, which probably comes from above, you're unlikely to find much support. Sigh.

Apr. 3rd, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
This would similarly frustrate me as well -__-
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
Best option is probably to breach it to your supervisor with as much detail about the actions as possible and let them loose on it. Good managers will find a way to implement appropriate changes.
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
Part of my problem is that there IS no supervisor. Our employment tree is kind of messed up. So I'm technically higher on the employment tree than our circulation staff, but I also am not 'in charge' of circulation...they basically supervise themselves for all practical purposes, with both of them on the same employment level/status." So it becomes a round-robin of "well, I guess we should make decisions but who's really in charge of the making the decisions?" and it comes to down to "well, we all discuss stuff but can't implement or change anything without the director". Which...slows things down considerably because the director really doesn't want to be involved with circ (as far as I can tell) but also can't let go of the oversight thing...so. @_@

Edited at 2014-04-03 08:42 pm (UTC)
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
...well, then, it sounds likethe director needs a lot of this unceremoniously dumped in their lap, repeatedly, possibly with a potential solution attached, just in case they're the kind of director that wants to look wise by approving the solution already presented to them.
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:47 pm (UTC)
yeah...it's true. which is why I'm hoping to have a discussion with all the vested parties (probably minus the director so we can brainstorm solutions to present instead of just bringing the problem) once the summer rolls around. I'm just sort of collecting data on all the things I feel are "broken" (and maybe they won't all qualify as things to change, but that's okay) so I can try to present a coherent argument that something has to change.
Apr. 3rd, 2014 08:52 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a plan where you can say you tried everything.
Apr. 4th, 2014 12:26 pm (UTC)
If you are friendly with any of your colleagues, it might be worth it to ask them to gather data too... in a "I think we should look into this in a few months, and we should have more data than just mine," kind of way?
Apr. 4th, 2014 12:45 pm (UTC)
Great idea, thanks!
Apr. 5th, 2014 11:12 pm (UTC)
You actually brought up some good frameworks to use for discussion already:
1. mutually agreed upon rules (were these? are were they agreed upon only by reference staff for reference staff? or reference staff for all library staff, or...?)

2. enforcement (sometimes a rule looks good on paper, but is not practical to enforce - for example: no food/no drink for patrons often goes out the door when you are asking student workers to help enforce it because they do not want to tell their peers to give up their candy bar. So the answer may be "be reasonable and clean the f)(* after yourself").

3. guidelines. (having a rule on behavior is one thing, but was does it actually look like? (we will provide good customer service and be attentive ...is one thing, but sometimes students, in particular, who may have never had a job before need to be told that the be attentive and look like they are ready to help people means no cell phones or earbuds while working at the desk, specifically)

4. supervision: even if the student workers are physically located in a different department then their supervisor (meaning their hiring/firing authority), the hiring/firing authority is still responsible for making sure the students are trained and working up to standards. If you (meaning the librarians) do this, then you take responsibility for overseeing the other 3 parts of the students work even if they don;t work for you -- the circ staff makes sure they know the tasks of their job, know their schedules, etc and then evaluation becomes a joint effort.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

Authority Record

the fuck
The Society for Librarians* Who Say "Motherfucker"
For all of those times when the gatekeepers of the world's knowledge are called upon, in their professional capacity, to use the word "motherfucker." Or at least to seriously consider it.

*Open to librarians; library associates, specialists, technicians, and paraprofessionals of all kinds; library school students; library aides and volunteers; and all of those who love libraries, or even just love a particular librarian. Welcome.

Date Due

February 2017
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by chasethestars