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Venting with coworkers

A non-venting post. Today I had an opportunity to interview for a reference position, which might finally help me leave the world of Circ (not that I don't love signing patrons up for library cards, filing claimed returns, and shelving holds!)

In the interview they asked if it's OK to post about funny stuff patrons do on social media (like Facebook) or to talk about it with coworkers. I kind of stumbled through the answer because although I believe the correct answer is NO...the reality is that I have done both. I don't make a habit of posting about work on FB, but I have once or twice in the past (for different jobs--not my library jobs). And I do commonly vent with coworkers about our most disturbing patrons (as do all of my coworkers). Maybe not the most mature thing in the world to do, but sometimes it just feels impossible to hold in the vent! Anyway...I tried to answer the question by essentially saying we should not be discussing patrons in any way that might be construed negatively, for example as "making fun" of a patron. Hopefully I gave them the answer they want, but we'll see.

That being said, do you ever vent with your coworkers? Or do you stick to the safety of this wonderful community? I'm grateful to be able to come here when I feel like blowing off some steam in a not-so-public way. :-)


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 4th, 2014 03:25 am (UTC)
Venting with co-workers about problem patrons is a good thing, I think, as long as it doesn't descend into nastiness, name-calling or poking fun. And absolutely never where other patrons could overhear! It can also be a useful information sharing exercise - one librarian's annoying hovering patron who asks lots of inane questions, can be another librarian's stalker. (For example.)

I don't think facebook is the right place for that sort of thing though. An anonymous post in a like-minded community on livejournal is about as public as I get.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 4th, 2014 01:21 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh, that's a tough question.

I totally vent. Sometimes I think we look at venting as "bad" where it really serves as a way for us to dump the frustrating feelings so that we can go back out and be pleasant to the next person in line. I've had policy changes that started with a vent. My best examples are the installation of a print station, and a change in reserves check-out time. Both times I mentioned to a coworker that I was tired of patrons complaining to me about not getting a computer during peak times just so they could print. Or that students were hogging high demand reserve books but not using them.

Social media is another matter. I have written posts that I've deleted before "submit" to this community. Because I don't know who reads this forum. If I know that there is no way in hell that person reads this community, I'll post. As an added measure, if I"m complaining about a patron I'll only do it after work hours.

If I had to answer that question, I'd say something to the effect "My personal belief in life is leaving the world in a better place than I found it--which also applies to social media. I would never post anything that would leave someone else embarrassed or ashamed. There are times where a patron has a great suggestion, discovers a research that impacted their lives (which may impact others in a similar position) or does something for the library which deserves a public thank you. I want to make sure that I acknowledge those situations and people with their permission."
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 4th, 2014 02:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback! I do believe that FB can be a very public forum that you have to be careful about posting on. Although I've commented on funny things in other jobs I've worked on, those were part time jobs and not my long-term chosen career field of librarianship. I have several folks on FB who are professional friends and I don't want them to think poorly of me for comments I make, so I avoid posts that might come off negatively in regards to my work.

I'm glad to know that others vent at work as well. It just seems unavoidable when you work with the (often off the wall/somewhat crazy) public. But we do have to take care that we're in a private space and generally using the discussion as way to figure out ways to better work with these individuals.
Jun. 4th, 2014 02:16 pm (UTC)
tough question. I've seen similar angst among teachers, arguing about whether posting vents about students (with no identifying information) is unethical or mean-spirited or just plain stupid. Some quiet conversational venting with coworkers can (as other commentators have said) be a way to blow off steam and get back to "nice" for the next patron.

That said, I do sometimes post a complaint about a patron on social media, but never with any information that could lead anyone to know who the patron is. I'm okay with that.
Jun. 5th, 2014 02:49 am (UTC)
My co-workers and I do vent about patrons but we do it in the back office where no one can hear us, upstairs in our tech services with the doors closed or in staff/librarian meetings. We never, ever do it where patrons can hear us.

A lot of times our venting has to do with patrons who are breaking the rules, making others feel uncomfortable or who are very annoying. I think it's healthy to vent (properly) rather than keep it in. Sometimes you just need to let it out in a positive way and 99% of the time your co-workers will sympathize and commiserate with you.
Jun. 6th, 2014 12:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, we vent constantly. Otherwise, we'd go completely insane. Sometimes I have to leave the desk, go in the back, and vent not just to my coworkers, but to my bosses. They understand. I need to be able to continue to smile and be pleasant to patrons, and I can't do that when I want to scream "OH MY GOD, JUST STOP INTERRUPTING ME, YOU MOFO!!!"
Jun. 6th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
I'm a library boss. Currently a department head but I've also been a branch manager and a director of library services. I put this out there to give weight to my opinion and to ease anyone's anxiety.

Venting is good and healthy as long as it's kept within the library and away from patrons. In social media it needs to be kept strictly private with as few identifying details as possible. So if your facebook (or twitter or whatever) is in your own name with dozens of friends, I wouldn't post anything beyond "bad day at work, annoying people" there. And if your facebook is in any way connected to your job, I wouldn't post even that. But private posts behind anonymous nicks with no names used? Those are okay. I might not advertise them since you'd never be sure who's reading but I wouldn't lie and deny it either.

Venting about drunks, screaming kids, obnoxious teens or people who swear they've returned that DVD in the break room? Nothing wrong with that. It's cheaper than having to take medical leave for a nervous breakdown. And it might help identify problem areas.
Jun. 6th, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
Several years ago a colleague, A, from another one of our branches called the person at my branch on Reference desk, B, asking them to go out into the stacks and read the book titles on the shelf over the phone because A "couldn't remember the title." B refused, reasoning that A was a reference librarian just like B and A should be able to find it on their own. (It's one thing to be away from the desk assisting the patrons, it's another to be standing in the stacks reading off book titles because your colleague is too lazy to try to look it up themselves.)

A was so incensed that they posted about it on a public post in Facebook and proceeded to whine about it for over a year. It was only the beginning of bad feelings caused by A. B no longer felt any need to cooperate beyond the professional minimum with A. It absolutely put a stop to any feelings of interdepartmental and inter-Branch cooperation because of A publicly posting to Facebook.
Jun. 9th, 2014 08:16 pm (UTC)
My beliefs: if you vent about patrons/coworkers/etc., make sure it's in a private area away from listening ears (especially those who like to spread rumors). And stay away from social media where people know you.

Examples: 1) I post here because it's anonymous and I never use any recognizable names or features. 2) A former student worker friended a coworker and me on facebook (if our students sent the request, fine; we did not seek them out). One day, after we had to scold him at work (i.e. "don't go to the dean after we've said you're ineligible for a raise"), he went on a rant on Facebook about us. He didn't understand what he had done wrong "since it's my personal page." Ugh...
( 11 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.

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February 2017
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