Posted in Lessons Learned, Miscellany, Teachable Moments

Weathering the Storm

This is another installment of “They Don’t Teach You That in Library School.” Today’s topic: Severe Weather

I’ve worked around here long enough to know that we do annual fire drills at the law school, and in my previous role here as a desk attendant, I was trained in what to do when severe weather strikes, but putting it into practice as a professional is another story.

Fortunately, I’ve not actually been here for a real fire evacuation, but drills are interesting.  For the most part, people are very good about evacuating, but you do get two types of lingerers: the students that know it’s a drill and don’t want to leave because they don’t want to “waste” their study time, and international students that don’t understand what’s going on.  I’m sure they’re quite alarmed/confused seeing the librarians racing through each floor of the library, ushering people out.  And of course, it’s not exactly easy to explain the process to them while alarms are blaring in your ears!  Is there a master technique?  I don’t know – I’m up for suggestions.

And then of course, here in Indiana at least, there are tornado watches and warnings.  While with fire drills we are required to get everyone out, with tornado warnings, we strongly urge people to go to the lowest area of the building, but we insist that they at least get away from windows.  If you’re familiar with our Law Library, you’ll know that windows are a key architectural feature for us:

outside-libThat’s not even the best example – our Reading Room is known for it’s natural lighting, with two-story windows and skylights.  So in the event a tornado, this is not the safest place to be!  The insistence on clearing away from windows during warnings usually goes fairly well, with the obligatory grumbling, but what I’m always troubled with is whether to stop people from leaving altogether.

Today for instance when the first sirens went off I could overhear people saying, “I’m just going to outside and see what it looks like.”  Now, we’ve already warned them of the weather conditions – should we stop them?  On the one hand, of course you want to stop them – there’s potentially dangerous weather outside.  On the other hand, I’m not their mother – do I really have the place to force them not to go outside, or can I only strongly discourage it?  Earlier this year, we had another tornado warning, and we followed our usual procedures of clearing people away from windows, telling them where they should go, but not forcing it; and an international student dropped by later to tell us that we should have done more, because she and her international friends didn’t really know what a tornado was and hence what the threat was.  Who’s teachable moment is that?  Should we as librarians have known that they wouldn’t know what this was?  Should it have been covered in their orientation?

Again, these are things that aren’t taught in library school.  I guess the best we can do is follow our procedures, explain along the way, and adapt as necessary.

With the weather clearing up for the moment, I’ll take this chance to get home before the next storm myself!

Posted in Miscellany

Of Mice and Men…Adventures in Weekend Reference

With the semester in full swing, we’re back to weekend reference rotations, and I was first out of the starting gate.  In all, weekend reference really isn’t that bad – it only happens once or twice a semester, and it’s just four hours on Saturday and Sunday.  Most of the time, it’s pretty quiet on the weekends at the library, so you can actually get a decent amount of work done.  (Oftentimes for me weekend reference means spring cleaning in the office.)  I started my shift yesterday, however, with an unexpected task: vermin disposal.  Dead mouse in the kitchen.  No custodians until Sunday night.  I better do something about it.  (I thought about calling Facilities, but that seemed a little too embarrassing!)  So with a little squeamishness and timidity, I took care of Mickey.  R.I.P.  Never to bother our desk attendants again.

In telling the tale of my ‘heroics’ to my Dad, however, his reaction was, “Wait, you didn’t save the trap?”  No, Dad, the disposal was conducted in one fluid movement in which I kept from looking at the mouse in any great detail.  I was not too concerned about the trap (and would have actually been more concerned about the unhealthiness of removing a dead mouse from the trap and resetting it for more guests).

Beyond that, the weekend has been quiet and uneventful, except for the moment when a toddler came bounding into the Reference Office and proceeded to chew on a legal research text before her mother caught up to her.  While I know progress has been made on office organization, it doesn’t really look like it; but then there are still a couple hours left in today’s shift…