Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blending Professional and Online Activites Normal Around These Parts


Pursuant with my interpretation of the American Library Association Code of Ethics, particularly the sections that outline patron confidentiality and professional conduct, permission was received from the client prior to posting. Actually... it was offered, and I accepted.

This post is a reminder, to at least local readers, that, well, I don't bite and that helping you is what I get paid to do.
Anything discussed within the confines of professional librarianship stays PRIVATE, unless permission is otherwise given.

Nope. You're not bothering me. It's my job. ~ Jason

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Her iPhone chirped 20 times in under ten minutes, an average of one text message received every 30 seconds.

Nobody gets that many text messages in ten minutes. Or, at least, nobody should.

She answered each one, a few quick flicks of the thumbs, simple kilobytes' worth of data about nothin' transmitted instantly towards Columbus and Dayton and Chicago, towards local dorm rooms and apartments and lecture halls.

I waited, patiently, on the client's dime. She's the one, after all, who wanted to meet outside of my library, the one who was worried about unnecessary distractions. I studied the syllabus silently, occasionally grunting and coughing and sighing and swearing, as she answered her texts.

"Who the flying fuck wrote this goddamn syllabus?"

I excused myself to have a cigarette outside of the student union, alone, while she answered an actual phone call back inside the Local U.'s rather pathetic excuse for a food court.

"Hell, which curriculum review signed off on this class as meeting a sequence requirement? This thing reeks of Piled High and Deeper bullshit.

"What the hell do I tell this chick?"

* * * *

I finished the cigarette and returned to the student union. The client, a blog reader, had her laptop out and was waving me back over to the table.

She grinned from ear to ear. That I know a secret about you grin, a smile that, well, I'm accustomed to these days.

While I'd been sweating ways to even approach developing a research strategy, Undergrad X had been reading up on my personal life.

Reading up on my guitar skills, on my impromptu lip-orgy in the basement of a certain bar, reading about my hike through the Not-So-Wild Wilderness.

"Any luck?"

"Oh... with looking for articles? Naw. Just reading your blog."

She then asked me, as a lot of local readers have asked recently, if it's true that the sorority girl who'd shoved her tongue down my throat in Uptown Oxford was a member of ____ sorority - the client's particular sisterhood.

I dodged the question. Not confirming or denying a thing. I keep my writing as vague as possible for a reason. I'm very good at dodging these sorts of questions at work.

"Heh, alright. Blog talk later. Look, chica, pulling books will be the easy part. Now, the source from an anthology might be tricky, if I'm reading this right-- "

I pointed to some phrases I'd underlined in the section outlining her first paper assignment. Undergrad X scrunched up her nose, apparently upset that I'd marked up her crisp Blackboard printout.

"You've had librarians come to class before, right? Show you this shit?"

"Yeah, but I never go to those classes. Boring as- "

"-- FUCK. S'okay. I swear like a fucking sailor. What about English 111? Remember..."

I asked the woman for a piece of paper. We laid out her search strategy, old school, with scribbles and lines and brainstormed controlled vocabulary for searching databases, building upon her existing knowledge of the subject with each new idea.

At one point, she looked down at the paper, smacked her hand hard onto her forehead and spouted out her own, unique thesis. Her eyes changed color. Her brain crackled with the electric formation and absorption of new information, the very mechanics of information-seeking played out in a thousand subtle expressions across her tanned face.

She hit her laptop with a passion, the keyboard taking all sorts of abuse as she hammered in keywords into the web interface of the library system's online catalog. She asked questions about that OhioLINK thing and this AltPressIndex thing...

I leaned back in my chair, offered only words of encouragement and direction. This is what used to be called teaching in Higher Education. Now, this sort of instruction is reserved only for students brave enough to disturb their so-called teachers beyond the credit-hours' worth of lectures and assigned readings.

Within 30 minutes of our scheduled hour appointment, the research portion of a completely pointless upper-division elective assignment died a quick death, executed to perfection. Twenty minutes of actual work. Ten minutes dedicated to setting text-message speed records.

And the assignment's not due for another week.

* * * *

I told the woman that, well, we had 30 minutes remaining on our appointment, and that she owned my ass for another half hour, if she wanted it. We could, indeed, talk about whatever she wanted to talk about, once the research consultation ended.

Rather than wait for her to get back to that drunken sorority member ambush question, I threw out my own question:

"So why do you read that silly thing, anyway? You've met me. I'm not as cute as people think."

Undergrad X laughed out loud, reduced all of the open browser windows on her laptop, down to a single cobalt and creme web page. She scrolled down the screen, down to a section listing older blog posts in a left-hand column.

"You're a cutie. You know it, too. Don't lie."

For the record, I am not a cutie. Especially when I'm on the job.

* * * *

She clicked on a link and, instantly, my face popped up on the screen, just to the right of a cropped screenshot of one of my childhood inspirations.

Me. And Mike Ness, the Social Distortion frontman.

"I've listened to that song, like, a million times."

A link to a YouTube clip had caught her attention, of Social Distortion playing their new song, "Far Behind," live at the KROQ Weenie Roast.

For the client, it'd been a monumental discovery. She'd downloaded just about every Social D. track she could find, the entire Greatest Hits album.

A local undergrad who, from head to toe, fits every physical stereotype used to describe the female student body of the Local U. Blonde. Beautiful. Smelling of expensive haircare products and tanning oil.

She even had a copy of Vogue tucked into her backpack. Next to the iPod full of...

Southern California punk music?

Talk about surreal.

But, well, the Local U. folks who read this blog never cease to amaze me.

They're a dynamic, eclectic group, people who defy the J. Crew U. stereotypes silently, who are well-aware that playing dumb in public allows for more intellectual and social freedom when it counts, who understand that, well, having an esoteric, hidden side stirs curiosity and intrigue in a way no Hollywood blockbuster ever could.

And they tend to be just my favorite kind of library patrons - they're willing to experiment, push boundaries, and they're trend-setters, whether or not they admit it to themselves, in a world increasingly filled with informatic sheep.

* * * *

She laughed telling me about her hatred of Natty Light - most of her friends drink it, and her ex even collects Natty paraphernalia.

"Only Bengals fans would drink Natty
," she explained, one hand patting the lettering on her Cleveland Browns tee-shirt, more a statement of wishful thinking than actual reality (I've seen all sorts of football fans suck down the grotesque stuff).

Her ex, she adds, comes from a long line of Cincinnati football fans - her first warning sign that their relationship was doomed. I tried to point out that, well, football is not exactly a great relationship indicator, but she silenced me with a roll of the eyes.

She herself acquired a taste for whiskey sours during her internship - the older women she'd worked with were tough old birds, drank their sours double stiff after work as they talked about mortgages and grandkids and worthless ex-husbands.

"I probably could've gone to somebody else, but I kinda wanted to see if you were all that. Not a stalker - swear."

She crossed her heart, swore threats of needles through her piercing blue eyes, fluttering her eyelashes as she talked.

A whiskey-swillin' Cleveland Browns fan, with a copy of Vogue in a backpack, who's in a sorority and who listens to Social Distortion.

And people call me weird.

Weird, in this case, translates into, roughly, totally fucking astounding.

* * * *

She added that she hoped I didn't take her interest in getting my help with research as anything but sincere, that there was no ulterior motive behind her wanting to meet away from the office.

"Chica, if you read my blog, you're way too smart to even think about getting involved with me."

Sad, but true. Trust me. Besides, there are so many rumors floating around Oxford Fucking Ohio involving me that it's become comical.

And what the hell would a 21-year-old want with a guy pushing 30, anyway? Seriously.

* * * *

Before we parted ways, she asked if she could ever stop by my office, to just hang out. In my most authoritarian voice, I explained that she was more than welcome to swing by the ____ Library for research assistance.

"Everything else, well... best save it for Uptown. Or lunch."

Undergrad X laughed a true Cleveland Girl laugh, eyes ablaze with life on a Friday afternoon.

On the job means on the job. And I only tell the cool-as-shit patrons where I just hang out, should they desire to have a blog-related discussion.

And trust me, if she ever walks into the bar where I just hang out after work, the bartenders will know instantly - she's hard to miss.

Hot sorority sisters who read Vogue don't usually play "Story of My Life" or "Ball and Chain" [VIDEO] or "I Was Wrong"[VIDEO] on the juke box.

But, well, the blog lurkers at The Zenformation Professional are just cool like that.

* * * *

In theory, professionally, this is known as taking a holistic, user-centered approach towards librarianship. In grad school (Geaux Tigers, btw), I learned this concept from my major professor, a pioneering giant, internationally, in user-centered studies, in Information Science.

But, in practice, I'd like to think that I raise the bar a bit, kick that concept into overdrive - I take a holistic, user-centered approach towards life itself, never forgetting that holistic means holistic, that information fluency doesn't just apply to libraries, research, or even formal education.

Life is more than a journey. Life is about learning by doing, trial and error, the formation of hypothesis and testing towards a conclusion.

And, yes, sometimes life, as Ohio's Scandalous Librarian, requires an overlap between the online and offline world, the job and the not-so-job.

- # # # -


Cat. said...

"And what the hell would a 21-year-old want with a guy pushing 30, anyway? Seriously." ?? One of my sisters, aged 23 at the time, married a guy 8-1/2 years older. They've been married for decades now.

After what you've blogged about what passes for 'college men' in the vicinity, do you really have to ask? Bit disingenuous, that. ;-)

Anyway, keep up the "holistic, user-centered approach" to work. Cheers.

cooper said...

"And what the hell would a 21-year-old want with a guy pushing 30, anyway?"

My list for this would be extensive Jason. I can't believe you don't know at least some of the answers to that question.

Steph said...

I don't think I could chat so casually to someone I don't really know, knowing they've read my blog.

You're a strange man....I mean that in a nice way of course.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, yeah my own mother married a guy in his late 20s when she was 21 - that marriage, along with, I believe, newlywed passions after a Linda Ronstadt concert, produced a certain guy now in his late 20s.

No, I don't think I really have to... sigh.

And cheers back atcha, chica :)

Lol, I'd hate to see your list. I'm pretty sure it requires a full CBC workup, at least one graduate degree, and a good dental plan... :P

I have an idea, actually, but, well, that's generally speaking. Women generally like older men - but this older guy comes with a shitload of baggage. A vast majority of women I've been involved with in the last two years have been undergrad age; the problem is that it sounds cool, mature, at first, but, heh... yeah I come with a whole separate user manual :)

Well, that's the rub with working in the public sector, as a salaried employee. I'm in the public eye quite a bit, actually. And it's a tricky balance - I don't want my personal life to interfere with my professional responsibilities, but I also don't want clients afraid to approach me, either, because they end up paranoid that they'll somehow get me into trouble.

It's not easy, but, well, this was one of the better examples of the overlap. It's happened offline, too - I had a patron who I met while at a local club's Techno Night ask for my business card for future help and to talk about the blog. She showed up at my office one day, at five o'clock on a Monday, thinking that, well, I'd given her my number for a different reason.

Not a good idea for young women in this area to try to get into my pants just to make a blog post, to treat it like some sort of local tabloid hookup. Esp. under false pretenses.

Very embarrassing. But one of the big drawbacks to living and working in a small, secluded college town, esp. while under 30, single, and apparently, much friendlier than a lot of folks expect librarians to be. Part of my job is to maintain community relationships, to build upon them, and to even assist in fundraising efforts, so I have to be out there, less traditional. And, yep, that's gonna give some folks the wrong impression.

xboxgirl said...

No, you are a cutie.

And speaking of songs, for some reason hearing this song made me think of you.

Jessica said...

I got all excited when you said "controlled vocabulary." For real.

Miz BoheMia said...

I'm with Coop... Loverboy is 8 1/2 years older than me... I was 22 when our thing started so... never liked guys my age or younger ones, ugh!


Methinks our Jason is smitten! :-) She sounds interesting indeed... bohemians, for one, approve and give you their blessing FO SHO!


The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, well, maybe sometimes :)

LMAO. Seriously.

Lol, nah. I don't get smitten. But it's fascinating to meet total strangers who know intimate details about you...

coyotemike said...

If the young ones ever get TOO tempting,just do what I do: remember what age they were when you graduated high school and some of the temptation just disappears.

sassinak said...

coyotemike i do that too

and j? when i was 20 he was 31 and it lives on in my memory as one of the most healthy and useful love/sexual experiences of my life... and that was 16 years ago.

that said, we all have a lot of ideals and imaginings about what life is when we're 20 and it's sometimes hard to be around long time when you've been there done that some :)

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, it's only the ones under 21 I worry about ;)

Very true, Sass. Life at 29 looks much different than life at 20.

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