Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mental Qualities Requisite in Library Officers (Number 3 in a series of Library Service tips from 1876)

Samuel Swett Green graduated from Harvard Divinity School and became a known as "the father of library reference work."  His 1876 work "Personal relations between librarians and Readers" was considered ground-breaking then and still has value today.
Certain mental qualities are requisite or desirable in library officers who mingle with readers. 

Prominent among these is a courteous disposition which will disclose itself in agreeable manners. Sympathy, cheerfulness, and patience are needful. Enthusiasm is as productive of good results here as elsewhere.
A librarian should be as unwilling to allow an inquirer to leave the library with his question unanswered as a shop-keeper is to have a customer go out of his store without making a purchase.

Receive investigators with something of the cordiality displayed by an old-time inn-keeper. Hold on to them until they have obtained the information they are seeking, and show a persistency in supplying their wants similar to that manifested by a successful clerk in effecting a sale.

It is important to have a democratic spirit in dealing with readers in popular libraries. The librarian is not, of course, to overlook the neglect of deference which is due him, or to countenance in any way the error which prevails to a considerable extent in this country, that because artificial distinctions of rank have been abolished here, there need be no recognition of the real differences among men in respect to taste, intellect, and character. But he runs little risk in placing readers on a footing of equality with himself. The superiority of his culture will always enable him to secure the respectful treatment which belongs to him when confronted by impudence or conceit.

What is needed in the librarian is a ready sympathy with rational curiosity, by whomsoever manifested, and a feeling of pleasure in brightening any glimmerings of desire that manifest themselves in lowly people to grow in culture or become better informed in regard to the scientific principles which underlie the processes of their daily occupations.

In personal intercourse with readers, there are certain mental tendencies which should be restrained. Idle curiosity is one of them. Many scholars prefer to pursue their studies privately, and are annoyed if they think they are observed.

Respect reticence. If you approach a reader with the purpose of aiding him, and find him unwilling to admit you to his confidence, regard his wishes and allow him to make investigations by himself.

Be careful not to make inquirers dependent. Give them as much assistance as they need, but try at the same time to teach them to rely upon themselves and become independent.
The church librarian will compliment his or her skill-set with those virtues found in 2 Peter 1

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