I work for a living, just like you do. Not exactly like you do, since I don’t have the venerable onus of grading 300 terribly written exams on ancient history, but I promise I’m busy. I’m busy making sure you have the resources you need, and checking for the software programs your students need when you tell them to come to the library and use Photoshop (better check with us before assigning that, plz). I am planning lessons to teach your classes how to do actual research, since you feel they already know what they need to and don’t much care how they get the right information so long as it’s valid. I am reviewing books, reading reviews and making purchases for your curriculum, attending department committee meetings, attend university committee meetings, and serve on the faculty senate. I am informing you about database trials, trying to wrangle an invitation to your department meetings to keep you updated, attending job candidate talks all over campus (because eventually, the new faculty come to talk to me too), and attending lectures sponsored by various departments as my show of support for the research you and your colleagues engage in. I am creating tutorials and podcasts so your students never have to put on pants to do their research or learn the library resources, learning Web 2.0 technologies so I can help you enhance your teaching, and acting as a liaison for my assigned departments, offering to customize library resources for classes. I’m also working on my own research, despite the fact that I don’t get the summer off to do so, like you do. I believe in the worth of your job. Please extend me the same courtesy.
Because of the above, if you ever mention to me that librarians just sit around and “shelve books” or “read all day,” I reserve the right to “lose” some of your purchasing funds, act slowly upon your emails and requests, act petty in the lunch line, veto anything you want if it comes up to a vote in the faculty Senate, mock you in front of your students, and generally make life difficult. (I have never actually done any of these things, but I dream about them sometimes.)
When you come to me, and ask me if I can get a journal for you, I will tell you “Let me look into it.” I will also tell you that I will get it rolling as soon as I can, that it is a process but I am dedicated to getting my faculty what they need. You know this is true, because you have commented more than once on my rapid e-mail response time, and praised my for my fast moving-and-shaking to get you a book you thought was out of print. Trust me. I promise, I’m moving the wheels. It gives me zero satisfaction to know you are waiting on a resource you need. Unless, of course, you have pulled one of the ass-hat moves mentioned above.
In addition to asking you to trust me (see above), I have to ask you to please not go over my head to my Dean the day after you make your request to me. It makes me a cranky Guardienne when you circumvent mechanisms we have for a reason. I am not the person who signs the subscription contracts, and picking up one electronic journal is not as simply as just buying it – oftentimes, it means I need to look (or have my acquisitions guru look) at what we’ll have to drop to add your journal, or how we can finesse the budget to make it happen. When you ask my Dean in an unrelated committee meeting and she tells you of course we’ll do it, it still doesn’t mean you’re going to have your full-text tomorrow. It will still take time. only now, I know you’re a sneaky so-and-so who snipes me when I’m not looking. if you can find a librarian that has an e-journal turnaround time of a day, please feel free to go become a faculty member at their university. These things do not happen automagically. I am not made of magic, for magic is expensive, and my salary is less than yours. I checked.
Be kind to your librarians. You have no idea how far a kindly worded email or simple thank you at the end of an instruction class goes, or how much it means to us. Most of us are kindhearted. Some of us are even interesting to talk to. Librarians are people, too – please offer at least the same grudging respect you give to the crusty old guy in the basement of your department who isn’t allowed to teach students above the 100 level anymore because he thinks he talks to aliens, and who hasn’t done anything since 1976. As an ally, you’ll like me. I promise. I can do good things, and make reading your students’ papers a lot less painful, if you’ll let me.