First-Day Decorum

By Manley, Will | American Libraries, March 1997 | Go to article overview
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First-Day Decorum

Manley, Will, American Libraries

Okay, you've followed the advice I've given you over the past four months. You've picked out the right job ad, prepared a serviceable resume, aced the interview, and gotten the job you've always wanted. Tomorrow you are scheduled to show up for your first day of work. Don't blow it now. Remember what PeeWee Herman used to say: "First impressions last a lifetime." Here are my five friendly pointers for avoiding a first-day fiasco:

1. Do not hang your library school diploma on the wall above your desk. It's a common mistake for newly stamped MLS ticket holders to greatly exaggerate the weight of their degree and the value of their library school education. People who work in libraries (especially now) do not put much stock in library school.

Colleagues who already have the degree are fully aware of the fact that there is very little relationship between what you learn in the average library-school class and what you do in the real world of library work. They will, therefore, not be impressed by your academic credentials.

Colleagues who do not have the degree will resent you for having it - especially if you flaunt it. They are just as important to the library as you are, and if you put on airs around them they will throw darts at your photograph during happy hour.

Therefore, if you see a stray book lying on the floor, don't refuse to pick it up because "you did not go to library school to shelve books." Also, if you want to make a point in a staff meeting, you're better off quoting Dennis Rodman than your favorite library-school professor. Very few people know less about what goes on in a library than library-school faculty members. If, however, you have credentials in other areas such as software design, accounting, law, foreign languages, auto repair, or plumbing, tell everyone about it. These are skills that are in great demand in the average library. Expertise in these areas will garner you great respect.

2. Keep your politics, religion, and sexual orientation to yourself. Nothing will turn off your new colleagues more than discussing your most private and personal thoughts right off the bat. Despite the enthusiasm that some Americans have for going on afternoon TV talk shows to chat about their sexual relationships with their fathers, the first day of work is not the time to bare your soul. When, therefore, you are introduced to your colleagues at a staff meeting and asked to tell a little bit about yourself, resist the temptation to share the innermost secrets of your private life.

Avoid too the desire you might have to turn your work area into a shrine to your religious faith.

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