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« Librarians and the scarcity mentality | Main | Do you adhere to a clean desk policy? »

BFTP: 6 biggest library annoyances and how to avoid them

The website Lifehacker this week had an article titled: The Six Biggest Media Center Annoyances (and How to Fix Them) and I got excited thinking those smart people were going to help school media specialists become (even) more popular. The "media center" being written about, however, was the home amalgamation of TV, amplifier, speakers, and various tuners, DVRs, etc. - not school libraries.

But it is a great title that I have modified slightly for clarity to use for this post. I am putting on my library patron and parent/grandparent hat in writing this post...

Six biggest library annoyances and how to fix them

  1. Unfriendly/unhelpful librarian. I am always shocked when I see kids treated as an annoyance rather than as a reason for being by any library staff member. You fix this by firing the librarian with the negative attitude and replacing him/her with someone whose personal mission statement includes service to children. The librarian should be a primary reason for coming to the library - not the reason one avoids it.
  2. Book fines. Libraries with policies that seem to emphasis getting books back instead of getting books out, drive me nuts. Find positive ways of helping kids and teacher show respect for other library users by the timely return of stuff. A book sitting on a shelf is worthless.
  3. Computers "for school use only" policies. School libraries should encourage personal learning not just academic learning. OK, a library may have a limited number of terminals and priority should be given to school work, but there is absolutely NO reason for a library workstation to sit unused if there are students wanting to look for information of personal interest. This is a simple policy change. A computer sitting unused is worthless.
  4. Material checkout restricted by age or reading ability. It drives me insane to hear about my grandsons' book checkout being restricted to the "easy" book section or set of preselected materials when they go to the library. At the very least, librarians should allow a child to check out one book of personal choice from anywhere in the library along with the required book.
  5. Poorly weeded collections. A badly weeded collection is not the sign of underfunding but of professional incompetence. If funding is a problem, collections should be getting smaller, not older. The only fix for old, cruddy collections is a dedication to weeding - and a information campaign to staff about why weeding is imperative.
  6. Excuses. There is no excuse for a library program that is not getting better.  Problems with budget, staffing, facility, scheduling and administrative support are not good reasons for not providing kids and staff access to good reading materials, Internet access, and information literacy skills. It is our personal toward our programs, not our situations, that determines our efficacy. Get your head around it.

 So what are your biggest annoyances and how would you fix them? Oh, feel free to creat a similar list for your tech director or tech department. If you're going to dish it out, you better be able to take it as well, my mother always warned me.

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Original post 10/25/12

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Reader Comments (4)

So...we're five years down the road from the original post and comments.
Are there any new revelations that have come to light? My biggest
inner conflict lies with wide open access to limited resources.
Sometimes the casual surfers/YouTubers co-op resources needed by "academic" patrons.
When I try to reallocate those resources, I'm labeled the Unfriendly Librarian.
Some days, there's just no winning...

December 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Hi Tom,

I guess my only "revelation" is that change is slow - the conditions I list still seem valid to me (that is why I picked this one as a BFTP).

The problem you mention, "open access to limited resources" was an issue for me as well, even as long ago as the early 80s when my library had a small room containing 3 or 4 Apple II comptuers available to kids. My policy was to reserve them for the first 10 minutes of the period or time after school for those needed them for school work to claim them, then I opened them up for gaming or whatever.


December 10, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks for the chance to vent! How about School District IT Departments who make wholesale decisions about purchasing new technology without first consulting educators or (gasp) teacher librarians for their informed input? Our students should not have to deal with endless printing issues as the shortcomings of a new printing management system are addressed, post installation. Not to mention student frustration as numerous attempts to log-in to the computers are denied. This waste of student, library staff and in-house IT technician time could be resolved by including those "in the trenches" in IT decision making process at the top levels.

January 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoanie

Hi Joanie,

Good IT departments value input and collaboration from the library media specialists and paras. You are our "boots on the ground" and the best source we have of knowing problems that exist. We cannot do a good job of serving students or staff without knowing first hand how decisions made at a district level impact daily work flows.

I hope your printer and login in issues get resolved!

Thanks for writing,


January 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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