During my two o’clock desk shift yesterday afternoon, I had a business student come to the desk and ask a rather unique question. He explained that his group was working on their second project of the quarter, and he admitted that he really needed some serious help searching online databases. I told him that I’d be glad to help at any time, as that was my job.
He seemed to appreciate that and then asked, “How can I get in touch with you if I have a question and you are not at the library?”. I suppose I was a little flattered that I at least portray that sense of approachability and availability. However, I had to tell him that despite all of the ways to get in touch with me, I cannot possibly be available around the clock. I like many, do check email from home, and I will respond quickly to a query if it does not take too much time away from my home life. If it is going to take a while, it’s not fair to my wife, son, dog, or myself to bring work home.
One of the greatest things about this job, is that you can leave work at work. You can go home with the satisfaction of having put in an honest day’s effort, and know that you have helped people in a number of different ways. What we as librarians do really matter, even if the results are often not very tangible. The satisfaction you get from helping someone can get addictive, and if you’re not careful, you can find yourself answering emails and IM’s from home late into the night. While technology can extend the librarians reach and availability to our patrons, it can also make it difficult to define where and when the workday ends. While it is important to go out of your way to help someone, it is also very important to go out of your way to spend time with family, friends, or your favorite hobby. Achieving that balance is often a full-time job in itself, but it is perhaps the most important one you may have. Have a great weekend, and don’t work too hard.