Librarian Friend OR Librarian Liability?

I have a lot of problems with things, rules, structures, hierarchies, authorities, etc. It’s not that I’m an anarchist or anything, there needs to be some sort of organizing factor to people, some baseline stuff so we don’t just rape plunder and pillage like the days of the pirates. But sometimes in libraries or more generally in life these rules/policies/structures don’t make sense to me, so I step around them. Why? Because I can, and because I think that helping people connect with the information they need to better themselves is my first priority here at the library. Connecting with people and helping them better themselves, in general, seems like an awfully sound purpose in life overall. The city government I work for may not think so, they have bigger interest in mind, themselves and their liabilities, etc. The eternal clashing of humanity vs. law suits vs. government vs. corporate interest, I feel this SO MUCH these days.

Today a very polite young man approached me rather shyly at the ref desk and asked if we give all kinds of information, not just about books. I said, sure, try me. He asked me if emancipated minors were able to get their Driver’s License. I said it was a good question, and we found the info on the DMV website on what he needed to have in order to get a license under 18 w/o the parental consent.

I dug a little deeper here to make sure everything was OK, like the stuff at home wasn’t getting too dark. He opened up a little bit, about his parents not allowing him certain freedoms, him paying them for things and not getting them, etc. Another case of teenage angst, so familiar.

Either way this boy was in a pickle. He needed to go online to search for and apply to jobs. Something that would be able to move him forward in life, problem is, he had a juvenile card that didn’t have internet access and the only way to add it would be through his parents, who he currently wasn’t getting along with. I thought for him, can you go to your schools library? YES, but its summer and he isn’t back until end of August. Sometimes academic libraries have free internet access, but he doesn’t have a car or a way to get around easily. Dang.

So, for today, I logged him into the computer using my card and let him search for jobs online. Was this against “policy”? Yes. Could I get fired for this? Um, maybe? (More likely a good write up, gee I hope my bosses don’t read this blog)  But do I stand by my choice? Yes. We make judgment calls every day here at the public, it’s all very situational to me. This kid had nobody to talk to about what he was going through and no way to access the tools he needed. I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be doing it, and that others would probably not let him, but he should try to make friends and see if they would too. I told him that life is all about having friends, and these friends will get you through the hard times when you feel like you are struggling and feel blocked in or trapped. I wanted to be a friend to him. I suppose I did give him some advice as well, about the fact that he was 16, so two years wasn’t too far away and that he was almost there anyways, and then some tips on where to look for jobs.

I was able to help him out today, at least in a very minor way. He left me a copy of his resume, and I’ll see if there is any place I could think of that may be good for him to apply. What really got me at the end was the note he left me. It reminded me why I stick my neck out to help people help themselves when they are in honest need of it, and why I will never stop doing so.

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Now, I do think that he has a lot to learn and some of that may come the hard way if he does go the emancipation route. I don’t think we will be roommates (that was adorbs), BUT sometimes it really can feel like you can’t find a friend, and man is that a feeling I know all too well. It’s a big world out there full of no and can’t and won’t and sorry I’d like to… but. It can make you feel really small.

How is this relevant to my life this week? Well, I ran into an instance where I asked my supervisor at the city for a reference for a job application. She denied it, saying she had to forward the request to HR and they would give a letter only stating that I was employed there and my dates of employment, nothing to the effect of my character. Basically, meaning that now my app would be incomplete, so I’ll have to explain myself on that one and find another reference. I’m very naive about these kind of things, I thought the point WAS to get references from your supervisors, but “city policy” won’t allow it? What if this were my only job, how else would I be able to get references to apply anywhere else? Well, it’s also up to the individual, she could have answered the email and nobody would have known, but I guess it just wasn’t worth it to her and I suppose. Which, again is fine, some people are policy followers and these kinds of things make sense to them.

I talk with my trusted friends here, and they tell me they have all been there before, it’s not news to them. I just wish we could change from a culture of being so afraid of one another and being so worried about covering our own behinds, to one that goes out of our way to help one another and not always assumes the worst. It just feels like butting up against a rock and a hard place in terms of change, but maybe slowly it will happen.