11 October, 2007

ADHD, the quintessential library skill

The emails I’ve had in the last couple of days have (once again) got me thinking about the suitability of a boy with ADHD becoming a librarian. Or more broadly, should you look for someone with ADHD to offer a different skill set for your library.

You won’t be surprised to find out I say yes. ADHD and the library is a match made in heaven. Your typical ADHD librarian (and it seems there are plenty of us) is going to annoy the hell out of your stereotypical bun haired, order loving cataloguer. Or at least, at first. In fact I find that some of by biggest allies in times when I have had difficulties at work have been the shy quiet people who actually care about the library with a passion.

Why? Well I’d guess that just as I see the benefit in the skills they have which I lack. They also see the benefits in the skills I have. That is to say that their detail helps my inspiration. My exhibitionist nature helps balance their conservative one when it comes to dealing with different clients. My ability to deal with emergencies balances their ability to plan for emergencies.

On the desk I am able to inspire patrons with confidence, I can draw out of them the fine details of what they need, I can calm them in their times of crisis. But it is often my colleagues who provide me with the bits of information I need to finish a search. Likewise, I often find that I can calm their clients when tempers are frayed. My ability to give insight into alternative ways to phrase their client’s search or alternative ways to interpret the request is appreciated.

And it isn’t all front desk stuff. I come into meetings all fired up about everything 2.0, whereas others will be more cautious. I’ll take the leap into the new, while my co-workers will help me finish the test, keep things updated and generally be involved. But they are involved in something they probably wouldn’t have attempted themselves.

There are other examples, but this probably gives a good idea of what I mean.

Where the problems occur is more often with people who are unwilling to listen to the new or who have a love of what once was. And I tend to find that with the management types. Librarians, perhaps can be a bit staid, but those who don’t have such an emotional connection with the library are much harder to inspire. So whereas the stereotypes and I know the library is busier or that we’re loaning out more graphic novels and less cassettes because we’re on the floor and feeling the ebb and flow, the management types don’t care unless it affects the particular numbers that they are monitoring. So perhaps I feel the library is busier, if it is because everyone is staying longer (rather than visiting more often) it won’t show up on the door counter.

Likewise the door counter won’t show if we have more homeless people in the library and less teenagers. It’s all pure numbers to those who cause me the most pain.

So, there is a need for the ADHD librarians to learn to deal with the management, I’m currently dropping out of my Master of Business for a while but still the fact that I have done most of it is a good source of bullshit words to feed to the management drones. I get to find creative ways to explain my new ideas in old terms. I get an insight into accounting (grahhhhhhhhhhh) and it helps me to argue my case for a budget increase for graphic fiction (or it should have done but my boss didn’t feel the need to have a budget meeting this year – she just said “same again” much to the anger of myself and my current stereotypical colleague).

So, if you’re a management type. Grow some balls! Employ your own ADHD librarian, be ready for them to fail spectacularly upon occasion because if they don’t ever fail with a scream and a small explosion it is because you’ve got them wedged so far into a preconceived box that they’ve given up trying and you’ll get nothing out of them if that is the case. Not even productivity.


Global Librarian said...

I am also a librarian with ADHD and I found that it frequently was a benefit. My mind could jump to possibilities much faster than others. I wasn't always very good with focusing on the details, but when brainstorming I was in the groove.

Others weren't always so good at seeing what could be. But once the vision was there, they could focus on the details and make it happen.

Librarians with ADHD work very well with non-ADHD librarians as long as both respect what the other can do!

Gina Pera said...

Love your blog--and the title.

Very interesting to read your perspective.

Gina Pera