Worst Case Scenario

hhibner —  October 8, 2013 — Leave a comment
photo credit: rustman via photopin cc

photo credit: rustman via photopin cc

I had a Librarian in Charge moment last weekend. There was a plumbing problem, and being the Librarian in Charge, I called the plumber.

So far so good.

As it turns out, the problem required all bathrooms in the building to be put out of order until the problem was fixed. Well, you can’t not have bathrooms for staff or public, and the fix was going to take at least a few hours, according to the plumbers. I made the dreaded “do we close the building early or not” decision. It wasn’t a hard decision, actually. No working toilets means we close the building. End of story. I made a building-wide announcement and the staff got the patrons out of the building. We closed an hour and a half early and the plumbers went about their business.

The story goes on, but the point here is that sometimes as the Librarian in Charge you have to make difficult decisions. Ask yourself: Is the decision I am making going to help the situation or hurt it? In this case, closing the library early helps the people fixing the problem and only inconveniences (not “hurts”) the people trying to use the library. Fixing the problem obviously trumps. Score one in that category.

The next question to ask yourself is: What is the worst thing that could happen? Well, if we stay open without bathrooms, we break the labor law that says we must make toilet facilities available at work sites. That’s a big one! We can not require staff to continue working in a building with no working toilet facilities. There is also a Michigan law about having bathroom facilities available to customers in public places. Call me paranoid, but I just don’t think breaking the law is a good idea. I can’t think of a “worst thing that could happen” by closing early. Someone doesn’t get to check their email on a public computer? They don’t get to pick up their hold? These are not worst-thing scenarios. They are inconveniences. Law trumps inconvenience, so score one in this category too.

The library closed an hour and a half early on a Saturday and I felt pretty confident in that decision. Of course, I left messages for the Library Director and a few other administrative staff members. I sent emails documenting how it all went down. Again, I felt pretty confident in my decision making.

I am fortunate to work in a place where, even if you make a bad decision, as long as your reasoning is sound you will generally be backed up. In this case, it was a good decision and everything worked out fine. There have been times, though, where my co-workers have made decisions that I would not have made. That does not make them bad decisions. If their reasoning is sound – if they were trying to help the situation and can explain how they thought their decision would help – I can usually get on board.



Adult Services Coordinator at the Plymouth District Library with a mild obsession for collection quality. Ok, maybe not so mild. Find me on Twitter at @hhibner and over at Awful Library Books (http://awfullibrarybooks.net)!

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