Do you find yourself trying to solve your friends' every problem? Do complete strangers approach you in museums, stores and public transit to ask you questions -- Like you work there? Perhaps you are a librarian, actual or in potentia.
Yes, experts now have proof that librarians have a compulsive need to help others. Investigators at the prestigious Milliwether Institute of Professions (MIP) have been working for decades to tease out the most important characteristics of each profession. For librarians, it seems to be HELPFULNESS, closely followed by a NEED TO ORGANIZE.
While this is all very well and good for the patrons, librarians can suffer from an over-dose of this characteristic. For instance, Mr. X (all names changed to protect privacy), can no longer go to the grocery store. He goes in at the produce section, and immediately loses himself in sorting lettuces and straightening the rows of vegetables, re-piling fruit in order of size, etc. While he is thus engaged, shoppers regularly ask him for directions and information -- where is spaghetti sauce? Do you carry Havana Peppers? Poor Mr. X feels he MUST try to answer the questions, and will take the patron (er, sorry) -- the shopper to the correct aisle. As a result, Mr. X never gets his own shopping done. His wife refuses now to let him shop, either alone or with her.
Ms. Y, a reference librarian for 15 years, is regularly approached on the subway and street by tourists asking how to find landmarks in her city. She has taken to copying and carrying with her the sort of city maps handed out at hotels. Ms. Y will use a pen or highlighter to show the questionner how to get to their destination. Ms. Y has been chronically late to work as a result of these questions, and now must leave for work 2 hours before her scheduled time.
Miss Z is a cataloger. She finds she can no longer go to book stores, or even music stores. She has a compulsive need to re-organized the stock on the shelves by call number order. This, of course, upsets the staff in the stores no end. She has narrowly avoided being mistakenly arrested as a shoplifter several times. Even visiting other libraries is beginning to cause Miss Z problems. She has fallen into a fugue state, and wakened to find herself, pen in hand, correcting and amending call numbers on the spines of books. Gardens are beginning to be a problem as well. Miss Z states that she itches to rearrange the plantings into alphabetical order, or some better order than the haphazardly aesthetic organization she finds.
And Mr. and Ms. A-W, dozens of librarians, find themselves in classic co-dependent relationships with their patrons. Attorneys who left the research until the last minute, students who don't really want to do their own worksheets, all can depend on walking into their library and finding Mr. or Ms. A-W to pick up their crisis, carry their homework to a conclusion, and generally rescue them from their fecklessness.
If you see yourself in the descriptions above, consider seeking professional help. Librarians In Co-dependent Knowledge Systems (LICKS) has been founded by caring colleagues who found themselves eaten alive by their work. They have developed a 12-step program for breaking this cycle of co-dependency. If you think you or a loved one may be a co-dependent librarian or librarian in potentia, call 1-800-LIB-LICK today! Don't let your profession define your life!