Excuse me, do you work here?

I cannot count the number of times people have asked me this question. The other day, I got it twice. It is as though they do not see the trappings of my profession layed out in front of me. I sit at a real desk with drawers. My chair is comfy and on wheels. There are library brochures in clear holders at every corner. There is a book scanner, a receipt printer, and the reference collection behind me.. Did I mention there’s a phone? There’s a phone.

And yet.

Perhaps you wonder if the question presents itself when I am not at my desk. Yes, yes it does. Again, I carry the evidence with me. Whether I am straightening books in the stacks or grabbing books from improper places, I wear a badge and a headset. A black walkie-talkie is attached to my hip, and the ear piece winds upward, mouthpiece secured to the lanyard which holds my badge, to my ear. The third ear, through which my coworkers speak to me. Sometimes, the whole contraption hangs from my lanyard. Uncomfortable, but necessary when wearing dresses.

And yet.

So what is it about me that makes people think I don’t work where I work? Is it because I am female? No, that can’t be it. Librarianship is a female dominated profession nowadays. If anything, people should be asking our male library staff this question. There are only five of them in our branch. I haven’t asked them if they’ve ever received this question, but I will. Is it because I’m black? It’s a possibility, but at least two coworkers have also been asked this question. One is a white girl around my age. The other is an older Latina. Is it because of the way I dress? Again, a possibility, but all library staff are required to be in business casual attire. Suits are welcome, but not necessary. Heels are welcome, but no stilettos. I have learned to embrace the kitten heel and the stacked heel. One would think I get this question most on Fridays, the day we can wear jeans. Nope. Is it my age? Another possibility, but refer to above older Latina receiving this question. Not definitive evidence to the contrary as they could be asking her because she’s Latina.

Clearly, I need more evidence, and I’m not entirely sure what I’ve accomplished in this post, but there you have it. I am a librarian. I work in a library.

Yes, I work here. How can I help you?

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