If someone were to ask me what one of the greatest challenges of being a librarian is, I could answer them in one word: McDonaldization.
McDonaldization is a term coined by sociologist, George Ritzer, referring to society being dominated by the principles of the fast-food industry in several different ways, such as efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. In the library setting part of this concept can be used to our advantage by being predictable; for instance, no matter what branch in a library system a patron enters, they know that they will receive the same quality service and programming. This makes for a good brand and repeated business. However, the problem lies in the efficiency sector. “Efficiency” in this context means the minimization of time, or “the fastest way to get from being hungry to being full,” regardless of the garbage you may be putting in your system…
So often I have patrons approach the information desk as if they were at the counter of McDonalds. “I want this information and I want it now.” Just today a patron asked me where the relationship section was. I looked at my computer and paused for maybe three seconds, planning my search strategy and deciding what further questions to ask her before she simply walked off stating, “Never mind, I thought you might just know off-hand.” I do, in fact, know off-hand that it will most likely be in the 155-158’s but depending on the type of relationship you’re looking for it could also be in 362, 658 or even 616.8584 if you have a personality disorder that’s causing you relationship problems. But that doesn’t tell you what’s on the shelves right now; you’d have to give me more than three second to look that up.
We, librarians, are efficient masters of information retrieval but quality service does take time, certainly more than three seconds! We need to plan our search strategy, filter the results, and cater the process specifically to you. By having a “McDonalds” mindset, demanding your answer five minutes ago, and refusing to wait for quality service, you’re really missing out on all librarians can offer. We are quick, but we do need time to work our magic. Your choice though- Big Mac or filet mignon?
Ritzer, George (2009). The McDonaldization of Society. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press. ISBN 0-7619-8812-2.