Jun 10

Library uniforms

I was tweeting this morning, lamenting having to work a Saturday shift on a long weekend, when the following exchange occurred with @Girlwithshoes: (displayed here with permission)

@michelleamclean I will be bringing about a day’s work home with me too – but at least I can do it in my trakkie daks 😉
@Girlwithshoes – sorry, they won’t let me go to work in my trakkie daks – interesting image though, lol
@michelleamclean if only I could work everyday in trakkie daks…

Which of course, got me thinking about why we couldn’t go to work every day in trakkie daks (can’t you just picture that – what a laid back library that would be… and maybe quite disturbing as well…), and dress codes in the library and then of course, progressed through to uniforms.

I am pretty sure all libraries have a dress code. No singlets, sensible shoes that are appropriate for our work demands, that sort of thing. But how many libraries have uniforms  – either compulsory or voluntary?

Back in the 90’s, our library went through the process of considering whether we should get uniforms for library staff and for a myriad of reasons, we decided against it. (although one of the options library staff came up with was a lovely, slinky black number with matching heels of course….). ? We did end up with much clearer name badges as  result though.

Can’t remember all the reasons for this decision, however, I thought that process was done with for good.  Well it has been for us so far, but one public library I know of has introduced uniforms in the last year. They have either a polo or a shirt with the library logo on it. I am not sure of the rest of their uniform policy, but know that all staff are wearing the tops.

One of the reasons that uniforms were raised was for easy identification of staff.  As we settle into our implementation of RFID and move away from the circulation/information desks where our location is our identification, this could reason to reconsider.  As always, the first thing to consider would be colour. However, as black is the fashionable colour for Melbourne year round, this would not be an option for any sort of uniform. The colour at least would need to be distinctive, so that a staff member could be picked out whether they are in the shelving, amongst all the study desks or has disappeared in a bank of computers. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I can see that they could have benefit in the changing library environment, but don’t know if I’m happy with the idea of library uniforms.   Does your library have uniforms? Why/why not?  Could you see them working in an RFID/roving reference library?  What sort of uniforms and what colours? Your feedback is very welcome.



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  1. Karina

    At our library we wear uniforms, as our council makes it compulsory for all customer service positions. Sometimes it would be nice to wear something a bit different, but uniforms do make it easy in the morning when choosing what to wear. It does make us easily identifiable to patrons, and if you are out in the shelves, they know they can come up to you if they have a query, rather than having to go to the desk. I think that if we are moving to roving reference, there needs to be an easy way for patrons to identify staff. I know we can go and ask people if they need assistance, but how often does that bug you about retail shopping?

  2. Penny

    hmmm. no. I am not keen on uniforms. Smart casual works for most libraries and there are other clear ways to ID staff such as lanyards, badges etc. We do have a dress code, but it is pretty simple – no cleavage, clean clothes, not tatty etc. I always think that in public libraries uniforms are more off putting than anything, since uniforms can have connotations of “authority” and “power” which isn’t so good in that space. Here in academia I would think it even more inappropriate.

    But then, there are smocks… heh heh

  3. Michelle McLean

    That’s my concern with roving reference too, you want to be helpful without being annoying. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Michelle McLean

    Very good points as well. The opposite could also be true – you’ve seen now people treat those in McDonalds or supermarket uniforms. There is already an element of that in libraries, do we want to emphasis that even more. Thanks for the link too, that was a giggle.

  5. Girlwithshoes

    Your post reminded me of my early days in public libraries, in particular when I was a library officer during my uni years. We had one librarian who would work the Friday night desk shift in a flannelette shirt and ugg boots – I kid you not. This librarian is now a Library Services Manager – which shows that clothing does not hold one back. So perhaps I will wear the trakkie daks next week.

  6. Michelle McLean

    Wouldn’t I love to know who it was! Working today, but holding back on the trakkie daks. Thanks!

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