Time vampires and the pony express

I’ve been working at an academic library for just over six months, now, which is not a lot, but I have had the experience of the fall semester crunch and that has given me at least some experience with the types of patrons who approach the reference desk. On the challenging side there are two in particular that I’ve had in mind lately: the Time Vampire, and the Pony Express.

My colleagues and I talk about how to manage the expectations of the Time Vampire which involves exploring what gaps in knowledge they might have upon arrival that might require us spending more time with them. Research skills? Pretty much always and there’s nothing wrong with that. Struggles with citation style? Certainly, and also fine. Inability to understand the assignment they’ve been given or complete inability to understand what a thesis is and how it works? Time Vampire. I’ll tack on a sense of entitlement for some but definitely not all. In fact, Time Vampires are often courteous and very grateful for the help.

Even so, I made a dorky little icon for the Time Vampire, which is sometimes sent in the spirit of commiseration to one of my colleagues after they’ve been drained:


Then there’s the Pony Express, which is a variant of the Time Vampire. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the horses they used (yes, it’s Wikipedia but it has its uses):

The horses were ridden quickly between stations, an average distance of 15 miles, and then were relieved and a fresh horse would be exchanged for the one that just arrived from its strenuous run.

Same rider, different horses. Easy to translate to a library context but in our case we think of it more as “the librarians worked with the same student for an average of one hour, at which time the librarian died and a fresh librarian would be exchanged.”

I made a dorky image for that experience, as well.


Strategies for managing expectations of the Time Vampire and Pony Express overlap but elements of The Pony Express remain unique: how to manage them? All of us are working on strategies — verbal and non-verbal cues among them — but I am very open to ideas.

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