ALA Annual Conference: comfy shoes and caffeine

This weekend is the American Library Association’s annual conference, and I am beyond excited. Yesterday the University of Maryland’s ALA Student Chapter held a pre-conference information session at which two professors and ALA Washington Office Director of the Office of Government Relations Lynne Bradley led us in a Q & A session to calm our fears and anxieties about attending our first Annual. I took a page worth of notes and here is what I concluded:

1. Map it out! The conference is being held in 34 buildings throughout the District, and that isn’t including the huge number of happy hours and receptions being held unofficially at restaurants, bars, and clubs. But I am SO lucky. I just finalized my schedule for the 4 days worth of events, and all but four are at the Washington Convention Center. SWEET! But that doesn’t mean I’m going to return the comfy yet cute shoes I bought especially for this weekend. Because hey, I don’t mind being a stereotype.

2. I will need some caffeine. I am naturally an energetic morning person and can get through a day without tea or coffee or soda. But my schedule has me going Friday evening, 8am-10pm Saturday, 8am-7:30pm Sunday, 8am-10pm Monday, and Tuesday morning. I’m thinking I’ll need a little help from the Starbucks fairy.

3. It’s okay to say “I’m new” or “This is my first time at Annual”. In fact, doing so is beneficial, because someone may want to mentor to you or introduce you to their boss or coworker, or help you get involved. (All of those, by the way, sound fabulous to me!) This is one of those times where my outgoing personality will do me some good. (Wait, when has it not?)

A sweet memory

Summer 2000, before my sister started her senior year of high school and I entered that big, scary world, my parents took us to New York City. We ate wicked good food at a hole-in-the-wall diner (I remember the omelet) and visited Time Square and visited with my uncle. One of my strongest memories of that trip was when mom, Amanda and I shared a frozen caramel coffee thing. It eventually became Amanda’s obsession, and the drink that led me to a 3 year long career. That drink came from Starbucks.

I haven’t had a caramel frappuccino in years, actually. I drank so many for so long, that I eventually grew to hate the taste. But I got a coupon in the mail last week. A coupon for a frozen caramel coffee thing that piqued my interest. Could this cheap imitation actually taste as good as the original? Well, McDonalds…good job. In one sip you sent me reeling back to New York City, Summer 2000, sharing a frozen caramel coffee thing with my two best friends. After savoring a few more sips and eating some whipped cream (it tastes just like their soft serve! Outstanding!) I called my sister. I asked her if she remembered what we drank that Summer of 2000 in the Big Apple. She did, and I told her that if she wanted that time back, the era of innocence, pigtails, “big pants”, then she would need to skip over to McDonald’s as fast as humanly possible, order a small caramel frappe, close her eyes, and reminisce.

While that first sip…okay, the first half, was utterly remarkable, the second half was less than desirable. The taste of cheap coffee becomes the first thing to hit your tongue, where the sweet and thick caramel once was. So either split it with someone (give them the second half), or use a coupon so you don’t feel bad when you throw the second half out.

Empty Chai Tea Latte

As many of you know, or will come to find out, flickr.com is rather addicting. Especially because it is SO easy to post the picture to your blog! (Once you’ve clicked on the photo you like, click the ‘blog this’ icon above the photo. You must ‘Grant Access’ to flickr.com. Then you can post blogs with accompanying photos from flickr.com.)
I chose this picture because an empty Starbucks iced chai cup is usually by my side. (That or a Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee or a Chick-fil-A iced tea…) Chai is a tantilizing blend of cinnamon, cardamom, and so many more. The concentrate is diluted with milk (it is especially enjoyable with soy milk) and is topped off with ice and a little bit of whipped cream (for those of us who like a sweet kick to their beverages). If you have not had the pleasure of trying this Indian treat, please come by my Starbucks sometime before August 25th and I will concoct the perfect cup of chai for you. 😉

The Art of Dealing with Patrons

There is an art to dealing with customers that I have been developing since I first began my life as a worker bee eight years ago. Between five restaurants, 3.5 years at Starbucks, three days at J. Crew, a movie rental store, and an ice cream shop, I feel as though I can call myself an expert on the topic of customer service. And today, my friends, is the day the God of Patrons is testing me.
Nothing surprises me. Ever. A man walked behind the circulation desk today, looked over to me, and asked if anyone was using the computer next to me. He caught me off guard but I politely told him that was for library associates only and gave him further instruction on using the computer lab. Another customer called me and gave me a 1:16 long narrative on why she needed a hold removed. Instead of cutting her off, asking her for her library card number, and calling it a day, I listened. I gave her sympathy for her situation and gladly told her that I could reapply her hold so she could get the book at a later date. She was very pleased, I said thank you, and that was that.
This is where the difference between Verizon and Starbucks is noted; one attributes their popularity to customer recognition and creating a “Third Place” for their guests while the other has an attitude similar to that of the lone lion in the den. He’s wanted by some, needed by others, and used by all.
I truely enjoy serving people. I don’t see myself as a Starbucks barista and circulation desk associate; I am the delivery (wo)man early morning cheerfulness, late night salvation, and the next best read. There are those that never return the smile, dismiss my “Have an excellent day!” with a nod, and never seem satisfied with their lives. But I melt inside when they see me in Walmart and greet me. That reinforces my belief in karma. As Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” (Matthew 7:12)