Monday, September 25, 2006

I'm Bad with Names and Hoping to Improve

One of my shortcomings (and there are many) is that I have trouble remembering the names of people that I have met. There are many library users who call me by my first name*, but I am unable to pull theirs from the recesses of my brain. After years of handling their library cards, taking their phone calls, and filling out reserve forms in their names, I still draw a blank when they approach the reference desk. They even greet me at restaurants and movie theaters. I feel awkward.

Our library clients do have an advantage in that I am wearing a name tag when I am on duty. I have given out quite a few of my business cards in the past, and they see my name in the newsletter and on the website. My name is out there to see.

My problem goes beyond the building. There are other librarians whose names escape me when I see them at meetings and conferences. If you are one of them, I apologize. I should remember. I am glad when you wear a name tag that I can read. This summer at the conference in New Orleans, most people wore their name tags on lanyards that hung down around their belly buttons. They were almost impossible to read without stooping. I added looking awkward to feeling awkward.

Maybe there is hope for me. I used to have very good recall of major league baseball players' names. I could open a package of baseball cards and identify most of the players without looking at their names. I could do this because I had seen many of their previous cards and read about them constantly in the newspaper. I had seen many of them on television. I heard their names repeated on the radio. The key to my recall was repetition and obsession.

I do not think I can ask clients for their photos so I can create trading cards. I think that is a very bad idea.

So, how can I improve my library user name recall? My strength is my ability to create and use reference tools. Is there a way to draw from this strength? Can I create An Index to Readers or A Spotter's Guide to Library Clients? It would be a pretty obsessive thing to do.

Does anyone have suggestions? Perhaps others have this same concern.

*I also have several library users who call me Eric. I think they blended Aaron and Rick into Eric. There is also another who insists on calling me Nick.


waltc said...

There are definitely others of us with similar concerns. I'm reasonably good with faces but absolutely terrible with names, and I'm always delighted when someone I see once a year *doesn't* greet me by name! I don't have any great suggestions to offer.

laura said...

At least at your library people hand you their library cards. People here mostly keep their cards at the library, so I have to remember their names every time they check out a book! I actually have sort of the reverse problem--I remember names fairly well, but it takes me a long time to learn to differentiate faces--but the results are about the same.

I also have no good suggestions to offer. I do often ask people how they spell their names (Sarah or Sara? Catherine or Katherine or Kathryn?), because I'm such a word-oriented person that it sometimes helps if I can see the spelling.

Nancy said...

You could try making a list of regular patrons, with a few words of description next to their names. Then review it occasionally, and you'll have the repetition you need to remember. I used to do this with new vocabulary words, reading through the whole list every time I added a new one, and it worked well.

Library Lady said...

I remember last names and use "Hello, Mr. Woodall" or "Howdy, Miss Ware." The kids get a kick out of hearing their names said properly and I don't have to struggle with a first, full or nick name. I also have an advantage with family members which look alike.

Of course, those I have to call-on to behave are entered into my databrain for future reference. :-)