Book Smarts Versus Street Smarts

, , , , | Learning | March 6, 2020

I’m working in a Postgraduate Medical Library which, for anyone who hasn’t encountered one, is full of reference books and additional training materials used by — sometimes highly — qualified medical staff.

I answer the phone one morning to a rather irate person demanding to know our opening hours. “8:30 to 17:00,” I tell him, “and if you’re on our staff here you can arrange out-of-hours access by speaking to Mr. [Supervisor].”

“Well,” says my caller, “it’s half-past ten and I’ve been banging on the door for ages; I want you to let me in!”

I don’t understand; our door is open and people are coming in and out all the time. We have a second door, which is a fire escape door and only opens in one direction, but there’s a glass panel in it so I’d see if anyone was there, and it’s also right next to my desk. I explain this to the guy and he starts getting irate.

“No, the door’s locked and you’re ignoring me; will you please come and let me in?!

 I take a deep breath. “Are you sure you’re actually at the Postgraduate Medical Library?”

“Of course I’m sure!”

“Are you in a long corridor with dark blue walls and a view of the garden?”

“Yes, of course!” The guy’s blood pressure is going stratospheric by now.

“I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. That’s the Patient Library, and it opens at 14:00. To get to the Postgraduate Medical Library, you need to walk back to the main reception area, take the lift to the third floor, and turn left. The door will be right in front of you, and it’s open all the time.”

Not a word of apology, just a slammed phone and, five minutes later, a very red-faced man erupts in through the door muttering something about signage. Both rooms have very clear signs explaining their titles, opening hours, and the number to ring at any other time.

I am always impressed by the total lack of reading comprehension displayed by some of these highly-trained people.

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