"Can I help you find anything?" Well, now that you mention it...
July 30, 2013 12:00 PM   Subscribe

There's a very cute, funny and witty librarian at my local library that I'd like to ask out. How do I best go about doing this without making it uncomfortable for her in her workplace?

For the past few months, I've had several positive interactions with one of the librarians at the library I frequent. It started off as maybe some eye contact that lasted a bit longer than normal, or a smile that lingered beyond the standard length. No big deal, nothing to write home about. We'd exchange glances, smiles and a bit of small talk every so often when we met there.

As time has gone on, she's started making joking comments about things I'm checking out, I've called her when she hasn't seen one of my "Must See" films, and she's referring to past conversations we've had and things I've recommended. When a different staff member is helping me, she often walks by to make a comment or give me a smile. I'm pretty sure there's some interest. Sure enough that I've decided to ask her out even though that means asking her out while she's at work (I know...).

That's where the problem occurs. The hours that I can make it to the library are ALWAYS busy. There are two or three people helping people check items out at any one time and there's pretty much always a line waiting to be helped. So on top of my 1 in 3 chance of interacting with her on any given day, there's a line behind me and her co-workers all around her all the time. Not really the best environment to ask someone out with any discretion. But our town is big enough that I'm not likely to just run into her on the street, so it pretty much has to be done here if it's going to happen.

Normally, I'd wait for it to be quiet or her to have some idle time, but that doesn't seem to happen. Should I just go for it one day? Would slipping her a brief note with my number when I hand her my library card be a better idea? Show up with a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel? I've made up my mind about asking her out, but what's the best (most likely to succeed/least likely to be awkward) approach?

Bonus points for advice from people in her position (being asked out at work). What's the best way to not make things uncomfortable for you when you're at work?
posted by Vonnegut27 to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't want to make it uncomfortable, ask her if she'd like to come with you to some book-related event. If she's interested in a date, she'll come. If she doesn't come, you both have plausible deniability that you were asking her on a date.

And yeah, just go for it. Faint heart never won fair lady.
posted by Native in Exile at 12:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

How about asking, "Could I speak to you privately for a moment?"

She's a librarian, not a palace guard. She can probably leave the desk for a few minutes.
posted by xingcat at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

You could write a little note to her thanking her for being so helpful all the time and put your name and phone number on it. By putting your phone number on it, you are implying that it's OK for her to call or text you.
posted by Dansaman at 12:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to work in a library in circulation checking books out to people- tread carefully is all I can say. I used to get asked out all the time by skeevy and non-skeevy people alike. This is familiar territory for her I'm sure.

The one time it did work was when someone slipped a note to me when I was checking their books back in, it was under their stack of books and it simply said "Coffee later?" and had her number on the back of it. I thought that was cute and not at all too pushy.
posted by timpanogos at 12:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]

I think just a quick ask, "You've been so helpful, I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee. Here's my name and number." You can slip her a note or a business card and leave the ball in her court. Or she could accept on the spot!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]

Former librarian here. I think a note with your number, maybe with a specific flirty/friendly question that she can text you a response to, is a good route. Won't disrupt her workday or embarass her in front of her colleagues, and gives her an easy out if you're reading her wrong and she's not actually interested.
posted by booknerd at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

Hi, I'm a cute funny friendly female bank teller. I dislike being asked out in front of coworkers, but I do like getting little notes asking me out with a phone number/email.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]

I vote for the business card slipped in with a question like "Coffee sometime?" or a cute reference to a book discussion for a book that you've talked about. Do not verbalize it while she's at the desk, it's adorable in YA fiction but kind of hard to deal with on the fly at a real life circulation desk.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

"You've been so helpful, I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee"

This is ambiguous: being helpful is her job. Ask her out for a date.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]

As a general rule, asking women out at their workplace is to be avoided. Which isn't to say that I haven't done it. If you can do it with a low-key note or such, which she can put away for a non-working later time, and react to or not, that would be the least intrusive way to go about it.

BUT. If it doesn't work out for you, it's up to you to find a different library or different library hours when she's not around. It's her workplace and she has to be there. You don't. As it is with asking out bartenders, so it is with librarians -- be wary of poisoning your own well.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:23 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

posted by box at 12:30 PM on July 30, 2013

I used to work at a circulation desk, and was asked out every so often. I like the note idea. If you give her a note or ask her out and she declines, do your best to be cool about it. For me, that would mean "act like nothing happened", but some people may prefer no interaction at all.* You'll have to suss that out post-ask.

*I would have preferred this because I was in a relationship at the time, so I couldn't say yes to anyone who asked, even if it's someone I would have dated if I were single. Usually the guys asking were people who I thought were interesting, so I was glad if they were able to stick around and maintain a friendship. However, I know this isn't always possible, and that I am not everyone.
posted by RogueTech at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2013

I would hate to be asked out at my workplace. It's not fair to her if she doesn't want to go out with you. She has to go to work. She can't just go to another library to avoid you if she thinks you're a creepy guy (not saying you are or that she might think that despite being nice to you).
posted by discopolo at 2:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

My replies from the thread box linked still apply. Sorry, but please don't do this. On behalf of librarians everywhere (and other service professionals who are paid to be friendly and engaged with customers), I want to say that feeling safe from being hit on at work is what makes it easier to connect with strangers every day. What you're describing is really discouraged by most libraries.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

...and by "really discouraged", I mean that you may be pulled aside by a manager on your next visit if she reports it. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ex-librarian that's been asked out over the loans desk here. I hated being asked out when I was working. Hated even more when I said I was busy and got the "What about Tuesday instead?". Slip cute librarian a note. If you ask face-to-face don't linger when they can't think of an appropriate "Thanks but no thanks" line. This person is working and shouldn't have to think of a kind and respectful way to rebuff you. If you leave a note and they're interested you'll hear from them. (Or at least you would hear from me if you left me such a note and I were interested.)
posted by jujulalia at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bonus points for advice from people in her position (being asked out at work). What's the best way to not make things uncomfortable for you when you're at work?

Don't do it at work. Either slip her a note and be perfectly comfortable with no follow-up ever, or find her on facebook or some other social media and connect with her that way. Getting asked out at work for me was terribly awkward because saying no is basically being impolite from a service perspective (and I'm reasonably sure you're not this guy but could create a scene if the guy is uncool about it) and I should not be put in that position. She has to be nice to you because it's her job. She may also be nice to you because she likes you. If that's the case, you could always just give her an option to make a move (i.e. mention that you're going to see this or that movie or attend this or that event or even a specific library event) and leave it up to her to either pick up on that or connect with you at the thing.

Basically the only way you can do this if she's at work is to do something totally open-ended and let her make the first move after you've done that. Anything else is basically breaking the social contract norms of the library and potentially putting her in a bad/awkward work space.
posted by jessamyn at 5:31 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

"You've been so helpful, I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee"

This is ambiguous: being helpful is her job. Ask her out for a date.

That is a date. Being unambiguous can be great if there's enough interest to warrant being bold, but being ambiguous can be better for everyone if the interest isn't there yet (on either side) and you don't want to put pressure on the situation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:48 PM on July 30, 2013

I am a librarian too. Please don't ask her out - this is her job. If she is interested in you she can ask you out (this is 2013 after all). There is too much of an inherent power imbalance already in your relationship and you risk making her uncomfortable/getting her in trouble at the place that pays her bills. My answer might have been different if she had ever used her break time to seek you out in the library to talk to you, or manipulated the line consistently to always have her serve you, or physically touched you in a way that is outside of the norm. What you think of as special treatment is how I treat about a third of my patrons - building community, developing personal relationships, remembering what Patrons have Borrowed before and making positive comments is actually mandated in writing by my management (plus I enjoy these interactions but I would never date a patron). Women in libraries are hit on all the time (ooooh, we are so sexy and smart, plus we are friendly and approachable and non-threatening!)
posted by saucysault at 8:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

One time a librarian literally asked me if I was seeing anyone. I'd consider that a "hint". What you describe might be mere "customer service", as many replies have made plain. But let's assume you have an accurate read on the situation.

To me, handing her your business card (with handwritten cell number) is important. It levels the playing field. That way she knows as much about you as you know about her. Back in the day I asked out an on-duty in-uniform gun-carrying cop. I did the business card thing and later (we dated for a while) she told me the card really made a difference. It shows you are sincere and not trying to play some weird game.

Regarding lack of privacy: If the woman is receptive to your advances, she is usually trying to create some privacy by getting rid of onlookers. When I met my wife, her sister (now my sister-in-law) was attached to her hip. She tried to send her away twice, but poor sister was just oblivious, so I asked my future wife out for drinks anyway.

Dating is fraught with risks. It is important to be respectful, but there is nothing wrong with asking someone out a single time and pleasantly handling any rejection in stride.
posted by 99percentfake at 10:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for something more subtle than straight up asking her out, what about:

You: (approaches desk with two books by $AUTHOR)
She: (comment about author)
You: Yeah, I'm going to a reading by $author next week, and wanted to read more of her work beforehand.

She now knows where to find you outside of work, if she wants, with face-saving deniability all around.
posted by Tsuga at 11:14 PM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: Nthing the business card and the, "coffee sometime?" with a number. Or even an invitation to a reading is a good idea, in the note. It puts it in her court, and isn't too embarrassing in case you've read the situation wrong.

Just saying, to the "she's probably just doing her job! Let her ask you out instead!"

Yes, it's 2013, and I totally agree that women should do more of the asking. But her not asking or showing overt interest doesn't necessarily mean she's not interested.

Having worked in the service industry and being a shy introverted type with self-esteem issues, I kind of can't fathom anyone being into me, even when they very obviously are. I'm not great at flirting, even though I'm friendly and bubbly and good at my job. I also would never make the first move on a patron/customer in case I was misreading the whole thing and it was deemed inappropriate and I was complained about or some such. Some women might be jaded by the attention, but I for one would really welcome someone else making the first move, even if it wasn't reciprocated by me. I certainly wouldn't be skeeved out so much even if I wasn't into the person. However, someone who receives more of that kind of attention may be bothered by it.

Yes you risk things becoming awkward or uncomfortable, but in my opinion you have way more to lose not asking than asking. If she isn't receptive, then try to take it in stride and not make things difficult for either of yourselves.
posted by Dimes at 2:10 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

What's the best way to not make things uncomfortable for you when you're at work?

1) Be prepared to be turned down.
2) Be courteous if you are.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2013

Yeah I think you're just going to have to wait until she asks you out.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:54 PM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the helpful responses (and hell, thanks for the not as helpful ones too)! It seemed like the overall theme was that the note approach was the best course in this situation and that's what I went with. I passed her a note that said "Coffee sometime?" with my name and number on it, and she texted me later that night! Coffee went well and we're going out again this week. Thanks again to all those who gave me the encouragement to go for it.
posted by Vonnegut27 at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yay! Good for you.
Another librarian here who doesn't mind being asked out if it's in a courteous, low-key way.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:24 PM on August 8, 2013

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