Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Evil Incarnate

The "liberry" was rather chaotic today. It usually is when I'm not even supposed to be there.

At 11 a.m., Mrs. A called me at home to ask me to come in as Mrs. B was unable to get up her mountainous driveway due to the torrent of ice and snow we got Monday night. I can't make fun. We had our own similar driveway adventures this morning and the only reason I was able to get out and go to work was because I spent my morning shoveling the drive.

In addition to the usual stuff, we were inundated with Deposit Book Crowd people desperate to check out our deposit books.

Let me just say this about the deposit books: I hate them, I can't stand them and I wouldn't live next to them. They are probably the worst part of my job simply because you're never going to find a more despicable bunch of human beings than most of the folks who come in to check out the deposit books. (Oh, sure, you'll have your occasional Hitler or Pol Pot crop up and blow the grade curve for everyone else, but you can bet that even those assholes had a few overdue deposit books stashed in a bunker somewhere.)

On paper, our deposit books are a great idea. Most of them are of the sort designed to help people study for state licensing exams and the most popular are the ones needed for the WV Contractor's Licensing exam. So as a service to the public, we try to keep the books in stock so that people who wish to take a given exam can come in, borrow the books, study up for it, then take the books in to the open book exam for the license, hopefully pass it and ideally bring our books back. This method keeps the average Joe who wants to become a licensed contractor from having to buy $1000 worth of books just to pass the test. Unfortunately, it means that WE DO. Multiple times! Keeping our deposit books circulating is one of the hugest hassles you'd ever care to deal with--which is why I don't.

For one thing, the Deposit Book Crowd tend to be folks who normally wouldn't be found dead in a library and have only come in because we have what they want. They don't usually grok the whole "You need to have a library card before we can loan you any books" thing. And they get especially testy when we ask them to leave a deposit on the deposit book they want. After all, "liberry books is supposed to be free." They give you all manner of excuses and dirty looks as you explain to them that leaving a deposit means they do have to leave some form of money with us in order to borrow the book, but that they get that money back in full provided they BRING THE #$%*ING BOOK BACK on time!

Sure, they only get a week's loan on the deposit books, but they're allowed to renew it for another should they need to, and over the phone, no less! This is too much trouble for the Deposit Book Crowd.

I've often wondered why exactly many of them refuse to ever bring back our Deposit books. Perhaps it starts when they fail to pass the OPEN BOOK test they're preparing for in the first place and decide to hang on to them so they can bone up for next time. Maybe they're just evil, evil people. Whatever the case, the books don't get returned with near the frequency we'd like. And this is why the deposit system was implemented some years ago.

Our original policy was to charge a $10 deposit on each Deposit Book. The library's logic was that people will want to get their $10 back, so they'll return the book on time. The patrons' logic, however, was, "Get me, I just paid ten bucks for a $60 book. Huzzah!" And they weren't shy about telling us that either. During my early months at the liberry, patrons who checked out deposit books, balking at the need for a deposit in the first place, would frequently smile and say, "Oh, so I'm just paying $10 for the book then?"

"No," I would correct them, "you are leaving a $10 deposit on the book. If you don't return the book, it then becomes a stolen book and stealing is still a felony in this state." (Okay, so it may only be a misdemeanor unless the book is worth over $500. Saying such things still tends to make mouthy patrons shut their pie holes toot sweet.)

With Deposit Book Crowd bad attitudes firmly in place, the number of books that failed to turn up by the due date, or at all, steadily increased.

Last year we replaced the whole lot. We purchased brand new recent editions of nearly everything. We also installed a new deposit policy whereby if a Deposit Book Crowd patron wishes to check a deposit book out, they must leave a deposit equal to the full cost of the book. That way, when they don't turn up with it by the due date, they've essentially bought it and we have money to buy new books with.

Good idea, no?

And you'd think that this sort of policy would work pretty good, wouldn't you?

Of course not.

Witness, as example, the semi-paraphrased telephone conversation between Mrs. A and two of the Deposit Book Crowd patrons this afternoon...

Mrs. A--Hi, Mrs. Deadbeat? Mrs. A from the library. I just wanted to call to ask if you could please return the WV Contractors books that your husband checked out from us a while back.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- Oh, he still has them?

Mrs. A-- Yes ma'am, he does. I've talked to the librarian in your county and she's agreed to let you drop them off there, if it would be more convenient for you. We really need them back because we have patrons who need them for their exam.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- Okay. How do I get my check then?


Mrs. A-- No, Mrs. Deadbeat. I don't think you understand. You've already forfeited your deposit on these books.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- Do whuut?

Mrs. A-- Yes ma'am. If you don't bring the books back on time your deposit is forfeit. We have a slip of paper that your husband signed saying that he understood this.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- But we renewed them books.

Mrs. A-- Yes ma'am. You did renew them once, back in October. It's now February.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- But we renewed them books.

Mrs. A-- You can only renew them one time ma'am. Your husband renewed them for an additional week in October and he didn't bring them back.

Mrs. Deadbeat-- But we renewed them books. Wait, lemme put my husband on the phone...

etc, etc. etc.

We'll never see those books again. And unless Mrs. A gets to the bank super quick before Mr. and Mrs. Deadbeat get a chance to have their check canceled, if they've not already, we'll never see money out of it either.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.