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.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Grump Day

Not real sure why, but I got into something of a grumpy mood today at work. I think it had to do with a patron who drives me nuts. She's not on the Rogues list but I can't see how she'll be able to avoid it for long.

I started my Thursday upstairs reading the shelves, going book by book, making sure they're in proper Dewey Decimel order and putting right what once went wrong. It's a thankless task, but it's part of the gig. After nearly an hour of this, I heard a loud and grating voice coming up the stairs.

"Now, you're looking for books about Steinbeck himself, right? Not just his books?" With nary a pause to allow a response from her still unseen companion, the grating voice continued, "...because if you need books about Steinbeck himself you're probably going to need a biography on him. Or you could look in the 800s, which is the literature section and might have some books about him as well."

You might assume the voice to be that of a librarian, but this is not the case. By then the owner of the voice had entered the upstairs area and I could see clearly who it was. Let's call her Joan Crawford.

Our Joan Crawford is not nearly as menacingly overbearing nor as beautiful as her actress namesake was portrayed to be in Mommie Dearest, though if she really committed to it I think she could pull it off. (And, yes, I realize Joan's character didn't look all that beautiful in the film either, you do the math here.) If anything, our Joan Crawford is guilty of loving her daughter too much and her overzealous style of parenting methods, in my childless opinion, is something of a major irritant to the library staff whenever Joan and her daughter come in.

Joan's daughter, let's call her Christina just to continue the theme, is a junior high-aged girl who evidently has something of a hard time with reading. I don't know if she's dyslexic or has a similar condition that prevents her from reading at her best, but she's got some such problem going on. In person, she seems like a mature and very intelligent girl who you would never think would have any such problems with school. (My personal theory is that her dibilitating condition is spelled MOM, but that's just an observation.) Whatever the case, whenever Christina is assigned to read a book for class, her mom, Joan, wants her to have not only the assigned tome but the book on tape of it as well, and the woman hounds us mercilessly until we produce them.

That's okay. If that's what she wants it's our job to find it and I have no problems in our doing so. However, our audio collection is hardly a one for one match up of our book collection and most of what we do have is abridged. So, if we need to get a specific book on tape that we don't already own, we have to interlibrary loan it. Again, no problem. That's what we're here for.

Unfortunately for us, Joan Crawford is not to be trusted when it comes to ordering books on tape for Christina. See, if Joan so much as hears a title or catches sight of a reading list that MIGHT contain a book that Christina MIGHT need at some point in the next, say, 20 years, Joan's on the phone to us to get the book on tape ASAP. And in the past we've dutifully ordered the requested books on tape and called Joan to let her know they had arrived only to find out that Christina wouldn't be needing the book for several months yet so they wouldn't be picking it up. When we then pointed out that we went to the trouble and expense of ordering it for her only to have to turn around and send it back, Joan's solution was to try and have us hold the other library's book on tape for the three month stretch until Christina actually needed it.

We, naturally, said, "Uh, no!" and Joan Crawford has traditionally not been pleased with this response. In fact, Joan got downright pissy with us about it and threatened to call the "liberry" c0mmission and tell them that we weren't doing our jobs. Since it was the "liberry" c0mmission's main library that had loaned us the book on tape in the first place, we said, "Go right ahead."

And she did!

The c0mmission explained to her that we were very much doing our jobs and that we couldn't hold the book on tape indefinitely nor repeatedly reorder it just because Joan misjudged when Christina would need it.

A few days later, Joan and Christina came in to cast eyes on the book on tape and make sure it was indeed the one that she wouldn't be needing for several months. It was.

"Well, why don't you just read the book now?" I suggested to Christina. "You're going to have to read it anyway, so if you get it out of the way now you'll have more time later."

Christina didn't like that logic and pointed out that doing so would interfere with all the other books she had to read right now. That was probably true.

So today, they were looking for some Steinbeck books and Joan was busy dragging Christina from shelf to shelf in an effort to find them. Of course, Joan spied and recognized me and I suddenly found myself drafted into the search. This was fairly fruitless, as Christina had already found most of the books we had on Steinbeck in her school's own library. (See, she can do research on her own!) While I was taking Joan and Christina downstairs to look through our literary criticism volumes in the reference hall, Christina spied a classmate of hers who was at the library to research her own author.

"Oh, do you need help with your report as well?" Joan asked in a hopeful tone.

No, I thought. What they both need is to be able to learn how to do this on their own since that's the WHOLE POINT of doing research papers.

By the time they left, some 45 minutes later, most of the library staff was nearly bald from pulling our hair out.

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