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.

Friday, May 14, 2004

A notion that's long Overdue

So after our financial excitement and my subsequent pissy mood, yesterday, Mrs. A suggested that I start calling the long-overdues again and I gladly took her up on it.

Part of the way we're preparing for the move to our new computer cataloging system is by trying to get people with overdues from years past to bring their frickin' books back. Granted, we send out overdue notices every month, but we only those that have been overdue within the past 6 months or so and we only send any given overdue notice three times before filing them away for future patron-shitcanning.

Back in October Mrs. A and Mrs. C went through the backlog of long-overdue notices and weeded out a lot of the books of lower value, leaving behind those books worth $10 or more that we'd really like to have back. We then called or sent notices to the patrons who still had our books (most of which were from 2002, as we figure anything before that is not coming back ever--though we are occasionally surprised). Well, we still have all the slips from that October call-fest, most of which still bear our notes from back then, with comments like "Says she'll bring it in soon" or "Will look for them" or "Swears he's never seen this book ever." Of course, very few of those folks who promised to return their books actually did, so now we have to call their collective ass again.

We the "liberry" underlings HATE to call overdues. We don't mind sending them notes, but when it comes to being confrontational about long lost books and having to hear all the lame excuses people try to lay on you, we just have no patience for it. I sometimes want to scream: "I don't care that you've been in the hospital with a pulled head for six months and couldn't make it in. You can make it in now, so just return the book! We're not even charging fines! You have NO excuse!"

With such hatred for the task, this stack of overdues-to-be-called has been sitting around for several weeks now and almost only get called when there's NO other project available for us to do. And believe me, we can find other projects. I'd rather clean up after the serial shitter, three times a day than call overdues.

Not yesterday, though. Yesterday I was pissed and I wasn't in the mood to take any shit from deadbeat patrons who've had a book out for two years. I grabbed the list and started calling. Mostly, the patrons in the stack have since moved or had their phones shut off, so I wound up putting most of these in the SEND NOTE pile. (I love these. I even got to pen the thinly veiled threatening note we include with them, explaining that patrons who don't return or otherwise pay for these books will be banned from checking out books at all libraries in the new library multi-county network until the end of time itself.) Occasionally I would get an answering machine on which I left a very polite message explaining the situation with the computers and how we'd like our books back ASAP and wouldn't even charge a fine if they'd just, for the love of God, return them. Only a couple of times did I actually get to speak to a human being.

After hearing one such call, Mrs. C exclaimed: "Wait, she's still got a book out? You should call her back and tell her I'm not ordering the interlibrary loan she requested yesterday until she brings us OUR book first."

I also found it terribly difficult not to make ironic comments on the answering machine of another patron who had a two-year overdue copy of a book called Procrastination.

By the end of the evening, ALL the overdues had been called or threatening notes otherwise sent to them.

I rule.

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