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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Boy, you close for one day's worth of training...

...and the world suddenly HAS to get to the library. Our book return box was packed to its epiglotis this morning, and more than one patron grumbled at us about not being open yesterday. It's not like we didn't put up fifty signs two weeks in advance saying we'd be closed, though. Too bad all these loyal book addicts can't frickin' read.

I feel especially sorry for the internet crowd, who no doubt stood on our steps yesterday pounding on the door for an hour and shaking from the DTs before they finally noticed the sign. They more than made up for it today. We had 34 people pile in to use the internet. That may not seem like much, but we're a small town library with only three internet access computers and we usually do only about two thirds of that traffic on our busiest days.

Two of our usual internet crowd, who I call the Russians cause they're, well, Russian and all, came in for their usual Wednesday afternoon's surf. They're good guys as far as I can tell, though I still have no idea what brought them to the area. I put one of them on the only available computer and I had to ask the young woman next to him to relinquish hers as her time had run out. She seemed a little distraught at this, as she was typing something. Russian #1 valiantly came to her rescue saying that she didn't have to get off as Russian #2 wouldn't mind waiting. He seemed pretty insistent about this. This was very nice of him and it also saved me having to explain to Russian #2 that we give people working on writing projects extra time so that he couldn't have a computer after all. This would have been a complicated process since the Russians don't speak good English like me.

Still, for every patron who grumbled, there were two who were genuinely interested in what kind of training we were getting and then were excited about the word of our new system.

Some of the patrons, however, were concerned that we were going to charge them a fine for their books that were due yesterday. I hesistate to inform them that there's no danger of this happening as we haven't actually charged a late fine on book since September. This is mostly due to the computer issues associated with preparing a multi-county library network to transition to new library software. It's also due to sheer laziness on our part. There IS a way to charge fines, but there's an added hassle about it, in addition to the usual hassle of remembering to turn VTLS's grace flag on Friday morning for Fine Free Friday, and then remember to turn it back off Saturday morning. VTLS, being the library circulation system of Lucifer, goes out of its way to make this the least easy thing to do. You can't just push a little button with a mouse (in fact, I think VTLS only has ONE little computer button in its entire arsenal). Instead, you have to telnet to an address, login, then you get a series of four double-digit menus from which you have to choose the correct seemingly grace-flag unrelated item in order to continue to the next one. Eventually, you get to one that mentions a grace flag at which point you have to answer a trickily worded question, apparently written by Yoda, in order to turn on. ("GRACE FLAG IS OFF, CHANGE ITS STATUS, NO?") Then you have to shut the whole VTLS system down and bring it back up, or all that hassle will be for naught. It's just one example of how un-user friendly VTLS is and how much better we're hoping and praying Millennium will be.

On the subject of packed book returns, they tend to lead to packed book-shelving carts. Ours certainly was when I came in today. I cannot abide a full shelving cart. Some of my fellow employees have no trouble abiding one, and let it pile up quite a bit before they make a stab at shelving. There are even other libraries in the county that let theirs stay perpetually piled up, not to mention their shelves in a constant state of chaos. I've had to sub there on occasion, and on each occasion I spent my entire day trying to get everything put away and semi-organized, or at the very least put all their books upright on the shelves.

A full book cart, to me, is a living representation of work to be done and if there's one thing I can't stand it's knowing there's work ahead of me. I don't mind working. I'm all for work. In fact, I spend most of my job time LOOKING for work to do. So I am completely cool with shelving books while I'm in the moment, but I hate having to think about all the books I'm gonna have to shelve later piled up on a cart. The trouble with this is that I can NEVER get all the shelving done at once unless there are other employees to mind the desk and phone so I can just do the job. This is near impossible when I'm the only Joe in the store, as it was this afternoon while Mrs. C was out to lunch. I make attempts to shelve and can usually get most of the fiction done, but as soon as I gather a stack of books on tape to shelve in the computer hall, or a stack of non-fiction to carry upstairs, either the door opens and an especially needy patron walks through or the phone rings with one calling to ask if Mrs. C is in or what time we frickin' close. It never fails to go down like that.

Today also brought something of a compliment. One of my favorite patrons came in and told me that he really loved Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, which I'd recommended to him a while back. He wanted to know what else I recommended. Naturally, my mind went completely blank and I had no idea what to give him. I finally sent him away with Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, both of whom are authors who I think would really enjoy Life of Pi.

I do realize that the above logic makes no sense, but I'm stuck with it.

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