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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #4

ME: Can I help you?

PATRON: Where do you keep your paper system?

ME: Our paper system?

PATRON: Yeah.

ME: (Thinks for a moment, not understanding the question. Decides to repeat question again.) Our PAPER system?

PATRON: (Growing frustrated.) Yeah. The place where you file away and store papers?

ME: (Ponders for a while more, thinking this guy might somehow mean FILING CABINET or CARD CATALOG, then discarding both of those options as they don't make a lick of sense.) Uhmm... Huh?

PATRON: Your PAPER system?

ME: (Stares stupidly at patron some more. Suddenly a thought occurs... ) Wait a second. Did you mean NEWS-papers?

PATRON: Yeah. Sorry. Newspapers.

ME: Ah. I see.

PATRON: So where is it?

ME: Don't have one.

PATRON: You don't have one?

ME: Well, we do keep the past month or so worth of newspapers at the top of the stairs.

PATRON: You mean those piles?

ME: Yeah, that's them. But, we don't have any kind or archive or microfiche or anything. Sorry.

PATRON WANDERS AWAY IN AMAZEMENT.

This is such a fairly frequent occurrence that I should have known right away what the guy wanted. Newspapers are just one of the many things we don't keep on hand here, much to the chagrin of those who think that all "real" libraries should. When confronted with this notion, we point out that most "real" libraries have either the space necessary to keep newspaper archives or a microfiche system, which would also require a bit of space that we don't have.

The next question out of their mouths is, "Do you know of anyone who does keep a newspaper archive?" to which our answer is always, "Have you tried asking the newspaper?"

We're pretty sure they don't keep one either, being as how the paper is usually pretty worthless in most other regards. It's always fun to say this though. The only other option is to consult the crazy old-lady newspaper hoarding population in town, but they don't exactly list themselves in the phone book.

A similarly fun conversation along the same lines is:

PATRON: Do you have old high school yearbooks?

US: No, we don't.

PATRON: Do you know who might have some?

US: Sure. Have you tried asking THE HIGH SCHOOL?

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