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.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Patrons must follow the rules, unless they just don't want to.

My earlier assessment that we'd only had a few complaints from parents concerning their inability to sign up for summer reading during the allotted week proved woefully inaccurate. Also inaccurate was my earlier guestimate that we would be having upwards of 80 children participating. Turns out it's more like 200 when you combine our two age-group days, (170 for the 6-13 year olds and 30 or so for the under 6 crowd). Thems a lotta kids.

Having so many kids participating is a major reason behind the cut-off on signing up for the program. If we let parents sign up late, we'd have 250 kids instead of just 200, and let me tell you that 200 is going to be utter chaos to deal with--particularly if any of the children from last year return, some of whom run directly into traffic whenever a back is turned. Granted, not all 200 will show up every week, but there will be plenty who do.

So throughout last week we were hassled by parents who were torqued off that they'd missed the sign up deadline. There were a wide and detailed bunch of reasons for this, which we know because each complaining parent felt it necessary to read us their dayplanner for the last month in order to justify why they should be allowed to break the rules and sign their kid up late.

The mantra we've repeatedly heard is, "But I have an excuse."

"Everyone has an excuse," we say. Whether the excuse is valid or not makes no difference to us. The fact still remains, they didn't sign their kid up during the ample time provided, nor did they have a friend come in and sign their kid up for them, so they're SOL. Hell, we would have signed them up ourselves if they had only asked.

"But I was in Los Angeles," they say, as though that changes something.
Or, "I was sick and couldn't get out."
Or, "We were on vacation."

Or, despite the fact that we ran two newspaper columns about signing up, plus about 5 school visits with flyers sent home about it, not to mention the huge frickin' sign that was staked out in front of the liberry for three days before the mayor threatened to make us take it down, "You didn't advertise it well enough."

Yeah, well you didn't call to find out details well enough, lady.

The library assistants like myself actually find it kind of fun to deal with these folks because we have no power to grant their wishes in the first place. They can rant on for half an hour if they want, but when they're done we still can't do a anything about it. We explain that we're not in positions of authority and that they must therefore speak to the Great and Powerful Librarians (who've been curiously scarce this week). We also tell them that the Great and Powerful Librarians won't be any more helpful in this regard, but they're welcome to try.

There is one kid, whose mom failed to sign up, that I actually regret won't be coming. He's an Indian boy named Vishna. He and I had a rapport last year in that I could never remember his full name and he liked to rag me about it. By the fourth week into the program, I finally had it down and then got to rag him that he didn't remember my name. I was all ready to rag him again this year, since I too the precaution of looking up his name in advance and have memorized it. Alas, his mom was out of town during sign up week, so he's not in the program.

It's not as though any of these parents are completely out of luck for summer reading. We tell all late-comers that they're welcome to sign up for summer reading programs at Town-C and Town-D's libraries, which are still open through late in the month. They don't like this though. Probably because it means having to drive 15 minutes instead of 5, which cuts into their THE KIDS ARE OUT OF THE FRICKIN' HOUSE FOR A WHOLE HOUR AND A HALF time.

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