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, January 18, 2005

You want a diagram of WHAT?

After hearing repeated suggestions from me that Mondays at the library should always be a tag-team affair, the powers that be have listened and instituted a new double-employee Monday schedule, with me and Mrs. C riding herd over the Monday Madness.  Yesterday was the first of these.

The shift went pretty well. It wasn't at all as chaotic as Mondays usually are, but then again most of our patrons told us that they'd driven down fully expecting to find us closed for MLK Day. (Our board of directors doesn't give us MLK off, but does give us West Virginia Day and President's Day. Racist bastards. (I joke! I joke! I kid, because I love! ))

Things were a little slower than usual. And despite nearly every patron reminding us what holiday it was, when Mrs. C handed me two twenties and told me to go down to the bank to get change, I still went. Like a moron, I bundled up and walked down the street in the 20 degree weather, the very snot freezing in my nose, only to turn the corner and find the bank closed. Oops.

Other than that, we were attacked by a small hoard of ten-year-olds doing research papers on animals, all of which were due the following day. One mom & son team huddled up at one of our patron computers to work on his, with mom doing all the typing. At first I thought she was writing the paper for him, but upon closer inspection found that she was merely taking dictation as read to her from his hand-written report. (Good going, Mom!) Unfortunately, after they'd printed, they made the mistake of leaving the report within eyeshot of me and my inner copy-editor couldn't resist having a gander. I found some its/it's possessive/contraction issues, which I pointed out to them before realizing that doing so revealed me for the snoop I am. They didn't seem to mind, at least not to my face. I don't think they reprinted either, though.

The other major report-writing-kid incident came when a different little boy asked to use a computer to find pictures of orangutans for his report. He was in solo, though, so I had to card him.

"Do you have a parental permission slip on file?" I asked.

Turns out he did not, but those are really only for internet usage, and I figured there would be plenty of printable pictures within our encyclopedia program in the computer's Kiddie Mode. I fired up the Children’s Room computer, loaded the encyclopedia and found him a snazzy picture of a couple of orangutans that he liked a lot.

“Now before I print this, I need to let you know that we do charge 10 cents per page.”

“That’s okay. I brought money,” kid said. (Good going, kid!) Then he said something that I completely didn’t know how to deal with. “I also need to have a detailed diagram of how orangutans reproduce.”

This is where I did one of those patented Scooby Doo "HrruuuuhhHH?!" exclamations of disbelief and confusion.

"You need... A DIAGRAM... of how orangutans... reproduce?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Hmm. Well. Uh. Er," I said. "Let me go check on how your picture printed and I'll see if MRS. C can help you." I then ran away like a colossal chicken.

"This kid says he needs a diagram of how orangutans reproduce," I told Mrs. C, once I'd tracked her down.

"He wants what?!"

I repeated it, adding, "I can't imagine being assigned such a task at his age."

We're still not precisely sure what his teacher wanted, but to us "A Diagram of how Orangutans Reproduce" was equivalent to "A Sketch of Two Apes Doing the Nasty / Insert Tab A into Slot B" sort of thing. Anything similar to that showing up in a 5th grade classroom would produce such a tumult of laughter that the kid would either be scarred for life or instantly promoted to class clown. Surely, oh surely, his teacher had not intended that!

Mrs. C went back and talked to the kid indepth about what his assignment actually was. She then led him to some of our printed encyclopedias where she found descriptive material on orangutan reproduction cycles and behavior plus several more pictures that the kid seemed to be happy with. She photocopied the pages he needed and only charged him 10 cents per photocopy instead of our usual 25 cents per.

Better her than me.

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