Tuesday, February 15, 2005

As in accordance with tradition

The past few Mondays have been fairly tame as far as Mondays go. The traffic has seemed lighter than usual, but then even the heavy traffic and phones have not been as bad since both Mrs. C and I have been working the desk. I can still tell when things would be unbearable were I there solo, but it's been far easier with another person there.

Yesterday, however, Mrs. C and Mrs. A were both out of town at meetings, so I really was running solo. Well, I say solo, but Lennie had come in for his Monday shift, so he was there to help load the book cart. Otherwise, it was just me staring in the face of one of the most irritating Mondays in recent memory.

Starting at about 1:10, the patrons began pouring in. And not just regular patrons, but needy patrons.
Our first two patrons through the door needed a beginner's guide to Buddhism. No big deal, except they didn't want the closest thing we had to one and stood there trying to make suggestions to me for other searches. One of them also seemed to think that we had a book on hold for her, though she admitted that we had not actually called her about it. She just assumed it would be there. It wasn't, but I still had to look around for a minute to make sure. The other lady needed a library card, even though she wasn't going to check out the Buddhism book we have after all. Again, no problem, but she couldn't decide whether she wanted a key card or a wallet card and kept saying things like, "Well, I'll take the key card for now" as though we're real keen on people switching down the road. Her friend kept trying to explain that she needed to choose the kind she really wanted NOW. Meanwhile, four other equally needy patrons had piled up behind them as their time at the desk stretched on into the five minute range.

After they left, and I was at last able to start dealing with the other patrons in line, the phone began ringing.

The first call was from Town-M's librarian, Mr. T, who phoned to tell us that he wanted to send us a few ILL books that some pitiful foolish patrons of ours had requested, but somehow our library's patron record had vanished from the database. I looked. It was indeed missing. He noted that several of his patrons' records had vanished over the weekend too, so perhaps we'd done so as well. I tried to explain to Mr. T that I couldn't do a whole lot about this as both librarians are out of town and I have no way to contact them nor any idea who to call about this sort of thing. The most I could do is make a new card for the library so he could check things out to it.

I located books for the next two patrons in line, but both of them needed library cards and more patrons were filing in behind them and the phone rang.


This call was, of course, from Mr. Kreskin, who'd called to talk to Mrs. A who is rarely at the library on most Mondays, let alone on this Monday when she’d announced to one and all she and Mrs. C would be out of town.  Hence his call.  Fortunately, he didn't get upset that both she and Mrs. C were gone. He just said he'd call back tomorrow.

A lady patron in line came up and said, "I was just down at H&R Block and they said you'd do my taxes."

"No, ma'am," I said, rather emphatically. "We do NOT do that here."

She looked shocked and offended at this. But I told her that I'd heard, though could not swear to be true, that Town-C's library has someone that helps with taxes by appointment. She seemed distraught over this, but mostly because she didn't know where Town-C's library was. I told her and sent her on her way.


It was from Mrs. H over at Town-D's library. She had a patron who was looking for books on New Jersey and she wanted to send them over to check out the two we owned but she had no way of knowing for sure that those books were actually on the shelf despite the fact that the catalog claimed they were both available. Could I go check?

"I might be able to check in a while," I said, "but right now it's Monday." Mrs. H said she understood and they were pretty swamped too.

Then Mrs. C phoned. She needed me to fire up her new computer and activate the remote access program so one of the tech guys could load programs on it. I groaned at this, staring at a sea of impatient looking patrons. "I'll try to get over there and do it in the next few minutes. I'm eat up here at the moment." Once I was able to get to it, I had to keep going back and doing it over again because her screensaver kept kicking them out.

After about an hour things began to calm down and then turned into intermittent bursts of chaos throughout the afternoon and on past closing. It took me more than an hour to get the book return cleaned out and all the books from it shelved. Every time I would try to check any in or put any on the shelf, the phone would ring and I'd have to stop.

Finally, it was nearly closing time.  And that's when the real rush began.

After damn near a decade and a half of closing at 5p on Mondays, many of our patrons have finally realized that this is when we close.  However, this doesn't keep them from coming to the library at the crack of 5p by any means. No. Patrons now view the 5 p.m. deadline as the time by which they need to be through the library's door. And once they've rushed across town and passed through it, they become quite leisurely in their book searching activity.  Such as the mom and her three kids, who came in and began slowly browsing the children's room at 4:55.  At 2 minutes til close, I let them know that, while I wasn't trying to rush them (liar!), we were closing in a couple of minutes. Didn't phase `em one bit. They leafed and looked until well past 5 p.m. and finally came to check out at nearly 5 minutes after 5.

"The name's Holland," the mom said. This told me that mom didn't have a new library card and had not been in since before the summer and was assuming we could still look up her record by her name. I asked her name and confirmed that we didn't have a card for her. I offered to make her a new card and she even began filling out an application before deciding she really didn't want the hassle.

"Well, the kids are probably in there," she said with a dismissive wave toward the computer. "The name's Holland."

"Did you bring your cards?" I asked the kids. Nope, they hadn't.

"So you're trying to say we can't have any books today?" mom said, adopting just a little more attitude than I appreciated.

"No, ma'am. You can still have books, but it will need to be on your new card."

Mom sighed and finished filling it out. By the time I'd finished checking them out it was nearly 13 minutes after closing.

So, yes, it was another traditional infuriating Monday. I did not allow it to infuriate me, however, for I was still living off the glow of the great news my wife and I received regarding where we're going to be spending the next three years of our lives.

(To be continued...)

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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.