Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hey, kid, isn't that attitude a little big for you?

I came in last Wednesday to find the library eat up with kids. It wasn’t even a summer reading program day, so I had no explanation. Soon I was told that this was a sort of class-visit from a local summer day-care program. The kids in this day-care program ranged from probably 6 to 12 years of age. It was a pre-planned event, one which allowed us to take contact information in advance with which we made new library cards for all the listed kids who didn’t already have one.

During the visit, Mrs. A noticed two girls trying to log themselves onto an idle patron computer. When she approached them, one of them was typing in “Heather” as the login name, thinking that was going to work.

Mrs. A related the following conversation to me.

MRS. A: Excuse me, girls. How old are you?

HEATHER: Twelve.

MRS. A: I’m sorry, but we don’t allow children under 13 to use the computers without their parents supervision. It’s library policy.

HEATHER: (Puffing herself up with plenty of attitude) No, but my mom signed a permission slip so I could use them.

MRS. A: The permission slips are to let kids 13 and older use the internet. You’re still 12.

HEATHER: (Getting in Mrs. A’s face—always a great idea) My MOM signed a permission slip!

MRS. A: Your mom does not override library policy.

HEATHER: You can call her and get her permission over the phone.

MRS. A: I’m not going to call her because it doesn’t matter if you have her permission; you’re still 12. Now get up and go back in the other room.

Little Miss Heather-pants was most unhappy about this and walked around wielding her newly blossoming 12-year-old-girl attitude like a 60 pound Claymore sword that she could scarcely yet lift. Her cohort in computer crime, a miss Holly Goheavily, was soon to develop into a troublesome pest as well.

When it came time to check out books, Holly Goheavily didn’t have her library card. We hadn't made her one because she already had a patron account with us in the system and her mother was in possession of the actual card. Holly was annoyed that she couldn’t check anything out and tried to argue with Mrs. C that she should be given a brand new card. Mrs. C explained that we wouldn’t be doing that, as she already had an existing card.

“But my brother already has a card and you just gave him a new one!” Holly countered. Sure enough, Holly’s little brother Bratt had just been given a new card, but this was because he DID NOT have one already listed in our database. Holly could not be reasoned with on this point and kept repeating that he already had one because her mom got cards for all of them at the same time.

“Well, he only has one card now and that’s the one we just gave him.”

Holly left angry.

After the class had departed, Mrs. A and C fled the building, leaving me and Mrs. B to run the place. Half an hour or so later, Holly Goheavily and Bratt Goheavily returned, accompanied by Mom Goheavily. Mom marched up to the desk and slapped down two library cards, both of which had Bratt Goheavily’s name on them and slid them toward me.

“How come my son has two cards but my daughter can’t have two?” she said. “This is the one he got today and this one I got months ago.”

I picked up our barcode scanner and zapped the indicated older card. A little window popped up on my screen indicating that this barcode number had no patron record associated with it.

“This one’s not an active card, Ma’am,” I said. “We did double check that your son didn’t have an existing card before we issued the new one and there wasn’t one in the system. Clearly he had one at one time, since we gave you this card, but I can’t say how the account for it disappeared.”

This seemed to satisfy her on that point. I took the dead card from her and threw it away.

After looking around a while, Mom Goheavily returned to the desk with a book from the children’s room's Young Adult section.

“Is there any way to tell what age group these books are for?” she asked.

“Well, sometimes they have a suggested age group printed on the back or on the inside cover,” Mrs. B said. They turned the book at several angles, but there didn’t seem to be an age guide on it.

“It’s just that some of those books in there are filthy,” Mom Goheavily said. “The language and the… the, well, I don’t want my daughter reading them.”

Mrs. B held the book up to show the spine-label on it.

“Ma’am, this is a Young Adult book. If you don’t want your daughter reading young adult material, you might want to tell her to stay away from it.” Mrs. B pointed into the children’s room, where Holly Goheavily was nose deep in the YA section. Mom Goheavily then proceeded to completely freak out on Holly, ordering her to put that book she had down right then and not to take any more from that section. Holly, for her part, tried to bring out her own 60 pound attitude sword, but couldn’t get much lift against such a forceful attitude as her mother’s.

When it came time to check out, Mom Goheavily asked for a parental permission form for her daughter to use the internet. We gave it to her and she filled it out while I checked out more books for Bratt. I was dubious about Holly’s age, though. Mrs. A had not said she was 12 in her earlier story, but I gathered that she likely was. With mom standing right there, though, I figured if I put the question to her she would have to tell the truth.

“And are you 12 or 13?” I asked.

“I’m 13,” Holly said.

“She’s 13,” Mom said at the same time.

“No she’s not,” Bratt said.

“Shhhh!!” Mom said, giving Bratt the look of death. Then, in a low whisper, like I couldn’t hear her clearly from a mere two and a half feet away, she said, “She’s thirteen! She’ll be thirteen in less than a month.”

Yes, that’s the lesson all parents should be teaching their kids: how to lie to get what you want.

We might have let Holly slide on this technicality had she and her mother not perpetrated such deception. Unfortunately for her, the entire staff now knows her true age and her birthday's been circled on her permission form. If she wants to use a computer within the next month, she'll be playing a lot of Mag!c School Bus and Barn3y games, but no internet.

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.