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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #65


*RING*

ME: Tri-Metro Public Library?

MAN ON PHONE: Yeah, I need to renew my books.

ME: Okay. Can I have your library card number, please?

MAN ON PHONE: (Pause, followed by a slight sigh of frustration) Well, this is a whoppin' big number. Where do I start?

ME: At the beginning.

MAN ON PHONE: (Long pause) Yeah. Okay. I guess so.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

TUAT on hiatus?

My TUAT story time has been put on hiatus. Much as with Joey's spin-off from Friends, the official reason is ratings. My boss, Mrs. A, found it difficult to justify the cost of keeping two employees on Tuesday nights if we weren't actually going to have any kids show up on a regular basis.

Sure, I had my good weeks, when I'd have up to 6 kids turn up for story time. Those were great weeks. But more often than not, I'd have 1 or less kids show up and that was kind of depressing. Mrs. A was sad to see the program cancelled, but thought we might be better off coming back as a series of specials centered around holidays. At least, for the time being.

My very last TUAT was on Nov 14. One kid showed up for that, too, had a great time and then I had to break the news to his mom that it was the final show. Mrs. C told me to put up a sign letting people know the program was no more, but I never got around to it. Most of the kids who turn up for story time don't often visit the library regularly otherwise, so it wasn't really going to do much good for them. Also, because I had the shortsightedness not to take contact information from the parents of the few regulars, and because I don't generally know their names, I didn't know how to get in contact with them otherwise. I didn't really think of this fact, either, because I've essentially been gone from the "liberry" since the Thursday before Thanksgiving.

Last night, around 6:38, the door opened and Good Alan and three friends came running in, his mom right behind him. Good Alan saw me at the desk and happily exclaimed, "All right, it hasn't started yet!"

"Er, uh, actually, I've got some bad news," I said. "I'm afraid I've been cancelled."

Good Alan's mom was shocked and seemed very sad about it. She asked me why this was the case and I tried to explain the whole ratings issue in terms that didn't cast blame on her for not bringing Good Alan every single week. (Frankly, Good Alan's mom is the best mom of any of the regulars because she frequenly brought more than just her kid and was constantly inviting her friends and their kids. One person can only do so much P.R., though.) She asked if this was a decision by the "liberry" board, but I said it was a simple matter of economics.

As for the kids, they didn't seem too put out about it. They were happy enough when Good Alan's mom took them in the children's room and read them a story or two herself. On their way out, Good Alan's mom stopped back by the desk and told me that it just wasn't the same without me reading. She said again that she was very sorry to hear of the cancellation and that she and Good Alan really enjoyed my program. As she spoke, her eyes began to blink rapidly and looked very wet. She seemed very much about to cry, which made me feel horrible and honored at the same time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The trip home

On our way back, we passed through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, and stopped for the night near Louisville. We stayed at a Red Carpet Inn of the sort that's just this shy of scary, but you can tell that it was probably very scary not long ago before they refurbished the whole place with new stuff. It wasn't ideal, but it was cheap. That night we dined on ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery and watched The Fountain. (My review: it was a beautiful, strange film that I was completely enthralled with until the very last scene, at which point there was an ending that was not nearly as satisfying as I'd hoped it would be. This was the same feeling I had after seeing 12 Monkeys. Still, like 12 Monkeys, it's one of those movies that sticks in your brain and I've since come to terms with it a bit more, even if it didn't end ideally.)

The next morning, Ash wanted to look for bead stores. There was no phone book in the room, so I walked across the parking lot to the little lobby building and asked the lady at the desk if she had one.

"No, we can't keep them in the building," she said. "They just walk off."

While I was there, I stepped into the next room of the building and picked up some complimentary coffee and doughnuts and returned to our room. Around two minutes later, there was a loud screeching of tires and I saw a maroonish SUV speeding out of the parking lot. I wondered briefly if it had just been stolen. Later, when we went to check out, the lobby door was locked and the lady inside waved us over to an after hours window made of thick glass.

"I'm sorry," she said in unexcited even tones. "We've just had an altercation here and I can't let you in." In other words, they'd just been robbed, most likely by the people who sped off two minutes after I'd returned. Had I been two minutes later going for a phone book, I might have been caught in the middle of an armed robbery.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Little Known Facts about Missouri

We're back from our Thanksgiving roadtrip, a little heavier than when we began it. For the most part, things went well--turkey was eaten, naps were taken, small children entertained, pink eye was defeated, arguments argued (though only small ones), small angry dogs were infuriated and I was only sick for a day of it, having picked up a cold on Monday that by Thursday became a raging nose-clogger. Zicam is wonderful stuff, though, so the ill effects lasted only a short time. (By the way, I recommend taking Zicam but only in melt-on-your-tongue-pill form. The nasal gel is just evil evil stuff that causes your synuses to burn horribly and your voice apt to whine.) It was great visiting with family, some of whom I haven't seen for a couple of years now.

During our trip, we observed a few things that we'd not noticed before about Missouri.

For instance, did you know that Missouri not only had enough money in its highway repair coffers to fix all the massive potholes along the section of I-55 that I complained about two years ago, but they also had enough left to plant a nice shiny mile marker at every 1/10 of a mile? That's right, whereas most interstate highways have mile markers placed at a rate of, y'know, one per mile, Missouri I-55 has ten of them per mile. My best guess is that this was to help the towtrucks locate all those drivers who'd lost their front axles after plowing into a pothole at 80 mph, a couple years back, but I don't really know the real reason. It still seems excessive, not to mention taxpayer-money-sapping.

Also, did you know that it's apparently illegal for people in Missouri to be nonsmokers? Yep, pretty much every person in the state smokes a couple packs a day on either a first or secondhand basis. It's worse than North Carolina. Now, granted, I'm a nonsmoker, though not really an obnoxious militant one, yet. And I'm also probably spoiled because I live in a community where smoking inside of buildings within the city limits has been banned in nearly all cases except for private residences; so I can go for weeks at a time without smelling cigarette smoke. Even so, I never really thought about how nice it is to live in that sort of atmophere until heading to Missouri, where non-smokers in restaurants are clearly in the minority. We went out to breakfast with my parents every day we were there and without fail the smoker to nonsmoker ratio was wildly skewed toward the smokers. We even began taking bets on the number of people smoking we'd find in any given establishment and we always underestimated. By the time we left the state, we and our clothes smelled pretty much like the impacted anal glands of a cigarette butt and we were quite unhappy about it.

Also, did you know that in Missouri, they don't stuff the turkey with dressing at Thanksgiving, but instead use a mixture of raw cotton and crystal meth? Okay, well, our family doesn't, but I'm pretty sure there's some of that going on around there. Probably some cigarettes in there too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Outta here

Since I'm not at the "liberry" at all this week, due to a variety of things, not the least of which is our Thanksgiving sojourn to Missouri, I'm taking the week off.

See ya back here on Nov 27.

And Happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Year Three in the Can

Today is the third anniversary of the beginning of this blog.

Whoo, and might I add, hoo.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crab's Complaint

I was working the desk during story hour, today, when Mr. Crab, third grumpiest old man in all the world, habitual forgetter of his "liberry" card, and a man quite unafraid to mention that he's a $200 annual "liberry" donor, scuttled in.

I was glad he visited during story hour, because it meant Mrs. B and Mrs. C were otherwise engaged. So when Mr. Crab came to the desk with books to check out and then didn't have his "liberry" card, he would have to deal with me. Last time, and despite all good sense otherwise, Mrs. B let him get away with checking the books out on her card. This would not be happening on my watch. I imagined he'd wail and gnash and threaten to withhold his $200 annual donation from us, as usual, but it would do him no good. I would quote "liberry" consortium policy to him, shrug my shoulders in mock sympathy and then offer to hold his books at the desk until such a time as he could remember to bring his library card when setting out to come to the library.

While waiting for him to do this, there was a sudden rush on our computers, causing me to dash to and from the circ desk to sign people on and boot other people off. Soon enough, I saw Mr. Crab scuttling toward the desk to check out, but I was already in mid-dash and decided he could wait a whole 30 seconds until I returned. On my way out of the room, I spied Kanji the Kid coming in the front door.

When, at last, I returned to the circ desk both Kanji and Mr. Crab were waiting there. Kanji was standing nearest our computer sign in sheet, so I told him it would be a while before we had a computer, as they were all quite full.

"Actually, I don't need a computer. I need to renew some books I have out," Kanji said. He nodded toward the circulation desk computer, as though I should fire it right up.

"Do you have your library card?" I asked.

"No."

Ah ha, I thought. Just the situation Mr. Crab was waiting for. Would I treat anyone else differently than him? In this test, though, I would deny Kanji any such service, right in Mr. Crab's face, so he would know what he had coming to him before he tried to pull the same trick.

"That's why I called home and got my number," Kanji finished. He passed me a little yellow slip of paper with his card number written out.

"Ah. Very good, then," I said. I typed in his number, renewed his books and Kanji happily lumbered out of the building.

When I looked up at Mr. Crab, I expected to find him pre-surly for my convenience. But he just slid his books at me and then passed me his "liberry" card without a fight, or even his usual lengthy search of his overstuffed wallet, or his usual threats to withhold donations should he not find it and then be denied service. As I began checking his books out, our desk-side surl-o-meter began to ping.

"Rude!" Mr. Crab griped. "That young man was rude, shoving his way to the desk, like that, ahead of other people. Rude." He then gave me an expectant look, as though waiting for me to agree with him or otherwise give him a fight. I started to explain that Kanji didn't mean to be rude; he just has Aspergers. Then I decided that Mr. Crab wasn't owed any explanation, so I just shrugged. Mr. Crab took his books and made for the door, nearly plowing into a lady patron in his haste to exit.

"He's one to talk about rude," the patron said after Mr. Crab had left. "He nearly ran over me and didn't even say `excuse me.'"

I started to explain that Mr. Crab didn't mean to be rude; he's just an asshole. But I decided against it, so I just shrugged.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #64

*RING*

ME— (Answers Phone) Tri-Metro County Library.

MAN ON PHONE— Yes, in the book Gone with the Wind, does Scarlett actually say the phrase, "As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again"?

ME— Couldn't tell you. I might be able to do some research on this and get back to you, but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. I've never read the book.

MAN ON PHONE— (Incredulous of tone) You haven't read the book?

ME— Nope.

MAN ON PHONE— What kind of library are... Who is this? (This last part was said in the tone of someone who wants very much to know the name of the one man on earth who hasn't read Gone with the Wind.)

ME— JUICE.

MAN ON PHONE— JUICE? Do you have a last name?

ME— AARON. (Though, in reality, I said my real last name, which, when pronounced properly, frankly sounds kind of like a sneeze.)

MAN ON PHONE— Come again?

ME— AARON.

MAN ON PHONE— Oh my. (Long Pause) Well, I guess I won't bother you anymore then. (Hangs up before I can further offer assistance)

ME— (Looking around at my three coworkers and two sundry patrons who heard my half of the conversation) That was the strangest phone call I've received this month.

After relating the full call to them, the ladies immediately dove into this reference question with gusto and in under two minutes had produced the answer of Chapter 25. If only the man had left a number before hanging up.

So, no, as God is my witness, and despite the fact that I'm a southerner, I haven't read Gone with the EFFing Wind, nor have I seen the film, nor do I have any major plans to do either.  Ever.

It's not that I think they're bad, or anything. In fact, I hear they're both quite good, (though Mrs. A is of the opinion that while Scarlett in the book is a strong, likeable female protagonist, her film counterpart is a spoiled, whiny bitch). Consuming either of these versions is just ridiculously low on my priorities of things to experience in life. They're classified somewhere above "eating a mouthful of sand, again," but still well below "getting to meet that girl who played Annika in the Pippi Longstocking movie, who I had a crush on when I was a kid."

(Sorry, but some of these priorities were set for me roundabout 1979. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Coot

The Coot has been in the Benign Irritants column of our Rogues Gallery for a while now, but I've not had much to say about him because he's not been much of a hassle to me personally. Well, until this week.

As far as patrons go, the Coot is actually pretty ideal in most respects. He visits the "liberry" frequently and stays for several hours at a stretch, either reading books or periodicals. He doesn't hound us for computers, nor does he seem to have any use for them at all. He keeps to himself. And while he rarely checks anything out, thereby keeping our circulation numbers slightly lower than he might, he is a user of the library in its best sense.

Of course, not all is rosy with the Coot. He has, on occasion, complained in bitter tones to our staff about a lack of certain nonfiction titles on our shelves that he wants to read. (We've offered to ILL them and he has sometimes taken us up on the offer.) The Coot has also disingratiated himself to Mrs. A in particular by being a less than quiet patron.

See, Mrs. A's office is located beside our periodicals area, at which there are two semi-comfy chairs and a small table. This is where the Coot likes to nest, piling the tiny table high with periodicals and books that he peruses throughout his visiting hours. While he's perusing, though, the Coot is known to make many strange noises. Sometimes these noises take the form of the usual coughing and sneezing and snorting. More often, though, they manifest as loud and painful sounding moans, groans and wails. Sometimes, he sings. We don't know if the Coot is in actual pain, though we suppose it's possible. Our theory about his noises has evolved somewhat. Originally we thought he was in pain. Then we thought he might have some form of tourettes. Now, though, we are starting to suspect that the Coot moans and wails as editorial comment against the frequent phone calls Mrs. A receives throughout the day disturbing his reading time. Whatever the case, the noise he makes drives Mrs. A nuts and she's frequenly fled our office to get away from it. And sometimes, her noise seems to drive him further into our nonfiction room, where he relocates his nest to a different semi-comfy chair.

None of this affects me, so I don't really care if he emits the odd wail now and then. What does affect me is his seeming inability to put our periodicals back where he found them.

One of my duties as "liberry" ass. is to process and catalog the periodicals. When they arrive, I enter them into the system, put barcodes on the ones that need them, stamp REFERENCE ONLY on the ones that don't and haul `em all upstairs to stick in the magazine display shelf. Each magazine has its proper place on the shelf, clearly labeled for all to see. The Coot cares not for labels. If he actually manages to put a magazine back on the shelf at all—which is rare, because most of the time he just leaves them wherever he happens to be nesting when he's finished reading them—he refuses to put it back in its proper place. He just wedges it on in wherever his hand happens to fall and walks away. Granted, he's not the only patron who does this. (In fact, evidence suggests that most periodical reading patrons do this, but then again I wouldn't notice when a patron has put a magazine back properly, precisely because it would be put back properly.) However, the Coot is the most flagrant disregarder of our magazine labeling system.

At closing time on Monday, after a day of fending off book-shoving brats, I went upstairs and found our magazine rack in the most utter state of disarray I'd ever seen. Someone, the Coot, I'm guessing, as he'd been right there reading magazines all day, had relocated nearly every magazine we have on display to what I can only describe as its OPPOSITE location on the display shelf. Seventeen was shelved under U.S. News & World Report, Time under Organic Gardening, Rolling Stone under Mother Earth News, Atlantic Monthly under FamilyFun and Parenting was shelved under High Times. (Okay, I am kidding about that last one. It was really shelved as Teen People.)

I don't know for sure that the Coot was responsible. It could have been that book-shoving brat's revenge for busting him shoving books. But it seems like it could have been the Coot at play. I wonder what sort of editorial comment he was trying to make this time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday the 13th

My once a month Monday solo shift, today, wasn't nearly as traumatic as Mondays typically can be. There was really only one moment during the whole day when the chaos threatened to overwhelm. However, from the state of our shelves when I arrived, the "liberry" appeared to have been locked in the throes of chaos all weekend long. Considering that Ms. S had been the weekend warrior riding the desk, this was probably true. Several partial shelves of books had fallen over, sans bookends. Other shelves had their books shoved back from the front edge of the shelf, the victims of one of our industrious book-shoving child patrons. Such children irritate the bejezus out of me.

Don't get me wrong: I do understand that "liberry" logic and little kid logic don't have much common ground. In "liberry" world, whenever possible, books must all line up neatly with the front edge of the shelf so that they are pleasing and uniform to the eye. In little kid world, books must be shoved all the way to the wall, because there's all that empty space back there and it's somehow satisfying to shove `em back into it. And keep shoving them back into it, until they've gone around an entire room. (Oddly, most book-shovey kids only shove books back on one shelf level, usually the arm-height middle level, leaving the lower and upper levels alone, regardless of whether or not they can reach them. I don't know if this is by design, or if it just doesn't occur to them that all the other shelves have books with space behind them too.)

What's even more irritating about the book-shovers is that it's difficult to catch them at it. Usually their work is only discovered long after they've left the building. So you can imagine my great joy today—after having spent a lot of time pulling all the weekend's shoved books back out to the front edge and righting and bookending their fallen comrades, not to mention swearing under my breath at the kind of terrible things that would make Dick Cheney blush that I was going to do to whatever brat was unfortunate enough to let me catch him shoving books—when I looked over the edge of the circ-desk to spy a newly arrived kid shoving a whole row of mysteries back with wild abandon.

"PLEASE, don't shove those books back, please," I said. I added the second please because kid's mom was standing right there and the first please was uttered in a rather harsh and possibly bloodthirsty tone.

The shover whipped around, mid-shove, with a gratifyingly frightened and guilty expression on his face. This was no tiny kid who could claim innocence, either. This was an 11-year-old who clearly knew better. His mom, like a doe sensing a whiff of trouble in the air, looked up, too. I then added, "We like to keep the books pulled out to the front of the shelf."

The two of them set about pulling the books back out, but, having not been trained in the proper method for doing this, they did it pretty half-assedly.

The subject of patrons doing basically harmless things in libraries that they are clearly not meant to do and also know better than to do is not a new one. In addition to our book-shoving brat, we were also visited today by another purveyor of "liberry" irritation: The Coot.

(TO BE CONTINUED...)