Friday, January 19, 2007

The Jungle Boogie (a.k.a. "Stop, thief, or we'll call your neighbors and have them ask you to stop.")

While I was out, we had a bit of very slow excitement at the "liberry." The Alphabet Squad of A, B & C told me about it today, since they all played a part in it.

Mrs. A began by saying that on Wednesday a fellow stepped into Mrs. A's office upstairs and asked if we had The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. This is a bit unorthodox to begin with, as having patrons step into her office to ask reference questions isn't a typical occurence for Mrs. A. However, she is a librarian and helping patrons comes with the territory, so she fired up the OPAC on her computer to make certain of the floor on which the book was located and then told the fellow that if he were to go to the circ desk in our fiction room downstairs, someone there would direct him to the book.

At this point, Mrs. B chimed in saying that the fellow did come downstairs and asked for direction to The Jungle. She led dude to the shelf, pulled the book for him and passed it to him. He thanked her and returned to the children's room, where a lady Mrs. B assumed was his wife and a kid Mrs. B assumed was his kid, were at.

Mrs. C then joined the narrative saying that after a while the dude, lady and kid wrapped up their browsing, rounded the corner of the children's room, bypassed the circ desk entirely and walked out the front door. Mrs. C and Mrs. B looked at one another, thinking it was odd that dude had left without checking his book out and wondered whether he'd actually taken it with him. They quickly checked the book cart and the kids room, but didn't see The Jungle anywhere. So Mrs. C ran outside where she found the group getting into their car. Not knowing quite how to approach the subject, Mrs. C asked the man if he needed to check out The Jungle after all. He said, no, he didn't. Mrs. C then pointed out that she had not found it on the book cart and was trying to make sure he hadn't simply forgotten to check it out. Oh no, he said. He'd laid it down in the children's room. Taking him at his word, Mrs. C went back inside.

There followed a lengthy and exhaustive search of the entire library for The Jungle, enlisting the aid of all available library employees. Carts were checked. The tops of shelved books were checked. The actual spot in the General Fiction S's where the book normally lives was checked. The book remained unfound.

The Alphabet Squad considered this. The man had clearly stolen the book, but what could be done about it? He didn't have a library card, so there was no contact information for him. Then someone remembered that the woman the man had left with, presumably his wife, had applied for and received a library card during their visit, though she had not actually used it. So Mrs. A phoned her up at the number on her application, reached her and asked to speak to her husband. The lady explained that the man who'd been in with her wasn't her husband but was, instead, a neighbor she'd given a lift to. This being the case, Mrs. A explained the situation and her thoughts about the book and its likely status as being borrowed outside proper channels. Hearing the dilema, the lady offered to go next door and ask her neighbor if he had the book and phone Mrs. A back. And, after a while, she called back and told Mrs. A that her neighbor still insisted not to have the book and that he'd laid it down in the children's room.

More searching commenced. No book was found. Hours passed.

At some point in the afternoon, Mrs. A and Mrs. C were standing at the circ desk when the man from earlier returned. He didn't approach the circ-desk, but instead hugged the far wall, making his way to the children's room. Mrs. A and C looked at one another then made a break for the kids' room themselves. As they rounded the corner, they found the man stooped over, trying desperately to cram our copy of The Jungle into one of the Easy Reader shelves. Unfortunately for him, the shelf was so tightly packed with books that he couldn't open enough space to fit it. Catching sight of A and C, he quickly threw The Jungle on top of the books on that shelf and nervously stood up.

"See. I laid it down in here," he offered, pointing to it for them.

Mrs. A didn't elaborate on any consequences to the man, so I imagine they just let him go. Maybe he was addled about the head. The question arises, though, that if he'd had to get a lift from his neighbor to come to the library earlier, had he done so again to return the stolen book?

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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.