Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Prestige Departure

Finally saw two very good movies I've been waiting to see, last night. The wife and I did a double feature of The Prestige and The Departed. Of course, most of you know that The Departed won best picture. I think of the other movies nominated for that, I'd only seen Little Miss Sunshine. And while I really liked Sunshine, Departed was the better film for me.

The Prestige, however, was the film I was more jazzed up to see. I read the book it's based on, by Christopher Priest, back around Christmas and was really interested in seeing how they pulled it off. The answer is: they did a very admirable job of it, perhaps even improving on the book by making certain elements of it far far darker.

Because I already knew what was supposed to happen from the book, most of the major plot points were not surprising. However, the film is not an exact adaptation of the book and there are some very significant differences that make the film its own creature. I'm really tempted to go into a play by play comparison of the two works, here, but frankly the less I say about either the better off any of you are who want to see the film or read the book. I'd recommend both.

I will say, on just a superficial non-spoilery level, that it took me a bit to stop being so distracted by the casting of the film. When I read the book, I didn't really know who was in the film because the casting of it kept getting confused with that of The Illusionist for me. So I didn't have any preconceived notions as to which actors were playing the characters. After I'd finished the book and looked up who was starring in the film, I only noted the main actors in it, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman (which I thought was funny, cause you've got Batman costarring with Wolverine). However, not noting which characters they were actually playing, I envisioned that they would be playing opposite characters from the ones they turn out to. Visually and personality wise I'd assumed Bale would have been Angier, as he looked and tends to play parts more like that character in the book looked and acted in my head as I read it. Jackman, in turn, I saw more as Borden. So it took me a bit to get around that. Both men did an excellent job in their parts, though, and by the end I'd forgotten most of my distraction.

And David Bowie and Andy "Gollum" Serkis were also exceptionally good as Nikola Tesla and his assistant Alley.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ahhhh, so that explains a few things!

My boss, Mrs. A, announced that she's going to hold an intensive reference interview training session for everyone on staff. Not that most of us need it. Just some of us. Well, okay, one of us. And, no, not me. It's the usual Suspect.

The other day, Mrs. A found a lady wandering around our upstairs nonfiction room, going from shelf to shelf and looking very lost. Mrs. A asked the lady if she needed help and was told by the lady that she was looking for books about the history of two different local counties and had been told they would be found upstairs. As it turns out, the county histories are actually downstairs in our closed case collection, but that didn't matter so much since the lady hadn't even been given any call numbers to begin with. Just told that she could find the books upstairs in the history section. Nevermind that our history section is the largest section about a given topic in our entire library and sprawls across three different walls. Can you guess the name of the person who sent her upstairs? Why, yes, you are correct in guessing Ms. S.

Mrs. A was naturally unhappy about this turn of events and went down to get Ms. S's side of the story. Surely things could not be as bad as they seemed. No, they were actually worse. She came to find out that Ms. S had no idea that the lady was looking for county histories in the first place. According to Ms. S, she'd been shelving books when the lady came in and asked where she could find histories. Ms. S, rather than going to the OPAC and conducting a reference interview to narrow down the subject to see what precisely the lady was looking for and where precisely on the three walls of history it might be located, didn't even leave her shelving but just told her that history was upstairs and waived a hand in the general area of the ceiling, above which the books were located. (She actually admitted to this, oblivious to the inherent problems.)

Mrs. A explained to her that this was unacceptable and that she should have gone to the OPAC and helped the woman narrow it down, because when it comes to history seekers they're always going to be looking for something specific. And besides that, the books the lady wanted were not upstairs in the first place.

"But I was busy," Ms. S reportedly responded. Yes, that's right: Ms. S, dog turd smeared in thick carpet, carried in on the bottom of the shoes of the very name of good shelvers planetwide that she is, was too busy shelving to help a patron.

"And she has a degree in this," I reminded my coworkers who had gathered to hear Mrs. A's tale.

"Actually, no," Mrs. A said. See, we had been lead to believe that Ms. S had some sort of undergraduate degree in library sciences because she had told us that she'd gone to school for it and had previously worked in a library. However, according to Mrs. A, Ms. S actually has a general studies associate's degree with a library science emphasis. This doesn't actually mean she took any sort of classes about library science. What it means is that she was allowed to intern at a library during her 2 years at school. The particular library she interned with put her on the circ desk where her sole job was to check books in and out. And that was the extent of her training before darkening our door.

"Ahh, so that explains a few things," I said.

"I just can't imagine it," Mrs. A said. "Do you think that if she worked in a restaurant and refused to go over and help a customer because she was busy with something else, they'd let her get away with it?"

I allowed a slight pause.

"Well, she does work in a restaurant," I said. "And I imagine if we went there, we'd see her doing precisely that."

Mrs. A bit her lip. "You're probably right."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Leaving on a Midnight Train to Dumbass

It's been a while since Paranoid Rick James has paid us a visit. And it may yet be a while longer. His absence itself is easily explained in that he checked out a couple of books on tape nearly a year ago and never returned them. In the intervening months, we've had occasion to send him overdue notices about the tapes to which he has chosen to respond by first denying that he still had them, asking us to check our shelves because he knew he had returned them, and then by then denying that he'd ever checked them out in the first place. So we have continued to alert him that the tapes are still not on our shelves and are therefore still checked out on his card, a situation in which we do expect either the tapes be returned to us or properly paid for. To help make this stick, we blocked his account and put notes all over his card. Rick, for his part, has continued to spread his cheeks and vent in our general direction. He won't come in himself, mind you. Instead, he sends his emmisary, his girlfriend Gladys Knight.

Gladys came in this week with a small stack of books on tape and a plastic baggy full of loose cassettes. Mrs. A happened to be working the desk at the time, was familiar with the case and figured Rick had finally found his books and had sent them in. Gladys slid the items across the desk and said she was returning them for a friend. Mrs. A's attention was drawn immediately to the bag of loose cassettes. Evidently, Rick had destroyed or otherwise lost the case the cassettes came in, therefore losing their item barcode in the process. Mrs. A told her that the baggie was not one of our usually acceptable methods for receiving media item returns. Not only did it make checking the item back in problematic, due to the lack of a barcode, but now we'd have to replace the case and barcode before we could circulate the set again. Gladys said she had thought it wouldn't be a problem since we could just keep the tapes in the baggie. Mrs. A said that, no, we wouldn't be and furthermore we would need to charge a case and barcode replacement fee.

Still, finding out the barcode for the set wouldn't really be a huge problem as Mrs. A would just check in the other items on Rick's card and then see what remained and would be able to choose the proper barcode from his record. Only when she went to check in the other two boxed books on tape sets she found that the first one actually belonged to Town D's library and the second one wasn't library property of any kind; it had no barcode, no stamps and no date due slip. It was, however, a copy of a similar book on tape Rick had checked out from Town-D's library, but it was not the original item. Apparently when Rick had told Gladys to take his tapes back, he'd failed to alert her as to which library she was supposed to take them to. He may even have failed to alert her to the fact that he'd replaced a set of tapes that, I'm guessing, he lost with a used set that he probably got off ebay.

Regardless, none of the tapes were ours, which Mrs. A pointed out for Gladys, adding that Rick still owed us for two sets and wouldn't be allowed to check anything else out until he paid for them.

"Oh, I don't think he ever had those," Gladys countered.

Mrs. A said that it seemed pretty unlikely that the tapes would be on his card had he not checked them out personally, particularly considering that we don't check materials out to people who don't first supply us with their library card. (A fact that Rick is well aware of, having clashed with us repeatedly on the issue.) It also seemed pretty unlikely that, had Rick not checked them out himself, we would just randomly check out the very sort of books on tape Rick happens to prefer, by the same author an example of whose other work Gladys Knight had just attempted to return on Rick James's behalf, on Rick's card, completely by mistake. Furthermore, Mrs. A explained, in addition to the money Rick owes us for said mystery books on tape, he will now also owe a case and barcode replacement fee.

Gladys Knight, who isn't exactly a dummy, must have realized at that point that being as how none of the tapes she was attempting to return were even ours, we could hardly charge any fees for them at all. So she reached across the counter, gathered them all up and said she would just be returning them to their proper library on her own. Mrs. A told her it wasn't a problem for us to return them, but Gladys insisted that she wanted to do it herself. Her selections in hand, Gladys left.

Mrs. A's theory is that Gladys thinks Town-D will be a much easier mark to hustle. That being the case, she phoned them in advance to warn them what was on the way and to suggest they charge Gladys and Rick every fine and fee they possibly could. Town-D's librarian, Ms. H, a former "liberry" ass. at my branch, readily agreed. Ms. H also added that she didn't see any reason for her branch to continue checking out their materials to Rick until he pays us for our missing tapes. This will hardly stop Rick, who will just have Gladys check out things on her card for him, but it warms my dark little heart to think of just how much it will piss him off.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mrs. A vs. The Coot

Our patron known as The Coot has, over the past few months, rapidly become one of our our most frequent patrons. In fact, without ever touching a keyboard himself, he is encroaching on the visitation frequency and duration of such innanet crowd luminaries as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, Crusty the Patron, Mr. B-Natural and even he who must really really not be named, because he hasn't been seen for nearly a year and we'd like to keep it that way, and who favors puffy white winter wear. And. as I've said before, the Coot is a library patron who actually uses the library for reasons other than internet access. Sure, he might spend several hours a day, several days a week in our presence, but he spends that time reading, often from classics and works of philosophy. And other than the fact that he often leaves his reading material stacked around whatever chair he spends his time in, so that we the staff have to clean up after him later, he's mostly inoffensive. Well, except to Mrs. A.

Mrs. A does not like the Coot very much because it's outside her office that he likes to plant himself for his hours-long reading sessions. This too would be okay, except that the Coot tends to make a lot of noise, usually in the form of painful moans and groans, coughs, snorts, loud yawns, and occasional bursts of song. Over the few months he's been doing this, we've determined that he's usually at his most vocal when Mrs. A is on the phone or otherwise making noise herself. In other words, he's doing it in protest of having his reading disturbed by phone conversations near his chair of choice. The thing is, Mrs. A is the library director and as such has to take and make numerous phone calls throughout the day, not to mention frequent in-person meetings in her office. The other thing is, there are seats and more comfy areas to sit elsewhere in the library that are not in proximity to Mrs. A's office. The Coot just happens to like sitting outside her office. And as long as he's there, the two of them wind up creating a duet mixture of speech and painful groans resulting in annoyance to one and all.

One day, Mr. A came to visit Mrs. A at work and the two of them were speaking in her office. In protest to the normal conversational volume of their voices, the Coot let loose with a horrible-sounding groan. Mrs. A later told me that Mr. A looked at her and asked what was up with the mortally-wounded-sounding man seated outside her office.

"Oh, he just does that whenever I'm talking," she said, not even trying to keep her voice down. And to give an example, Mrs. A let fly with her own horrible-sounding groan at full volume. With that, the Coot stood up and went into the nonfiction room to find a quieter chair.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #73

(A father and daughter approach the circ-desk. The little girl, cute as anything, puts her books up on the desk and looks up at me.)

ME-- Do you have your library card?

DAD-- She doesn't have one. I don't have mine either. Matter of fact, I don't think I ever got one.

ME-- (Thinking, I'd better check the computer just to be sure before I have him fill out an application...) Well, what's your name?

DAD-- Ignernt Q. Patron

ME-- (Ignernt Q. Patron pops right up, but I'd still better confirm...) And your mailing address?

DAD-- Route 1, Dumbass Holler.

ME-- Yep. We've got you in the computer.

DAD--Yeah, I know ya have me in the computer. I'm saying, I never got a card.

ME-- Sir, we don't create patron records without issuing a card to the patron in question. And we do require a card in order to check out materials.

DAD-- Can I get anuther?

ME-- We charge $1 for a replacement card.
Dad opens his wallet and throws down a dollar with something of a defiant air.

ME-- All righty.
After confirming some contact information, I get busy putting a new barcode into dude's record. While I do this, he starts digging around in his wallet until he stumbles upon, surprise surprise, his library card.

DAD-- (Adopting a tone of voice similar to one he might have used had Library Card Gnomes snuck the thing into his wallet) Oh. Uh, here it is here.

ME-- Ahhhh. (I take it from him and scan the old barcode over the new one I'd just done) Here's your dollar back.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #72


ME-- Tri Metro County Library.

CALLER-- *mumble*mumble*mumble* tax books.

ME-- I'm sorry, what?

CALLER-- Do you all have tax books?

ME-- Yes, we do.

CALLER-- You do? You do have tax books?

ME-- (Did I stutter?) Yes. We. Do.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bad case of the Crabs

Mr. Crab, third grumpiest old man in all the world, came in yesterday at the very end of my shift. As he scuttled over to the new nonfiction, a lady came up to check out then had difficulty finding her card. I was hoping she had left it at home so I could loudly explain to her the rules about patrons having to have their cards in order to check out and offering to make her a replacement card if she needed, just for his benefit. But then she found her card and my object lesson was no more.

Mr. Crab came up to the desk a minute later. I was hoping he was going to announce to me that he had lost his card again and then dare me to try and make him purchase another, but he didn't. Instead he wanted to know if we had the Wa11 Street J0urnal. Our early afternoon mail had already arrived, but I didn't recall seeing the Journal in the stack.

"Well, we get the Wa11 Street J0urnal, but I'm not sure if today's issue came."

"You do get it?" Mr. Crab asked in a tone of disbelief.

"Yes. We do. I'm just not sure if today's issue came in earlier."

"But you DO get it regularly?"

Have I stuttered?

"Yes. We get it regularly. Usually daily."

"Because two years ago you went six months without getting it at all."

I have no recollection of that but I knew better than to try and argue the point with Mr. Crab, who probably keeps a diary about it, dutifully recording each and every time he has visited us, whether or not we demanded his library card in order to check out books to him, the amount of shit measured by exact volume that he was able to give us over the matter, whether or not the Wa11 Street $%#&ing J0urnal was in its proper place on the newspaper rack and a small memo reminding him to be sure and threaten not to send in his annual $200 donation.

"I can't speak to that," I said. "All I'm saying is that while we do receive the Wa11 Street J0urnal regularly, we may or may not have received one today. If we did receive it, it is likely upstairs on the newspaper rack. If not, it's not."

"Six months! You went six months without getting it, two years ago," he said, his red legs clattering across the floor as he moved sideways toward the stairs.

Mrs. A returned just before I was to leave. I warned her who was in the building and that she should be prepared to receive shit about the Wa11 Street J0urnal's six month gap, two years ago.

"Oh, we did not!" she said, referring to the alleged 6 month absence. She explained that there had been a problem with our subscription and we didn't receive any J0urnals between November 04 and January of 2005.

"Did he ask about his card?" she said.

"Not yet."

Unfortunately, I had appointments elsewhere, otherwise I would gladly have stuck around off the clock to deal with the storm of feces that no doubt happened after I left.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rumors & Returns

It's been kind of a slow week, though not exactly uneventful.

Crusty the Patron has returned. So has his crust and odor, though a bit less of both than we've seen in the past. He's been gone since October, but then again he'd disappeared for a couple of years before that, back when he was only known as Nearsighted Dave. My theory is that he has relatives, perhaps even a son, in the area, as we've seen him with a kid in the past. So far he hasn't given us near the trouble we've had from him before, though he's certainly not as clean as we'd appreciate.

"Crusty the Patron is leaving crust again," I told Mrs. A, scratching my own beard to demonstrate Crusty's dandruff harvesting habit.

"Is he on the computer now?" she asked.

"Well, some of him is."

The other major revelation of the week is a rumor picked up by Mrs. A, to the effect that Mr. Crab has "lost" his "liberry" card yet again. Mrs. A didn't elaborate where she heard the rumor, but I suspect he probably came in over the weekend and gave one of the greenhorns hell about it and they told her. She relayed the rumor to me knowing full well I will probably be the one manning the desk when he attempts to bully his way out of having to have it, knowing full well I, of all employees, won't back down for him. Frankly, I think he "lost" it on purpose just so he'd have the excuse to raise hell. Well, that and his never-ending quest to achieve his ultimate dream of being allowed into the legendary, yet still no less mythical, club of special patrons who don't have to have their cards to check out books. (We give `em free coffee too, which they may leisurely drink, without a lid, at the computers.) Mrs. A threatened to leave an extra dollar in the cash box, earmarked to pay for the man's replacement card, just so I wouldn't have to put him in the hurt locker.

"Oh, no," I said. "I believe our policy states you have to pay $5 for a second replacement card."

Still, I might just let her leave the dollar, just so I can gleefully inform Mr. Crab that he's now in dutch to us for a dollar, which he can pay back by increasing his much remarked upon annual $200 donation all the way to $201.

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.