When I arrived for work on Friday I found Mrs. C riding the desk alone and looking very harried. There were two people waiting to check out and other very needy looking patrons circling the desk, wanting computers and the like. No other staff members were present.
One of the circling patrons—a woman who while not actually lurking still gave me the impression that she was anyway—eventually realized I was an employee and nonlurked over to ask me questions. She was looking for some specific books among our c0ntract0r's manuals and had evidently been talking to Mrs. C, earlier, for she already knew that one of the ones she wanted was already checked out. She asked me about two others she would need to take her license test. As Mrs. C was still very busy with the computer, I chose to show the woman where we kept the manuals so she could check for herself.
A few minutes passed and the other needy patrons cleared out and, emergency rush abated, Mrs. C left for lunch. Soon, though, Mrs. NonLurker came to the desk bearing our state's primary c0ntrac0r's reference manual, which she wanted to check out.
"I probably have fines on my card, though, so I'll need to take care of those," Mrs. NonLurker warned. Of course, she didn't have her card on her and claimed not to have seen it in many a moon. So I agreed to sell her a new card and asked for her license as proof of identity. I brought up her account and noted that while she did have fines, they were with Town-C's library for a book she'd had out since 2005. She claimed it had been her son's and she would have him find it and return it as soon as possible. I forged on, noting next that her patron record also had two different patron barcodes already. This is not allowed under our consortium's policy and either meant she'd tried to get a new card in the past and someone screwed up when replacing the original barcode, or she'd somehow sweet talked her way into getting a second card without replacing the first. (My reasoning for thinking this will soon be clear.)
Now, I should have told her right off that she couldn't check anything out from us until she took care of the lost book from Town-C, but it was a kid's book and it seemed likely that her son probably still had it. Her address on her license was different than the one on the patron record, (as was the state her license was issued from, as I would later notice), so it made sense that she might not have received an overdue notice. I deleted the other two barcodes and asked her if she wanted a wallet card or a key card.
"Both," she said.
"No. We can't do that," I said. "Has to be one or the other." She looked a bit put out about this, but didn't complain. Instead, she said she had to go to her car to get her check book in order to write us a deposit check for the manual. While she was gone, I noticed that while only one library had issued fines to her, she actually had two books checked out. The other book, checked out from Town-F in January of 2005, was a copy of the very same c0ntract0r's reference manual she was now trying to borrow from us. When she returned, I pointed this out.
"What? No, no. I returned that one. I had borrowed it for my husband to take his test, but I brought it back."
I found this to be very unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Regardless, she was a bad credit risk for deposit books and so I told her we would not be able to check anything out to her until she'd cleared this matter up with Town-F.
She whipped out her cell phone and gave them a call. From her end of the conversation with the person who answered at Town-F, Mrs. NonLurker claimed that she had brought the manual back on time and even recalled picking up her deposit check in the process. She asked if there was any way for Town-F to confirm this. The person at Town-F was, evidently, the equivallent of a newbie greenhorn and could neither find the book on their shelves nor any evidence of a deposit check. Furthermore, none of their actual librarians was present, nor would they be until Tuesday. Mrs. NonLurker calmly explained that she was scheduled to take the test on Monday and really needed the book. She even offered to come and put down a new deposit on the book at Town-F—even though she had allegedly already returned their copy—and then offered to pay for it outright, in order to borrow ours. The newbie at Town-F could not authorize such a transaction nor had any idea what to do at all and told Mrs. NonLurker that she would have to wait until Tuesday.
I fully expected a patron meltdown at this, but Mrs. NonLurker hardly seemed to mind. Instead, she continued to calmly plead her case, pointing out that she was supposed to take her test on Monday and needed the book before then. Every time she made a new suggestion for how to proceed, she would look up at me with hopeful eyes, as though waiting for me to acquiesce when I heard one I liked. I shook my head with each new suggestion. Eventually, she told Town-F that she would need to call them back about it and hung up.
She gave it one last try with me to see if there was any way we could let her check out the book. She offered to put up the full dollar amount of the book up for deposit, but because that's actually standar policy with this particular c0ntract0r's book, this didn't help her cause. I told her in no uncertain terms she was not getting our book until her record was cleared with Town-F and Town-C. Again, I expected rage from her, but she just shrugged, collected her purse and phone, thanked me for my time and nonlurked on outside. The then spent the next half hour actually lurking around our picnic table, talking on her phone. I kept expecting her to return with new and more outlandish suggestions for ways around the rules, but other than a quick pop back to tell us she'd just take it up with Town-F next week, we saw no more of her.
When Mrs. C returned, I told her what had happened and she thanked me for refusing the checkout. She also phoned Town-F up to make sure our understanding of the situation was correct. Mrs. C told me to load up Mrs. NonLurker's patron record with manual blocks and notes to all other libraries (and to our newbie greenhorns, in case she came back over the weekend and tried the same trick again) not to circulate to her until the fines and overdues were cleared up. While I was doing this, I noticed her drivers license number on file was from another state entirely and not the state on the license she'd presented earlier. Unfortunately, I'd not updated those numbers, nor her contact information, so we're a bit out of luck on that front.