Friday, May 04, 2007


Instead of my usual shift at my own "liberry," yesterday I did some subbing at Town-C's branch. They were in the throes of their annual salad lunche0n and were short-staffed to begin with, so I agreed to come over and run the desk, provided they fed me. (They did, and quite well.)

It's been a few years since I subbed at Town-C's branch. It's a much smaller "liberry" than ours, essentially one large, meandering room. And while its librarian, Mrs. S (no relation to Ms. S) and our own Mrs. A are friends, there's still something of a rivalry between our two branches--much as there is between our two towns. I don't think the rivalry exists so much on our part, at Town-A, since we pretty much view ourselves as top dog of the whole area, and rightfully so. From what I'm told, though, Town-C's board of directors speaks ill of us every chance they get and encourages their branch to be as free-spirited and different from us as it can. I have to admit, in many ways, they are far more progressive than we are; they do a lot to serve their small community by offering lots of literacy training (we offer it too, but rarely do people take us up on it), and other public service style classes. There are other differences, too.

For instance, Town-C's shelving philosophy differs from our own in that its largely divided by subject, even beyond the Dewey nonfiction. There are separate sections for romance, westerns, inspirational, mystery, large print, classics, children's classics, children's award-winning classics (subdivided by award won), children's award-winning non classics (subdivided by award won), favorite children's authors (individually subdivided outside of the general shelves, by author), favorite classic children's authors who won awards, favorite non-classic children's authors who didn't win any awards and died of consumption, etc. In fact, the children's section is so subdivided that a newbie like me (or a patron, for that matter) can't find ANYTHING without three maps and a sherpa.

Much was the case when a lady came in looking for a copy of a juvenille book, today. The computer said Town-C owned a copy, said it was in, but we couldn't find it on the shelf where we thought it should live. She suggested it might be an award winner, so I looked at the computer again. Sure enough, there was the note "(AWARD)" out beside the call. We looked in the awards section and couldn't find it anywhere in the subdivisions, either. I decided to search the database of the entire county then and noted that that Town-C actually owned two copies, one of which did not show up in my earlier search. It was listed as being located in the Classics Section. Only I didn't know where the classics section was, as it didn't seem to be in the children's area or the general adult fiction area. The mom and I searched the library for a full six minutes before I found the classics section, located in the nonfiction area (not even the 823s) hidden in a floor shelf. There I found both copies of the book in question, both with the exact same call number even though the computer showed two different ones.

Who exactly is that helping?

The philosophical differences also extend to the public computers, of which Town-C has over twice as many as we do. Each patron is given an hour's worth of time, is not run off if no one is waiting, is not even timed and there are no passwords for staff to have to know. It's pretty much a self-serve operation. We had several computer patrons throughout the day, but never more then one at a time. They all knew the drill, came over, signed up on their own, logged off when they were finished and gave me no trouble.

The only rogueish patron was a kid I've long thought of as The Redneck Prince of Darkness. I've not seen this kid as a patron in my own library, but instead have seen him skulking along the streets of Town-C as I've driven through it on my commute to work. If its possible for there to be such a thing as a redneck goth metalhead, this guy is it. As should any true goth kid, he dresses exclusively in black, but in things like black flannel over black Carhartts and work boots. He's got the black knit-cap, too, and the whole thing covered by a long black trenchcoat. When you see him, your brain automatically starts playing NIN on a steel guitar with fiddle accompaniment. He does have the dark, vaguely angry thing down pretty good, but I just can't take him seriously, other than occasionally wondering if he's gonna start shooting. He came in, used the public computer furthest away from the circ desk, way in the back of the double row of them where prying eyes couldn't see his screen, then left.

Town-C also suffers from a similar ailment to my own branch in that it has a most unfortunate location for its public restroom. Town-C's is located directly across from the circ desk, has a paper thin door, no sound-proofing, loud echoey walls and anything that occurs within its confines is clearly audible to the entire library. Only three patrons used it while I was on shift, but I heard all their businesss. Particularly that of a mentally handicapped patron, who came in with many of the same Unobstructed Doors crowd who visit us. He went in the restroom, peed very loudly and cracked the loudest, longest fart on record. I had to retreat around a corner, least one of the aides catch sight of me giggling.



tiny robot said...

Wow --- kinda like going to one of those snooty indie video rental stores where they divide everything by director, or cult status, or by whether or not it has a Star Trek reference in it.

Sheesh! There's classification and then there's just being outright obnoxious. Award winner? Great. It's noted in the bib record, not shelved separately. There's a fine line between full access and complete chaos.

This cataloger's 28 cents.

gardenbuzzy said...

I agree, tiny robot! There's such a thing as having the material easily accessible and shelved where anybody in their right mind (or not) would look for it. That's a cataloger's job, in my never to be humble opinion.

Lisa said...

It'd be easy to say "How many patrons are in their right mind?" but maybe not fair to do so. How many library users think like one another, much less like most librarians do?

On Saturday, a middle schooler asked me "Where are the award-winning books?" That's what the teacher asked him to read, after all. Our fancy iBistro set up lets users look at a list of winners, AND see if the items are on the shelf, AND, if they read ALL of those words, users can tell WHICH shelf. I pointed out to the young fellow that this year's Printz winner was a graphic novel, so his teacher may or may not go for it. He took that, and a novel.

Juice S. Aaron said...

We keep lists of current and past award winners around. And for things like popular authors, such as Brian Jacques, we keep a list of their books not only by title and year published but by chronological order or stories.

(Well, okay, I admit that Jacques is the only author we do this for, but if people had the same interest in the chronological order of the Babysitter's Club books, we could probably find that too.)

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.