Monday, July 02, 2007

Ah, Inconsistently Executed Public Service, You are Indeed a Harsh Mistress

While I often feel the urge to scream at patrons, it's a rare occasion that I want to haul off and belt one. I'm still not convinced I really wanted to belt annoying patron Ms. Green, Sean Connery-style, but I was tempted to cram her cell-phone in her mouth and tatoo some basic library policy somewhere on her person that she might notice it.

Ms. Green came in to return a book. Before she could, though, she spotted a friend of hers and the two of them began conversing next to the circ-desk, recommending books to one another and having a good old time. No problem. We weren't busy and they weren't so much in the way. Then Ms. Green's cell phone went off.

"Oh, wait, let me see if this is someone I want to talk to," Ms. Green said, taking a gander at her phone's screen. She stared at it for a few seconds while its irritating and lengthy chirp continued at full volume. (And what company would willfully design a ringtone as annoying as THAT one? For that matter, why would anyone willingly choose THAT ringtone? "Let's see... Out of all the ringtone choices I have here, I think I'll pick the one that sounds like a convicted cockatiel's first night in Cell Block-D. Yeah, that'll be a good one.")

"Nah," she said, and set the phone down on the desk where it continued to chirp, long and loud. She didn't decline the call. She didn't put it on silent mode. She just let it do its thing and went back to her conversation over the racket. Whomever was calling was pretty intent on talking to Ms. Green, too, cause the phone continued to chirp for nearly half a minute. Strike one against Ms. Green.

Shortly, Ms. Green's friend went off to search for a book while Ms. Green remained at the desk, leafing through the book her friend had just returned and recommended. Ms. Green's own return lay on the desk before her.

"Are you returning that one?" I asked.

"Yes, but I need to wait and do it in a minute because I forgot my library card."

Now, what Ms. Green was indicating was that she wanted to wait until she was ready to check out before actually returning her book so that, when I scanned her book to check it in, her patron record would pop up on our screen, allowing us access to her record without her card and, she hoped, allowing her to check other stuff out on it. This is a back door method for checking books out without a card that we USED to employ back before our library consortium cracked down on such rules violations and which some of our staff, on occasion, still use even today when no one in authority is looking. Strictly speaking it's not allowed, especially for patrons with strikes against them.

"Um, I'm really not supposed to do that either," I told Ms. Green. "You need to have your library card to check out books." This is not news to Ms. Green, for we've all had the You need to have your card... conversation with her many a time before. It did not, however, stop her from giving me an appraising look, perhaps sizing up my potential for being swayed by either charm or hissy fit. She decided to try charm and began blinking at me in what I can only assume was an attempt at sympathy-seeking puppy dog-eyes.

"Reeeallllly?" she said. Blink blink blink.

Unmoved, I nodded.

She blinked at me some more, before adding, "This look's not working, huh?" She actually said that. I smiled politely, but gave no quarter.

I thought she might next try for "fit" but she only lightly complained that she really needed something to read before heading to the health club, but now wouldn't have anything and would be forced to read a magazine instead. Oh, the pain.

Y'know, if aquiring something to read was so all fired important to her when she decided to come to the library, it seems like she might have, oh, I don't know, brought her card with her, or something. I mean, isn't "Repeating the same behavior and expecting different results" the very definition of insanity? And beyond that, I continue to SO completely fail to understand patrons who keep doing things like this. Is it truly that much of a hassle to keep up with your library card?

After a few more minutes of browsing and chatting with her friend, it suddenly occurred to Ms. Green that she still had one other book checked out. Her manner suggested that she was afraid the book might be nearly overdue and in need of a renewal. I knew what was coming when she returned to the circ-desk.

"Oh, oh, I have this other book out I'd like to check on," she said. "It'll be under Mary Green." Then she did that frantic little hand wave at the monitor patrons always do when they want us to just work our magic with it when they don't have their card. It's the very sort of gesture that says, yeah, yeah, we all know you can look us up by name no matter what you tell us, so just make with the lookin' up and we'll all go home happy.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I really do need your library card to access your patron record."

Ms. Green looked surprised for a second, as though I was telling her something she'd never heard before. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, as if she were about to say something, most likely about previous "liberry" who'd let her look up her record in just this manner despite it being against the rules. A mildly annoyed expression crossed her face and I thought she might be reconsidering her hissy fit, but she didn't attempt one nor a return to the puppy dog-eyes. What could she say? "But, Mrs. B let me get away with breaking the rules!"?


Anonymous said...

Your blog is very interesting!
Please, send me the photo of your pc desk and the link of your blog.
I'll publish on my blog!.
Thanks Frank

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Ah, it is a harsh mistress! I hate it when I have to be the one to crack down. I also reallllly hate it when people don't bring their cards. As you say, they knew they were coming to the library, why can't they bring the card??? Grrr.

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.