Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Visit from the Fambly

There's this good friend friend of mine whom I've known since 8th grade. Let's call him "Matthew." Now, I don't know for sure what "Matthew" eats today, but after moving out on his own during college he traditionally avoided raw vegetables like they were made of poison.

I've had several occasions to share a meal with "Matthew" since then, usually in such fine dining establishments as, say, a Ryan's buffet. When at such buffets, my first course of the evening is always to visit the never-ending salad bar for a good sized plate of greenery to help off-set all the brown food I'm about to eat. For "Matthew," however, salad doesn't even factor into his world. It's not that salad was considered and decided against in favor of tastier fried grub; no. Instead, salad as a concept was never on "Matthew's" radar to begin with. And upon sitting down with our first courses before us, "Matthew" has always given my choice of greenery a most bewildered look. It's an expression that clearly states: "Dude, we're adults now and our parents aren't here. We don't have to eat that shit anymore." Nevermind the fact that I always finished my salad and then put away twice as much fried crap as "Matthew" (and nevermind the fact that with every trip to the bar we both were secretly stuffing packets of crackers into our pockets so we could have a big, juvenile cracker-crumb-spitting fight in the parking lot afterward, returning ever-so-briefly to those blessed post-cafeteria, 8th grade, big cracker-crumb-spitting fights of yore), he was still offended that I would even eat lettuce at all.

Some folks are like that with libraries. (Actually, "Matthew" is like that with libraries, but that's cause he's dyslexic and hates reading, hence why I feel completely safe talking about him here.)

For some folks, the very concept of a library has never once popped up on their radar and if they enter one at all it's due to one of three reasons: A) because they have mistaken it for the water department (which probably only happens around here, since the water department is indeed next door), B) there's something we have that they need, and for free; or C) because THEY sent these folks to our door.

These library neophytes are easy to spot too. There's just a certain air about them of "liberry" inexperience that permeates their being—their very body language—and causes them to stand out in a bad way, kind of like Tag body spray.

A whole fambly of such anomalies visited the "liberry" a couple weeks back, determined to use them a compooter. Actually, only two of the anomalies, the grandmother and the older brother, wanted to use them a compooter, which they had been told (perhaps even by THEY) they could use to apply online for a job with a local chain grocery store. The other two fambly members, a 10 year old younger brother and his adult mentally-handicapped cousin, were left to wander the building.

I observed them for a while, much as a primatologist might observe the behavior of a couple of orangutans in laboratory conditions. They seemed wildly out of place, yet still fascinated by the sheer volume of books we had on display. After exploring for a while, the little brother came up to the circ desk.

"Um... do you have books on dinosaurs?" he asked.

"Oh, do we have books on dinosaurs," I said, grinning. "Let me show you where they are." I lead him to the expansive 567s, which he seemed quite impressed by. He immediately set about pulling books out, giving them a gander and then woefully misshelving them. I left him to it. After about five minutes, during which I had to help grandma and older brother with their job application website, which was admittedly a little wonky itself, little brother came back to the desk.

"Um... How much do these books cost?" he asked.

I told him they were free to borrow, but he would need a library card.

"How much does a library card cost?" he asked.

It too, I noted, was free.

The kid's face lit up and he quickly dashed to his grandmother, card application in hand to see if she would let him have one. She filled it out and sent him back and, after confirming with our computer that he didn't already have one, I soon had a shiny new card to pass to him.

Off he went to find more books, but was soon back at the desk.

"Do you have books about pirates?"

Actually, pirate books were a bit thin on the ground, outside of fiction, so I showed him some age-appropriate storybooks featuring pirates. He'd barely touched them when he decided he'd rather have books on dragons. They too were kind of scarce outside of fiction, and most of the fictional books were aimed at either far smaller children or far older adults. I was trying to find a happy medium when the mentally-handicapped cousin interrupted to ask for books on outer space and telescopes. Easier to find, I took him to them, then had to turn back to the dragons cause the kid was getting insistent. I found him the Deltora Quest series, which I thought might not have as many pictures as he would like, but he didn't seem to care and took most what we had of the series. He checked them out, along with a dinosaur book or two, but soon returned to trade out books for other books he wanted more. Before I knew it, the kid and the cousin were running me ragged throughout the building in search of books on wildly different subjects. Their glee at each discovery was so strong, though, that I could hardly be offended by it.

"Do you have zombie books?" the kid eventually asked. He then gestured back toward the computers. "They're for my brother."

The brother looked to be at least 16, so I fetched World War Z and told the kid it was probably the best (and possibly the only, unless you count I Am Legend) zombie book we had on hand. Brother and grandmother eventually finished up their work application and then, at the kid's insistence, the older brother came to get a card to check out his zombie goodness. No sooner had I made the card, though, then the two siblings began a vicious argument as to which of them would get to actually check the book out. The little brother, perhaps out of some sense of gift-giving or courtesy, wanted to check it out on his card while the older brother rightfully wanted it on his own. I broke it up by saying that it was the older brother's book so it was going on the older brother's card, and they both seemed fine with that.

I was a little dubious as to whether we'd get any of our books back, as "liberry" neophytes are so often oblivious to such requirements. However, the cousin has since returned his books and as of today I spied World War Z back on the shelf.

Maybe I've turned them to the other team.


Anonymous said...

Yay for reading and WWZ!

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Juice--you've quickly become one of my favorite reads. While the humor is always appreciated, this post was just totally awesome!!

Anonymous said...

Had to come out of lurk mode to cheer this post! Love to think you've turned these kids into library groupies ("C'mere, little boy. See the nice book? You can read it for free....!")

(signed) a Florida fan and fellow library ass.....

Anonymous said...

Juice, you rock! Maybe, just maybe, you changed somebody's life.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me why I am a librarian - and why when I'm done here at work I'm going to run my 3 munchkins over to our local public library to 'load up' for the weekend! Public Librarians ROCK.

Mary Ellen said...

What an awesome story!

(And I just started reading World War Z, and am loving it!)

Gardenbuzzy said...

What a great post! It has GOT to be gratifying to turn kids on to reading! And I've GOT to find me a copy of WWZ.

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.