Friday, November 21, 2008

The Endy Bit (a.k.a. "Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #141")

I had cause to pay a visit to the Tri-Metro area, recently, so I popped by the "liberry" to see everyone. The last few times I've been in, I've only seen Mrs. B, Mrs. D and Miss Temp, but this time nearly everyone was in house, including former bosses Mrs. A and Mrs. C. They're all doing fine and wanted to hear the latest news from me. ("Uhhhh, I got a cat.")

While I was there, Mr. B-Natural came in, signed up for a computer and then noticed me standing at the circ-desk.

MR. B-NATURAL— (In what I thought was an uncharacteristically bright tone for the grumpiest old man in all the world to take) Hey, you're back!

ME— Only temporarily.

MR. B-NATURAL— What? You're not working here again?

ME— No. I moved to BORDERLAND.

MR. B-NATURAL— How come?

ME— My wife got a job there.

MR. B-NATURAL— (Nods knowingly.) I need to get me a wife who has a job.

We stood there for a few minutes as I finished up what I was doing at the desk and Mr. B waited for Miss Temp to finish helping another patron and come log him on his computer.

MR. B-NATURAL— (Gestures toward the computers) Hey, you wanna put me on one of these for old times sake?

ME— Oh, sure.

They hadn't even changed the password.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Year Five (and this blog) in the Can (almost)

Today is the fifth anniversary of the beginning of this blog.

I'm normally a fan of writing entries in advance, but I put off writing this one until today because I didn't know quite what to say.

Other than, "goodbye," maybe.

Sort of.

You see, I no longer work in a library. It has therefore been pointed out to me, seemingly by more than one person, that perhaps another venue would be more appropriate to the continuation of the sort of tales I've been telling lately. My initial attitude toward this idea was to give it the finger on the premise that it's my blog which I may use to write about whatever I please regardless of how little sense it might make to the average observer. And as much as I still fully support that attitude on my part, I also have to concede that the opposing view does have a point. There is something to be said for bringing one story to a close before spinning off into something smaller with a few of the same characters. Granted, this almost never works in TV, where for every Frasier there are fifty Tortellis. (Unless, of course, you're producer Norman Lear in the `70s, who wound up having successful spin-offs of successful spin-offs of All in the Family.) It works better in comic books, where series end and new #1 issues begin all the time. In other words, I think it’s probably a good thing to give Tales from the “Liberry” a bit of closure and let it be its own boxed set (or glossy hardcover collection) before starting something new.

I have no illusions [p----------------nmm ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc

(Sorry. Walked away from the keyboard for a bit and Avie seems to have trod on it.)

As I was saying, I have no illusions that all of my regular readers will find my non-"liberry" observations as entertaining. Lord knows I didn’t read most of the spin-offs of the library blogs that closed up shop during my five years in the business and lord knows my stats have dropped off since I stopped posting new material daily here (or, since I stopped posting about my job, depending on your point of view). But if you've stuck around since my retirement as a "liberry" ninja, and if you like reading about occasional encounters with assholes in the wild or the antics of circus animals like the one who sat on my keyboard a few minutes ago, you’ll like the new place, too.

There are a lot of people I’d like to thank before I go, many of whom are present in the sidebar links, but some of whom have moved on. I'd like to first thank Tiny Robot (a.k.a. “T," formerly of the late lamented blog Poocakes, currently of Hermes’ Neuticles and the Chronicles of Bleh), Sonny Lemmons, (currently of Through the Windshield, which was formerly Chase the Kangaroo) and Glen (who never had a blog when he worked in a library, but who really really should have cause his tales were better than mine, and who has just embarked on a massive new adventure by knocking up his wife). Those three more than anyone originally inspired me to take up the blogger's pen, though I believe at least one of them said something about there being money in it, which I haven't found to be the case. I'd also like to thank some of my colleagues who've especially kept me entertained over the past five years: Tiny Librarian ("liberrian" of the Great White North), Foxy Librarian (whose work I've always enjoyed and who I've failed to congratulate on her recent edition/addition (heh, see, that's a book/baby joke for ya)), Tangognat (who works constantly to keep comics a part of the library), Bizgirl (or, I should say, James--who fooled us us all, did it with style, and whose link to me got this blog a mention in a New Zealand newspaper), Daisy (a former co-worker of Glen's who, as far as I know, has left the library blogosphere, though not libraries), and a fond farewell to Happy Villain, whose spin-off blogs I do continue to read.

I'd also like to thank YOU the loyal readers whose numbers have increased steadily since I started paying attention to that sort of thing. It's been a pleasure to have such an understanding, sympathetic and helpful audience to share my tales with.

The new place, by the by, is called Borderland Tales. (Some other jerk writer already took "Tales from the Borderland.")

Before I shake the exit stick, though, I do have one last very short Tale from the "Liberry" left to tell. Which, naturally, means one last...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walter the Farting Dog: The Movie

Just read over at Ain't It Cool News that 20th Century Fox is looking to make a big screen adaptation of my favorite kids book ever, Walter the Farting Dog and are hoping to get the Farrelly Brothers to direct it.

That sounds pretty perfect.

However, the not-so-perfect-sounding part is that the script for this film is by the guys who wrote Evan Almighty and Daddy Day Camp. (Mmmm... Daddy Day Camp.)

Oh, and Fox is somehow looking to use the film as a vehicle for the Jonas Brothers. As long as they get farted on a lot, I guess even that would be okay.

Find all of Variety’s story on the matter here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Epic Conclusion (Moving Days R)

In the days since I left the "Liberry," life has proceeded as usual over in Tri-Metro. I know this because I've been back for several visits. Most of these were in the days prior to us fully vacating our house in Town C, when the wife was still living there as she wrapped up her medical residency, but I've made a few since. In fact, one such visit of mine was made specifically because of her residency.

Each year, the hospital holds a mini-graduation ceremony for all of its residents, giving out graduation certificates to each class as they either pass into a new year of their residency, or, as in the case with my wife, fully graduate and pass into the real world. Now, unlike most graduation ceremonies, which tend to be pretty boring affairs, these residency ceremonies are great because there's an open bar, massively tasty hors d'oeuvres beforehand, followed by a catered buffet dinner with dessert and then what amounts to about half an hour's worth of award-awarding, which is usually a pretty fun time because most of the people giving the awards are friends and colleagues and very funny people who know how to make such ceremonies interesting and fun. (Or, maybe I've just been to the open bar one too many times to know otherwise.) This year's ceremony promised to be very similar, only this year the wife was the major honoree when it came to graduating third year residents. Actually, she was the only graduating third year, not to mention she's also chief resident, so it was even more of a focus on her. Unfortunately, the graduation ceremony fell on June 12, a day I was already committed to being at a conference for a non-profit organization I am a member of, in another part of the state. Not only that, but this was a conference for which I did the majority of the planning and at which I was obligated to be in order to help get things set up. The date had been set in stone for literally the past year. The wife wasn't happy that I couldn't get out of it, nor was I, but she said she understood that that's the way things had rolled.

As the days went by and the conference date grew closer, it occurred to me that it would be the ultimate surprise if I was somehow able to get out of the setup portion of the conference and turn up at the wife's ceremony after all. I get so few opportunities to surprise her without her managing to spoil it in advance, so I thought this would be a great choice. I kept completely mum about it and didn't actually make the final decision on whether or not to pull it off until two days shy of the conference itself for fear of my big mouth letting something slip early. The longer I waited, though, the more I knew it would be gold. None of the wife's family was going to be able to come, so she would be there alone. I knew it had to be done. After making arrangements with a trusted colleague to take over my setup duties, and with a trusted colleague of the wife's to run interference if need be, I officially decided to slip in and surprise the wife.

On graduation day, I snuck out of Borderland and hit the road for Tri-Metro. I had to head over early, to pass some of my setup materials on to someone headed to the conference, so afterward I had a few hours to kill before the ceremony kicked in around 6. So I headed over to the "liberry." The alphabet squad was happy to see me. Mrs. A even had me go around and mark all the shitty shelf-ends with tape yet again in preparation for the delivery of the brand new non-shitty shelf ends. Mrs. J had already been given instructions not to touch the tape.

Around 5:15, the wife called me on my cell phone to ask how the conference set up was going. I told her that it was hectic but going as smooth as could be expected. She said she had just arrived at the hotel where the graduation was to be held and was about to start eating shrimp. She was real sorry I couldn't be there. I told her I wished I was, cause I could use some shrimp, too. We said lovey goodbyes and as soon as I hung up I jumped in the car and zipped over. I was already clad in my "going to graduation" finest and ready to go.

Much liken unto a ninja, I snuck into the ballroom to find the wife with her back to me as she spoke with the very colleague I'd asked to help. I slipped up behind her, then almost directly beside her and just stood there smiling, holding a bouquet of roses, waiting for my presence to be noticed. The wife followed her friend's gaze, turned, saw me, made a funny confused expression then realized what I had done and burst into laughter. She absolutely had no idea I'd been planning it and was, for once, truly surprised.

The ceremony was great, not only for the food and the open bar (which I was unable to partake of, as I had a two hour road trip ahead of me still) but because much of the night was devoted to the wife. It was fantastic to see the respect and love her colleagues and friends in the program have for her and to hear how much she had been a positive influence on the overall direction of the residency program. They even gave her an extra award she wasn't expecting for her work with the rural health system (which is part of the reason we went to Alaska last year). It was a great evening.

But I digress...

As I said, life continues on at the "liberry." Since my departure they've purchased a new photocopier to replace the devil photocopier we've had for years. They've also bought a new fax machine to replace the devil fax machine we've had for years. And they've continued sprucing up the place rather nicely, aided, I might add, by the arrival and installation of the good shelf ends, which, after a whole YEAR, the contractor finally decided to send.

My vacancy has even been filled with another guy, this time a high school student I'll just call Mr. R who belongs to one of the families of long-time beloved patrons (all together now: "Me belove you long time!") who I've known since I started working at the place in 2001. He's a great choice for the gig. And the last time I visited, a couple weeks back, I saw yet another familiar face behind the circ desk in the form of a seemingly long-lost former employee. No, not Ms. S or Miss E or Miss F, Miss Nightranger or even my prediction of Miss K. Instead, the long-lost employee is Miss Temp who left our fold for a more lucrative job in a southern state prone to hurricanes. I didn't get a chance to talk to her, so I don't know why she's back or for how long, but Mrs. A seemed very glad to have someone to plug into the job who was not only already trained but very good at it to begin with. Evidently, I've left the "liberry" in good hands.

And so we bring to a close the tale of the move to the new building. Naturally, there are other stories I could tell about the creation of the new building, being as how there was a a LOT of politics on both at state and local level that went into it, not to mention a handful of people who not only tried to stand in the way but, at one point, tried to stage an outright coup. I've decided it's probably best not to tell those stories, however. I've only been privy to peripheral details in the first place and, in the intervening months, have forgotten a lot of the solid facts I once did know. The way I see it, the "good guys" won the day, the "bad guys" had to suck it and in the end that's all that really matters.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Liberry" 2.0 (Moving Days Q)

As the actual move into the new library began, I continued to consider whether I would chronicle it after my backlog of material from the old library ran out. I suspected that I wouldn't, but continued to take notes here and there just in case. The trouble was, there were no real dramatic beats in the move itself, so most of my notes amounted to "Wow, it sure is nice not having any patrons under foot" and "I can't believe I get paid to come to work in shorts and flip flops and listen to podcasts all day as I shuffle books from shelf to shelf and devise new and revolutionary ways to organize our periodicals section." I began to suspect there just wasn't much of a story there.

I persevered, though, waiting for the big event to occur. You know, something that could elicit headlines like "D.T.-Addled Innanet Crowd Storms Liberry -- Astoundingly, Shitty Doors Hold." Instead, the best I really managed was "Dumbass Vinyl Signage Idiots Spell Mrs. C's Title `ASSITANT DIRECTOR' on Office Door Sign."

I decided that if I was going to step under the beam of scrutiny by announcing that our "liberry" was moving at a time when various newspapers and television stations around the state were doing stories about that very move, most of which wound up on their websites, most of which featured me as the "liberry" spokesperson, because everyone else in the damn building runs screaming at the sight of a camera, there really ought to be a good story in it and there just wasn't--not from that angle, at least. Logic and experience told me that news of the move would likely get out at some point. In the meantime, I might as well have fun with it and see if I could maybe create another layer of enjoyment for long-time readers.

The plan, as I initially conceived and eventually enacted, was to let all of the backlog of stories set in the old "liberry" run out and tie up all the loose ends from what was essentially Volume 1. During that time I would be gathering new stories in the new building which I would publish after the old ones ran out. The only clue I planned to initially give that something different had occurred was to update the page's look and label the new material as Volume 2. And to show you what my backlog was really like, even with the three weeks we were closed for the move and the fact that the new place didn't open until late July of 2007, "Liberry 2.0" still didn't begin until August 15. Coincidentally enough, I noticed that the old stories were going to run out right around my 1000th post. Seemed a fitting place to end Volume 1.

During my gathering of new tales, I realized that the geographical differences between the tiny old building and the gigantic new building were going to come into play. The fact that we now had, essentially, five public restrooms and one private one for staff, as opposed to the crappy little restroom under the stairs and the oft-patron-traversed "private" restroom in Mrs. A's office of the old building. New readers might not notice the inconsistencies in description, but I figured long time readers would likely pick up on them. I'd already adopted a policy of being a bit vague when describing certain aspects of our previous location, after being busted by a former employee who recognized the layout, but there was no hiding some of the things that were going to come up in the new place. Sure, big ticket items, such as elevators, kitchens, fireplaces and massive new computer facilities, could be dropped in sometime down the line, but there were less instantly obvious details of the new building's layout that I decided to start layering in immediately, throwing new tidbits in every so often until I could begin dropping in larger ones , months down the line.

I figured that sooner or later a reader would call me on something (not via telephone, hopefully) and point out the inconsistencies. I would have then had to admit that, yes, there were some and pose the question of "Wonder why that is?" prompting people to do the math. Perhaps they'd think back to the handful of references to the new library project I'd made in the past and figure it out. Of course, it seemed just as likely to me that a new reader, daring to take the plunge and read all of the back matter of the blog, might stumble upon those references and do the math. (Of course, another likely possibility was that folks might do the math incorrectly and come to the conclusion that I've just been making all of this up in the first place, as some of my more creative colleagues have done in the past.) And while I can't say that neither readers old nor new noticed the inconsistencies, no one ever called me out on it.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ed Gruberman (Moving Days P)

As is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of words that comprise this blog, I've never lacked for material to write about. Oddly, this used to frustrate me in the early days when I was attempting more of a real time blogging structure and would often have so many blogworthy events occur on a given afternoon that running multiple posts for that day seemed the only proper way to handle it. Eventually, though, I got over that. As in newspapers, with my particular blogging subject most of the blogworthy events had a pretty long shelf life and did not have to be posted immediately. There was, therefore, very little reason to blog in real time unless events in my life called for it. So I swiftly developed a backlog (backblog?) of material which I was able to parcel out, rewrite, refine, and often discard. I've been able to take entire vacations and continue to post on a week-daily basis.

It was because of this backlog that I had no fear about running out of material during our big move into the new building. What I was concerned about was whether or not to mention the move at all.

When I first began the blog, I didn't really care if people who read the blog knew who I was in real life. My thought was that anyone local who might not like what I was writing was unlikely to stumble upon the blog, but if outsiders traced it back what did it really matter? I even used the real last name of the now pseudonymous Fagin Family for a very long time claiming I didn't care if they found it because we had so much dirt on them that they'd never dare sue. And, by and large, this was not a problem for me for the first couple of years of the blog. As the old saying goes, though, it only takes one bad asshole to spoil the bushel. This being the internet, of course, the assholes did not come in single servings.

Keep in mind, when I say "assholes" I'm not talking about readers who've disagreed with me, who don't like the blog in the first place, who think I'm whining and aren't afraid to tell me in the comments or in an email. That kind of thing comes with the territory and I've always made it a point to publish such negative comments and to address issues made via the occasional negative email I've received. No, the assholes I'm talking about are those souls who have seen their way fit to drop pebbles into the pond of my real life. There have been quite a few of them and until this moment I've made it standard operating procedure not to mention their assholery because it seems unwise to give such behavior publicity. However, just as a for-instance, I will now break that rule twice..

Instance #1-- A gentleman phoned my "liberry" workplace, asked a co-worker of mine if he could speak to me, using my real name, and when I came to the phone he screamed, "This is Mr. Stanky! I love your blog!!!" at the top of his lungs. Then he hung up. (And with all the similar assholes I've dealt with, the level creativity never has never risen above the bar set by this guy.)

Instance #2-- This one was not so much an asshole as someone behaving unwisely. I received a phone call, again at work, again using my real name, from a lady who claimed to be calling from another state. She said she was doing research into the geneal0gy of the aforementioned Fagin Family (only she used their real name), being as how she too was named Fagin (again), had read about them on my blog, knew exactly where I was located, was pretty sure a branch of her particular Fagin clan had made their way here at some point in the past. Naturally, she wanted to know what I could tell her about the local crew and their origins. (This person also expressed confusion as to why I no longer used their real name when referring to them on the blog. She'd searched and searched but could no longer find the original reference.) I started to point out to her that anyone who'd read this blog for the length of time she evidently had should have long ago realized that there is no room in my heart for helping my OWN patrons with geneal0gy research, let alone out-of-state strangers calling me up out of the blue and interjecting themselves into my real life in an effort to get me to do geneal0gy research into the single most-hated family our county's library system has ever known. Instead, I politely explained that, other than their long-standing penchant for thievery, I knew very little about the Fagins and would therefore be of no help. I also pointed out that calls like hers were precisely the reason I no longer used the Fagins real name on the blog.

So because of instances like those above as well as some other minor online irritations, I dialed back the openness of the blog. This amounted to removing a few telling entries, moving all my graphics off of my personal website and setting up some security features that pretty much put a stop to the more troublesome online interactions. Was it perfect? No. But it did result in quite a few less pebbles in my pond. Documenting the big move, however, seemed like it might have the potential to produce rocks of a larger sort. With the backlog that I had at hand, however, I knew I didn't have to make any decisions on this for a while.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Sometimes Standing Urine is a Good Thing (Moving Days O)

It was standard afternoon shift. I had been going about my day and things were actually turning out fairly well. Then I saw Mr. Big Stupid coming out of the men's restroom and my view on the day fell. I can't say for sure that Mr. Big Stupid was smirking upon his exit, but something about his manner sounded alarm bells in my head. I was also reminded that I hadn't checked the men's restroom for cleanliness since my arrival at work.

Sure enough, as soon as I walked in the door, bucket of cleaning products already in hand, I saw the dreaded sight and knew what Mr. Big Stupid had been smirking about. I marched back out the door, over to the circ desk and retrieved our temporary-signage folder from its hiding place. Seeing that my boss, Mrs. A, was standing nearby, I held up my "RESTROOM CLOSED, PLEASE USE DOWNSTAIRS RESTROOM" sign for her to see.

"What is it?" she said.

"Two words," I said. "Standing Urine."

"Oh, no."

Yes, indeedy, there was a wide puddle of urine covering much of the floor in front of the urinal. For the record, Mr. Big Stupid was not even a suspect, as he had been not present for the previous standing urine incident and had likely only been smirking at the knowledge that someone else would have to clean up what he'd just seen on the floor. Most likely the person responsible for the urine was one of our regular mentally handicapped patients from Unobstructed Doors.

After a brief search, I found our mop and mop bucket in housekeeping, filled the bucket with warm water, grabbed the Comet, affixed my sign to the bathroom door (if you don't put a sign on the door, patrons wander on in and, despite your obvious efforts to mop up the urine, they track through it anyway to leave some of their own) and headed in to do battle. Unfortunately, after using most of the Comet during the previous incident, there was less than half a tablespoon left in the container, so I then had to go back out and fetch our jug of bleach. Much diluting and sloshing ensued, followed by mopping, cursing under breath and vows to find the culprit and visit unspeakable punishments upon them. Soon the room was filled with bleach fumes. I began to suspect this wasn't a safe thing, so I went over to the restroom's window, intending to open it and help disperse the fumes.

First, a note about the restroom windows: I've mentioned recently how our architect had some rather dangerous ideas about how public buildings should operate and our new restrooms were a major part of that. When he designed the restrooms for our main floor, he included in them the exact same windows that had been installed in the rest of the building, which are very tall, sliding pane windows that allow in the greatest amount of light possible by being very very clear, with no window screens, but which also had venetian blinds in case, I presume, it got too bright to poop. Yes, that's right, the architect installed large, crystal clear windows in ground level restrooms both of which were in direct view of the parking lot. Now, granted, because of the way the interior of the restrooms were arranged, people on the outside would not be able to view people on the inside actually using toilets nor urinals through those windows, but they could certainly see people walking around and washing their hands (hopefully) after using said facilities. Regardless, the presence of those windows made the restrooms feel extremely non-private in a way the vast majority of public restrooms I've been in--including all of the ones I used in Central America, some of which were quite terrifying in other respects--don't. We also had to consider the unsavory possibility of someone like Chester setting up a damned chair outside the ladies' room and having himself an oggle-party. So, shortly before we opened, Mrs. A had Ms. D install some opaque window film over the lower section of both public restroom windows and that solved that.

So, seeking to release the bleach fumes from my particular restroom, I went to the window, raised the blinds and was about to unlatch the lower window pane when I discovered that someone had already unlatched it for my convenience. With barely any effort, I was able to raise the window to the full, open and unscreened position without having to unlatch it first.

"Oh, shit," I said. I then ran to find Mrs. A.

"We have a major problem in there," I said. "Beyond the urine," I added.

"What?" Mrs. A said.

I told her about the window and about my brand new theory that this very unlatched window was how our recent thieves could have gained after hours access to the building. All they had to do was unlatch the window during normal operating hours then come back later and hop on through. The only other possible excuse for it being unlatched, that I could think of, was if Mrs. J had unlatched it to let bleach fumes disperse the last time she'd mopped. The trouble is, Mrs. J is far too short to have reached the latches and has no sense of smell to alert her to the presence of fumes in the first place--which is why she often cannot smell if a mop is moldy and will just go right ahead and use these "ass mops" to do the floors, rendering the building equally assy.

Mrs. A was quite irritated, as windows that patrons can unlatch was a point she'd already raised with the architect back when the building was in the planning stages, a point he'd not been able to fathom. (That was also the same meeting where she raised the point about it being a bad idea to have crystal clear windows into said ground level bathrooms, a point that also went unfathomed.)

Now, here's where our "liberry" clubhouse junior detective skills went off the rails. While we immediately made it policy to check the latches on this and all other ground-level windows as part of normal closing duties, at no point did it occur to us to have the police come round to dust the window for possible prints. Granted, there's a good chance that the latches would only have contained the prints of either the staff or the shitty sub-contractors (a.k.a. the true criminals in this story), but there's a chance it could have nabbed the prints of the cash-box thieves as well. Instead, we just changed our closing policy and, within a few days, Mrs. A had Ms. D go around the building and seal all the ground-level windows shut with L-brackets to prevent this sort of thing in the future.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I've got another itch and the only thing that can cure it is more cowbell (Moving Days N)

Around nine months after we opened the new place, we had a pretty major incident of theft go down. We're not strangers to thievery at the "liberry," as seen in such previous incidents involving a member of the New Devil Twins' Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, another involving such rogue patrons as Jimmy the Anonymous Snitch and the Amazing Bladder Boy, and one involving a former member of our staff, Miss E, who we're pretty sure made off with some money from the cash box four years back, but it's been a while.

The new incident came to my attention when I arrived for work on a Monday to find our cashbox empty of all cash. Ms. M was working the Monday with me and indicated that it was like that when she arrived for her shift on Sunday. She'd assumed that Mrs. A had taken it for some official reason, for the cashbox had been full and accounted for when Ms. M had left for the day on Saturday. This didn't seem at all right to me, though, because Mrs. A would have left a note had she taken the cash and there was not one. Ms. M then offered that perhaps the money had been taken by Mrs. C's kids, who had been in the library with Mrs. C Saturday evening when she came in with them to help set up our multi-purpose room for a Sunday program. She said Mrs. C's kids had been behind the desk at one point. They too seemed unlikely suspects, though, as they are toddlers and Mrs. C would surely have noticed them toddling around with $40 in cash and change.

This left us with a very unsettling probability; if the cash was present at closing on Saturday afternoon, but was missing at opening Sunday morning then it had likely been stolen in the interim. For that to have happened, the thieves either broke into the building somehow, gained access to the building via a door left unlocked, or they had found some place to hide in the building on Saturday, stole the money after Ms. M and Mrs. C had departed and then departed themselves. None of these were beyond the realm of possibility.

My best guess was that someone had snuck in after hours. See, thanks to some pretty shitty cost-cutting on the part of our building sub-contractors, the front doors of the new "liberry" were not of the strength and permanence one would hope for in exterior doors of a public building such as ours. The doors that were installed, you see, were actually doors designed to be used within the interior of a building and not as actual exterior doors. They were stout enough for interior doors and they work "okay" for exterior ones, but they're only passable at best. (And on that note, the interior foyer doors were none too solid, either, as the board that held one pneumatic hinge to the overall door frame was yanked from said frame one day by a 60-year-old woman. Turns out, when that particular board had been installed, the contractors hadn't used long enough screws to actually secure it into the foyer housing. "Thanks, shitty contractors!") Compounding the problem was the fact that these wrong doors had not been installed correctly to begin with, which made them very tricky to lock. They had to be aligned just right by hand or their locking bolts would not set into both the floor and ceiling shafts. If only one bolt was set, the doors could be popped open with only a little effort.

Once we realized the trickiness of our door's locking system, soon after we opened, we made it a point to teach and reteach all the staff the rituals involved in getting them properly locked. Even then, it still came back to bite us once in a while. Assuming that Ms. M had locked the doors correctly, someone in Mrs. C's function-setup-party might have exited that door and not known to double check it behind them.

The other possibilities mentioned were just as likely, but there was no real way to know how the thieves gained access to the money. Or so we thought. As it turns out, we now have a pretty good idea how it happened. And once again, our Junior "Liberry" Clubhouse Detectives' solution involves the bladder of one of our patrons.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Innanet Crowd Onslought (Moving Days M)

As I mentioned, we only had four public internet terminals when we opened the new building. Our plan was to eventually have ten and we had already installed the desks for those--or, rather, we'd installed one gigantically long computer desk with room for ten stations and serious issues with picking up the squeezings of patrons on its surface. The other six computers did arrive within a couple weeks of opening, but the company we'd purchased them from neglected to stock enough monitors to accompany them and said they weren't expecting a resupply for months. We bought new monitors from another vendor, but before they could arrive we experienced several wonderfully fun conversations such as this...

PATRON-- So when are you getting your other computers?

ME-- Oh, they're here.

PATRON-- (Does doubletake. Looks at six empty desk spaces.) Uh, they are?

ME-- Yep.

PATRON-- Um... when are you going to install them?

ME-- Already did.

PATRON-- (Looks again. Completely ignores obviously present CPUs on the floor beneath each empty desk space.) Uh... what?

ME-- Yep. Installed the computers a few days ago. They're right there. (Points to CPUs) It's just the monitors we don't have yet.

PATRON-- (Looks again. Looks back. Appears confused and slightly irritated. Decides I'm an asshole, perhaps justifiably. Walks away.)

We decided early on that our old system of using kitchen timers to monitor the amount of time patrons were using the computers was probably not a workable system for ten machines; it was hard enough getting those accurate with only three computers in the old place, plus the idea of more than one of them going off at the same time made us edgy to even think about. So the new plan was to extend the time patrons had on a given machine from a half hour to a full hour (still with no kick offs if no other patrons were waiting), reserve two of the machines as 15 minute stations and then just keep track of everything on paper. This sounded like an enormous headache to me and I was actually quite panicked about it. I began begging Mrs. A to see if we could get some sort of computer-based monitoring system, one that would allow us to decide who lived and who died. Mrs. A said that the state techs were considering such a program to be used consortium-wide, but hadn't made any firm decisions, so we'd just try our new paper system and see how things went. And so I awaited the doom of our sanity at the hands of the innanet crowd.

Quite unexpectedly, the doom did not come--at least, not at first. Even after we had all ten stations up and running, the competition for them was surprisingly slim in the early weeks. We rarely had to enforce the 15 minute station rules and often just let users of them go for however long they wanted as there were almost always other stations open. We didn't even have to kick anybody off a machine for nearly a month into the new gig and even then it was a rare occurrence. Patrons basically could stay on as long as they wanted and there was enough turnover that we didn't have any problems with competition.

As the months passed, though, we began to have more and more innanet crowders more and more often. Word was getting around that we had a bountiful supply of computers and the crowders began to crawl from beneath their rocks and lurch in to use them. Patrons we'd not seen in years, such as Matilda the Cranky Wiccan, Mabel the Amateaur Geneal0gist, Sunday Bob, and the Formerly Sweatiest Woman in All the Land, began to become regular visitors again. Previously frequent innanet crowders such as Germaphobe Gary, Johnny Hacker, Mr. Little Stupid, Mr. Hinky, and Mr. Perfect began coming far more frequently, usually multiple times a day. And former repeat offender Innanet Rogues, such as Mr. B-Natural, Old Man Printer, The New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, and Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine basically needed to have their ass roots cut out of our chairs each evening for all the innanet time they were hogging up. Sonofabitch, we even saw us a Fagin or two.

All of this increased traffic made for increasing problems with paper-based monitoring process. The way it was designed to work, patrons signed up on our sign-in clip-board with their name and time as usual; the staff then assigned them one of the vacant computers and then the staff noted which one it was beside their name on the sign-in sheet; when computer patrons departed, the staff was supposed to highlight their names to indicate their absence; then, if all computers were full, whichever patron was at the top of the list of non-highlighted names (usually Gene) was automatically up for being kicked off.

This system actually worked pretty well for several months, but as our traffic increased so did the problems inherent with it, such as the difficulties in keeping track of just who has to get off and when in addition to the other duties of our jobs. If you throw in a couple of patrons who refuse to put down what time they signed on, or incorrectly put down what time they signed on, it makes things a bit more tricky. Then add to this the complaints we began to get over the slowness of our connection speed (again, mostly from Gene) and the computers and their users quickly become an even deeper source of resentment to the staff than usual. It reached the point that we really didn't care when less than fragrant patrons, such as Mr. Stanky, paid us a visit because it gave us a nice chance to clear the decks, as it were. (Well, except for Gene. The only outside force we've ever found that could shift Gene off of a computer was the day the power went out and he had no choice.)

And on the topic of Mr. Stanky, our new computer area was equipped with vinyl upholstered chairs, the kind we could spray down with disinfectant spray and wipe clean as opposed to the old cloth chairs we had that tended to soak up his "essence." Yes, we planned the chairs around Mr. Stanky.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Grand Opening (Moving Days L)

After nearly three blissful, patron-free weeks of preparation, it was at long last time to stop stalling and open the doors on The New "Liberry." Opening day was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon and the "liberry" went all out with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a cookie and leftover cheese from the wine & cheese reception reception. State officials came by, speeches were made, the Board of Directors and Mrs. A were thanked for all their work in making it happen, we the staff were thanked for helping them, and the man who'd spearheaded the whole project for so many years, Mr. Kreskin was mentioned and honored as well. To further cement this, the previously unnamed street which the new library building had been built above was named after him.

We opened the doors and the public began piling in.

A good many books circulated on opening day, but by and large people were there to see the place and get a whiff of that new "liberry" smell. For our part, we were doing double-duty running around making sure the cookie and cheese tables were full and also running the circ desk. The desk was only running at half capacity because despite the fact that we now had two circ desk computers we still only had one barcode scanner and none of us felt like typing 14 digit barcode numbers all afternoon.

The coming week brought lots of business as word spread that we were at last open and the usual suspects began to trickle in. It was a pretty major time of transition for the patrons but especially for the staff, as we not only had our regular duties to attend to but also some new roles as defacto tour guides. Because the placement of library materials on the shelves was still somewhat in flux, we didn't want to put up any sort of permanent signage denoting where things were located. Actually, our architect was dead set against signage of any sort because it just offended him for some reason. Mrs. A tried to explain that our patrons needed to know where things were and signage was the most efficient way to convey that information, but he was unmoved. (He had some other odd and dangerous ideas about how public spaces should be run, which I'll get to later.) Now, we all understood that it wasn't his decision to make and Mrs. A did declare that we would eventually put up some sort of signage, but we couldn't even stick temporary paper signs to the wooden shelf ends (even the shitty ones) because tape allegedly would ruin their finish. (Never mind that I'd affixed Post-Its and masking tape to most of them already to denote their shittiness.) Mrs. A's decision was to treat it like a study and see what sort of signage our patrons truly needed. After all, from years of experience, we already know that patrons NEVER read signs.

So we got to play tour guides, which wasn't bad because with the new building came more hours for the staff so we'd always have at least two people on the desk in addition to any directors who were present. (And who on the board that brought the new building to fruition was the person who insisted we always have two people on the desk? Why, Mrs. Day, oddly enough--the very woman who always complained bitterly that we had too many people working whenever she visited us before.)

One of the major misconceptions we had to combat, primarily over the course of the first few weeks, but occasionally beyond, was the misconception that the new library meant everyone had to get new library cards. Uh, no, cause we did that four years ago and it suuuuucked.

Another major misconception is that because we had a brand new library, we therefore must also have purchased brand new books. Some patrons were downright offended to browse our shelves and find the same books from the old library staring back at them.

And a third major misconception was over the layout of the building itself. Our new building, you see, was built into the side of a hill with the main floor and entrance on the upper level. However, for months, patrons would come to the desk and earnestly ask, "What's upstairs?"

"There is no upstairs," we would respond.

(Blank look. Blank look.)

"This IS upstairs," we would clarify. "We have a downstairs, but there are no other floors above us."

(Blank look. Blank look.)

Initially after the grand opening, we let people pretty much have a free run of both floors of the building. This was because we had plenty of patrons who (after we'd explained to them the whole upstairs/downstairs thing) really wanted to see the downstairs portion. Fine. Go. Knock yourselves out. But after a month or so of this, we decided everyone had seen the downstairs who needed to see it and everyone should stay the hell out of it unless they were otherwise renting the space. This may seem like a bad thing for a public library to do with what is ostensibly public space, but it was not set up to be a public area to begin with. It's a big empty room, a kitchen-like area, a story hour room and mechanical rooms and storage with nary a book to be found and no comfy chairs to sit in. More importantly, it's not under the observation of the staff. We were frankly of the opinion that anyone who wanted to be down there was probably up to no good. And often they were.

We tried to keep the lower floor policed as best we could, and though the elevator and stairwell to get downstairs was within sight of the circulation desk, it wasn't always possible to catch everyone. Oh, it was easy enough to catch the lazy ones who didn't want to take the stairs because our elevator has a loud and annoying chime that sounds whenever the door opens (which we thought was a real nice feature for a library elevator to have). But if we were away from the desk and didn't hear the stairwell door slam closed, they could get past us. Usually, the offenders were simply people who "wanted to see what was down there." Sometimes, though, they were repeat offenders, like the skatepunks I had to bust on two consecutive days who claimed they thought I only meant they couldn't go down there on that first day, but it was okay to head down there (and skate) on other days. Uh huh.

My major fear was that someone like Chester the (potential) Molester would realize there were places in the building he could not be easily seen and do something horrifying down there. No one had seen him in months and that was a very good thing, but we didn't know how long that would last. And, indeed, it didn't. One afternoon, I spied him coming up the walk through the glass of our front door.

"Aw hell," I said in a low voice that only Mrs. B could hear. She looked up and saw him too. I began preparing my face for some serious stink-eye beamage.

Chester walked in and gazed about at the expansive room. Oddly, he didn't cast a second glance at the family approaching the desk, featuring pre-teen girls. He just stood and looked around. Then he looked over and noticed me.

"It's a nice place," he said.

I didn't respond verbally, but continued to stare death at him. As usual, he seem unaware of it. Then, as quickly as he'd arrived, he left and didn't return for many more months. And even in the two other appearances he's made in the past year, we've had none of the previous problems we've had from him at all.

And then, of course, there was the innanet crowd to deal with...


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fund and/or Temper Raising (Moving Days K)

As you have probably guessed, Mr. Crab did not donate his stuffed animal heads to our new "liberry." I'm afraid I don't know the story behind his decision not to, but I suspect he didn't like our proposal to sell them for cash. I do know that at some point he did donate some amount of money to the new "liberry" project (most likely $200, but possibly more) for he was among the people invited to attend a donors only wine & cheese reception in the new "liberry" building, a few days before the place officially opened. (And on that subject, I must say, the public support for the new project was quite astounding. While there was a lot of grant money secured and state funds allocated toward the construction, a great deal of our funds came through donations from the public at large. In fact, a full two thirds of the fundage was in hand before ground was broken and the rest quickly began coming in afterward.)

Though the "liberry" now has its own set of wine glasses (stored in the staff breakroom--NOT the kitchen) we didn't own them at the time of the donors reception and had to borrow some from a couple of area restaurants. The cheese and wine were likewise donated by area restaurants and area vineyards, respectively. The cheese was high quality; the wine, not so much, but there was certainly a lot of it so only a few people complained.

Naturally, the "liberry" staff had to work the reception, along with members of the Friends of the "Liberry" group and members of the Board. The board poured the wine and hob-nobbed with the rich & powerful while the rest of us canvassed the room, picking up the empty plates and half-drunk wine glasses people kept leaving on every exposed surface, before someone had a chance to come along, knock them over and spill them on the brand new carpeted areas. In between cleanup missions, we had time to nosh on some of the goodies ourselves. During one such cheese break in the workroom, I heard the unmistakable sound of a wine glass shattering somewhere. Fortunately, it had smashed on the tiled floor near the foyer and not on the carpet. Unfortunately, as I quickly saw, it had been Mr. Crab who'd dropped it.

I'd like to think that most human beings, after having dropped a wine glass in public, would actually attempt to do something about it. I'm not saying they should go find a broom and dustpan themselves, necessarily, but at the very least they should tell somebody about it and perhaps try to pick up the broken glass before someone else steps on it. I'd also like to think that most human beings, after someone comes out to clean up the broken wine glass THEY had just dropped (and not told anyone about) would at least have the decency to assist in the smallest way possible by, say, getting out of the damned way. Not Mr. Crab. No, Mr. Crab refused to acknowledge the glass he had just dropped despite the fact that it was very clear he had been the one to drop it being as how there was glass and wine all around his feet and on his shoes. Instead, he went right on talking to the man he had been talking to as though nothing at all had happened. And when I came out with the broom and dustpan to clean up his mess for him, he remained planted in said mess as though the glass and wine weren't there at all, continuing to talk and hindering my efforts to sweep around his feet. This was very, very annoying to me, but not surprising coming from a known colossal asshole such as Mr. Crab. Ultimately it would have been okay as I would still have been able to sweep up most of the glass despite him. What Mr. Crab did next, however, made doing my job without having to first render him unconscious very very problematic.

You see, the reason Mr. Crab was refusing to acknowledge his broken glass was that he was embarrassed about having broken it in the first place. (My guess is that his self-image as the Great White Hunter would not allow for such clumsy accidents as dropping a glass in public.) Being embarrassed about it, he didn't want me calling any more attention to his accident by trying to clean it up. I feel fairly certain on this point, because shortly after I bent down and began attempting to sweep up the glass, Mr. Crab began kicking the pieces away from him. His kicks were quick, rather violent and aimed at sending the glass beneath the cover of a nearby leafy potted plant situated around one of the floor vents. He gave no regard to the fact that I was there at his feet, nor that his kicks were connecting with my hands and very nearly knocking the broom and dust pan from my grasp. Nope. He just kept right on kicking away.

"Mr. Crab," I said, but got no response. "Mr. Crab, please stop that!" I said, but again got no response. I knew he knew I was there because we'd made eye contact as I walked up, so I must assume his refusal to acknowledge me at that moment was just as intentional as his continued kicks.

It was at that moment that my brain flashed red and it occurred to me that Mr. Crab would no longer be able to kick the glass nor ignore me were I to impale him upon the end of my broom. And as absurd as actually doing that might seem, I knew with dire certainty that if I didn't get away from Mr. Crab RIGHT THEN, our little situation would escalate into a physical confrontation and might very well lead to headlines, such as: Elderly Library Donor Given Beat Down at Fund-Raiser by Crazed Staff Member. Retracts $200 Donation. Says Ass "Very Sore."

I grabbed my broom and dustpan and retreated through the crowd and took refuge behind the circ desk where I snatched up a glass of wine and downed it quick before pouring another. Mrs. A saw my face and asked what had happened. I told her.

"What an asshole," she said.


Mr. Piano, one of our newer board members, saw us talking in hushed, angry tones and also asked what was up. I told him too.

"What an asshole," he said.

"Yeah," Mrs. A and I said in unison.

I remained behind the desk for several minutes, drinking more crappy wine and eating more soothing cheese. And every few minutes, other staff members, having heard the short version from Mrs. A, filtered over to hear the detailed version from me. Even former board member, Mrs. Emm, came by to confirm the details. I told her the story and my embarrassment theory. She shook her head knowingly, patted me on the shoulder in sympathy and walked away. And it was at that moment that I realized I had just achieved the ultimate revenge against Mr. Crab. Mrs. Emm is one of the biggest gossips I know and is probably tapped into the rumor and innuendo stream of the well-to-do crowd of our area more than anyone outside of Mrs. A herself.

Oh, so you don't want anyone to know you dropped a wine glass, Mr. Crab? Well, good luck with that, cause now Mrs. Emm has the play by play and there's no way in hell she's keeping it to herself. It might not have been all that big a deal in the first place, but your actions to cover it up have now assured that it's a small deal being spread to the winds.

After this realization, I had another glass of wine and felt much better about the evening.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Mr. Crab, the Third Grumpiest Great White Hunter in All the World (Moving Days J)

JANUARY 7, 2006

I rarely know anything that goes on in our monthly meeting of the “liberry’s” board of directors and that’s fine with me. What does trickle down to me often pisses me off and I would just get myself in trouble by opening my yap were I there to hear it first hand. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of our proposed new “liberry” building. (And I’ve kept my yap mostly shut about it online for two years now for fear of drawing the wrong attention to myself.) Friday’s meeting of the board was different, though. I might still have been in trouble, had I been there, but it would have been for laughing my fool ass off. My boss, Mrs. A, told the staff about it afterwards and assured us that it was a tale that will be retold for months to come.

Some time before the meeting, Mrs. A received a phone call from our eldest and longest-standing board-member, Mrs. Day. To date, Mrs. Day has not been at all wild about our campaign to build a new library. In fact, she voted against it for quite some time before Mr. Kreskin, our former board president, was able to convince her that it looked bad for one lone board member to keep voting against everything, so she jumped on board to save face.

On Friday morning, Mrs. Day phoned to inform Mrs. A that she had a major and exciting announcement to reveal at the board meeting. She wouldn’t give any indication what it regarded, but said it was something huge. Naturally, Mrs. A’s mind wandered to the possibilities. And while waiting for Mrs. Day to turn up for the meeting, Mrs. A and the other four board members—Mr. Eggs, Mrs. Emm, Mrs. Aitch and Dr. Watson—plus our press officer, Mrs. PR, mused aloud as to what the big news might be. Consensus of hope was that Mrs. Day had found someone to donate the remaining funds we need for the new building (around a cool million), but they found it more likely that she was merely going to take credit for securing a rather large donation a neighbor of hers had recently made that everyone already knew about.

Mrs. Day eventually rolled in for the meeting and after much smiling and excitement on her part, she finally revealed her big news. It seems that Mrs. Day has been in contact with everyone’s favorite cranky patron, annual $200 check-donator, frequent $200-donation revocation threatener, and third grumpiest old man in all the world, Mr. Crab, regarding what he might like to donate to the library’s building campaign. (All together now, “$200!”) Mr. Crab claimed that due to obscure IRS laws, he could not donate any actual money to the project because he had “already donated over a million dollars.” (I assumed when I heard this third-hand quote that Mr. Crab meant he’d already donated a million dollars to the library over the years, in which case he would have to be 5000 years old since he only ever gives us $200 at a pop. Now that I’ve thought about it, though, he probably meant he’d given a million dollars to various charitable contributions over the years—no doubt in $200 increments.) Instead of giving us any money, Mr. Crab said he wished to donate something far more valuable: an extensive antique German train set he’d collected and two, count em two, stuffed animals. And when I say "stuffed animals" I’m not talkin’ about Teddy bears or MonChiChis, I mean actual dead animals from Mr. Crab’s collection of animals he has shot, killed and had stuffed, taxidermy-style. According to Mrs. Day, Mr. Crab specifically wishes to donate two stuffed dead animal heads to be hung above the two fireplaces in the proposed new building.

From the way Mrs. A described it to me later, Mrs. Day couldn’t have been more thrilled about this donation. She beamed at the members of the board as she told them, barely able to contain her joy. This, to me, is merely proof that Mrs. Day's mind automatically defaults to the 1930s and 40s, when men such as Ernest Hemingway went around cheerfully blowing the hides off whatever creatures struck their fancy, for fun, then hung their corpses up for all to see and there were no activist groups to raise a stink about it. (By the way, while I think hunting for sport is abhorrent, I’m all for blowing the hides off of creatures you intend to eat, provided they are in season and/or the ranger isn’t looking. "Yeah, take my pic-a-nic basket again, you f*ckers!”)

The board’s reaction to the news was far more modern. I’m told Mrs. Emm and Mrs. PR began laughing openly at the absurdity of it; Mr. Eggs and Dr. Watson sat dumbfounded—Dr. Watson, particularly so, as this was his very first meeting as a board member; Mrs. A just shook her head in full knowledge of the kind of shit storm that would rain down on us from the local hippie-activist community should these heads actually make their way anywhere near our new building; and Mrs. Aitch was furious, but mostly at Mr. Crab’s assertion that there was some kind of million-dollar lifetime donation cut-off.

Between bursts of laughter, Mrs. Emm managed to ask what kind of heads Mr. Crab wished to give us. Mrs. Day wasn’t certain, but said that Mr. Crab has an elephant head above his own desk so maybe that would be one of them.

(It should be noted that Mr. Crab reportedly also has an elephant-leg golf-bag. You heard me... Elephant. Leg. Golf. Bag. When Mrs. A told me about it, I said, “That’s just awful. I mean, I can see an elephant-foot umbrella stand, and all, but a golf-bag is just excessive.” Mrs. A then said she really wished I had been at the meeting, because that was exactly the kind of running commentary that the board members began making around that time. Go board.)

For her part, Mrs. Day seemed oblivious to the ridicule the rest of the board was heaping on her major announcement. She must have thought their tearful laughter was out of joy at such a golden opportunity to turn our new library into some sort of big-game hunting lodge. She even further suggested that one of the heads might, in fact, be that of a polar bear, which Mr. Crab reportedly also owns.

Eventually, Mrs. Emm was able to compose herself long enough to suggest that we agree to accept the gifts, but only with no restrictions as to their use, so we would be free to sell the items to raise money for the project. Mr. Crab will most likely hate this, grump about it at length, retract his offer of donation and then threaten to withhold his $200 again.

“Well if he doesn’t stop acting so crappy to our staff, it’s going to be his head up above the fireplace cause they’re going to kill him,” Mrs. A reportedly told the board.

Soon the room calmed down a bit and the board began discussing such possibilities as a road trip to Mr. Crab's home in order to view the items proposed for donation. Immediately, various board members began vocally noting that they were likely to be out of town on that day, whatever day that should be, but Mrs. A insisted that such a trip could be delayed until all of them were able to attend.

After Mrs. A finished her tale for me, I advised her that we really did not want to be AT ALL beholden to Mr. Crab or we'd never hear the end of it until the day he died, and even then he'd probably have it set into his will that his heirs must continue to lord it over us until the end of time or be cut off from his reputed massive fortune.

Then I realized that it might be worth accepting Mr. Crab's animal heads, if only to piss off Mr. and Mrs. Smiley, who are among our more vocal militant animal rights types in the area and who have, in the past several months, continued desperately trying to torpedo this new building project using any stray hope they think might float no matter how ludicrous. Seeing an elephant head above our new fireplace might be just the thing to finally remove the remaining Grinchy vestiges of sanity they still possess.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Either I'm Itching to Tell Another Tale or I've got a Really Bad Case of the Crabs (Moving Days I)

Back in December, I alluded to an incident in which 3rd Grumpiest Old Man in All the World, Mr. Crab, and I nearly came to blows at a wine & cheese reception. I've been itching to tell that story for over a year now but couldn't do so without first explaining the whole bit about us moving into a new library, which I didn't want to have to explain at the time of the occurrence for reasons which I will eventually explain.

However, in order to properly set up the tale of the hurt locker I nearly stuffed Mr. Crab into--which, by the by, would have likely involved cramming a broom handle up his ass, so the one he has up there already would have some company--I will first have to tell a different tale, one which I have also been itching to tell for even longer than the wine & cheese hurt locker one. Fortunately, I had the foresight to write this setup tale back in January of 2006, but for similar reasons as those of the previous omission, never officially published to the blog.

See ya next week.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Damages (Moving Days H)

As our intended opening day approached, we still didn't have all the furniture we'd ordered months before. Though we didn't yet know for sure, it would still be a few weeks before we had received and installed all ten of our patron computers. And, there was also the matter of the toilets that weren't quite up to snuff when it came to actually flushing their contents (though we did have a urinal that would take your arm off), thanks in large part to shoddy sub-contractors whose work hadn't been checked after by the main contractor. But we could certainly operate without all that stuff for a while. The major thing we'd been waiting for was the delivery of our shelf-ends. For those not in the know, the shelf ends are basically thick, monolithic slabs of stained and ornamented wood that are affixed to the ends of our metal library shelves ideally to add some aesthetically pleasing quality to otherwise institutional shelving. Unfortunately, the very first one I looked at, and, as it turned out, many others, looked as though they had been assembled by a blind, paraplegic rhesus monkey, in the dark.

You see, the ornamentation on each shelf end amounted to two sections of allegedly squared off molding with fancy curls at their corners, which were glued one above the other to the overall surface of the shelf end. I say "allegedly squared off" because both of the molded pieces on the first shelf end I looked at were not at 90 degree angles within the overall shelf end, nor were they at all parallel to one another. As I mentioned, this was one of the worst examples, but was by far not the only one available. Of the 35 some odd shelf ends in the building, 22 of them should never EHEHEHVER have passed through quality control. I was furious. And after I'd pointed them out to Mrs. A, she was not real happy either.

This brings up a none-too-pleasant retail concept I've been developing called: Give the Library the Broke Ones. It's a concept similar in nature to the "They F*CK you at the drive through!" syndrome, so commonly experienced at french-fry-serving fast food restaurants worldwide, and phrase-coined by Joe Pesci in Leathal Weapon 2. (I myself once returned to a McDonald's from which I had purchased a super-sized value meal to-go, and came up to the counter brandishing my half-full box of fries. "I'm sorry," I said, "but it seems I've been given the incorrect amount of fries. I was supposed to get a super-sized order of fries." The girl at the counter looked at it and replied, "That is a super-sized order of fries." I smiled and said, "No. That's a super-sized box containing a medium-sized amount of fries." Having absolutely no grounds to make an argument, she took it away and filled it to its proper level.) In Give the Library the Broke Ones, retailers of furnishings for libraries, schools and nonprofit agencies requiring furniture low bid a job in order to get a contract with said organization, then will supply them with remaindered furniture that they couldn't otherwise sell to businesses that can afford to pay more. My evidence for this is based on our experiences with two separate companies that supplied us with furnishings of such shoddy workmanship that it took our breath away. I've already covered the extreme shittiness of the 22 shelf ends. We also ordered ten tables of varying sizes to fill out our reading areas from a completely separate company. Out of those ten, six came pre-scuffed for our convenience. That's four full-sized tables and two coffee tables that were so obviously damaged that I cannot see any way that they could have been supplied to us by accident.

Now, I'm not going to name names of the manufacturers who tried to unload their ass-stock on us because in both cases they did (albeit nearly a full year later for the shelf-ends) replace their damaged goods with no additional cost to us. In fact, the table manufacturer was very quick to answer our complaints and we had new table-tops in a matter of weeks. Until then, though, it ws my job to photographically document all the shoddy workmanship. In addition to photographs, I went around and put post it labels on all the shelf-ends with notes showing how exactly they were flawed. The most severely damaged ones we put out of sight, against brick walls, and at the end of lesser-traveled aisles. Some, though, just stood out. Unfortunately, Mrs. J, not realizing the nature of my notes, came along and removed all of them, forcing me to do them all again. Then, again, she came behind me and removed all of them because she's so OCD that she cannot stand for such obviously out-of-place notes to be there. I considered alerting her to the lack of right angles demonstrated on some of these ends, but feared the knowledge would destroy her. Instead, I decided to not put any more up until closer to replacement date, at which time Mrs. A ordered Mrs. J outright to leave them the hell alone, which she did.

This was, of course, not the last problem we would have with the quality of the materials within or the construction of our new building, but it was still a great place to be.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Settling In (Moving Days G)

Meanwhile, back at our branch(es), we were hard at work boxing up and transporting the contents of the lower level of our building to the new place, not to mention some of our furniture, which was to serve as furniture in the new place until the comfier chairs and sofas we'd ordered months previously were to finally arrive. (It was around this time that former board member Mrs. Day began her unfortunate refinishing of the "liberry's" tables, ultimately resulting in Ms. D having to redo them all and then redo one of them yet again later.)

Most of the actual moving was accomplished withing a couple of days and most of the unboxing and shelving was done in a couple more. And with books finally starting to be shelved, the prospect of actually working in such a cool new place began to seem more real.

The new place truly was awesome. It sat high on a hill and offered great big windows,with possibly the best view of Town-A in the whole area. Not only that, but with the new place came far more space to operate in, offices for both Mrs. A and Mrs. C, a staff workroom with a desks and computers for both me and Mrs. B (that we technically had to share with Ms. M and Ms. S, but whatever) and actual counter space upon which we could accomplish such tasks as processing and covering books without having to be hunched over a tiny, rickety table. Mrs. A had even ordered task chairs for us, making sure that they were both backless and uncomfortable to sit on, precisely so that Ms. S wouldn't stay on her duff the whole time. And within that staff workroom was a private restroom for staff only! Oh, sure, we had a private restroom for staff only back in the old library, but it was in Mrs. A's office and was inconvenient to use when she was actually IN her office, plus patrons often used it, too, whenever she wasn't in there. Now we had our own "facilities" away from prying patron eyes and ears, complete with a column of lockers in which we could stash personal items. We were amazed.

The new circ desk was also a thing of beauty, with plenty of storage cabinets and drawers to fill. We had so many, in fact, that I eventually declared one of them The Barcode Drawer, and stored in it one sheet of barcodes which I used for magazine processing. This eventually lead to conversations such as:

ME-- Why are there totebags in the Barcode Drawer?

MRS. B-- I dunno.

ME-- No, you're supposed to say "The question is: Why are their barcodes in the Totebag Drawer?"

(Long pause)

MRS. B-- Oh.

No, my fellow employees don't watch as much Scrubs as I do.

Another major innovation was the installation of a new phone system so that when Mrs. A received phone calls we wouldn't have to walk all the way to her office to tell her; we could just transfer the call. And another phone line was also installed to allow us to take multiple calls from multiple phones.

We also had a staff breakroom on our lower level complete with a full sized refrigerator, a microwave, a stove, a double sink, a dishwasher and loads and loads of cabinet space in which we could store... well, groceries, I guess. Sounds a lot like a kitchen, right? Nope. Not a kitchen. Not a kitchen at all. And, sure, while people who eventually were going to rent out our multi-purpose room, located there on the same level, could use it AS a kitchen, it was most certainly NOT a kitchen. This was mostly because if we'd called it a kitchen the health department would be duty-bound to come round and inspect it once in a while. They didn't have to inspect staff breakrooms, though, so that's what it officially became on all plans and signage.

Back upstairs, we had a far bigger children's book area, with sections for juvenile and easy readers. It practically took up an entire wing of the building. And we located the young adult section to the other side of the building, since many of the young adult patrons we'd had before looked down their nose at having to browse in the "children's" section. (They also got the comfiest furniture in the entire building, not that they appreciated it, the little turds. The Coot often camped out there to sleep his way through the afternoon.)

With no one there but the staff, our workdays were pretty leisurely. We'd roll in wearing shorts and flip flops and work on individual tasks with headphone and podcast accompaniment until lunch time. Then we'd go get food and cart it back to enjoy in front of the big window. (We figured it would be the only time we'd be able to eat with that kind of view, so we might as well enjoy it while we could.) And every few days would bring a delivery of some new furniture that we'd get to try out. Yep, those days were pretty sweet.

As for the books, we had ample space available so that we didn't even have to use all the levels of any given set of shelves. We separated paperbacks and hardbacks, even trade sized paperbacks that had formerly been shelved with the hardbacks because they wouldn't fit on the old spin racks. Now the spin racks were a thing of the past. The trouble was, once we put stuff on the shelves, we quickly saw more efficient ways to shelve things, so we had to rearrange entire sections to suit the new plan. Mrs. C warned us early on that we'd probably be making adjustments for the first year, so we should get used to it early. She was indeed correct in her prediction.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Moving the Innanet (Moving Days F)

After nonfiction was moved, we decided to go ahead and shut down the old "liberry" altogether, as we knew moving everything else would negate most of its usefulness to patrons until we got the new place open. We didn't know how long it would take to reopen, because we didn't know how long it would take to organize everything, nor how long it would take the last items of necessary furniture to arrive. We guestimated two weeks and crossed our fingers.

Of course, the group of patrons most inconvenienced by the closing of the library was the innanet crowd. Keep in mind, back in the old building, we only had three public access computers because that's all we had room for, but there was still plenty of competition for those. We knew that once word got out we were closing for a couple weeks there would be gnashing of teeth when patrons couldn't get their daily or even hourly fix from the innanet teat. The complaints began before we'd even closed. We answered them by informing the complainers that when we reopened we'd have ten computer stations and by suggesting they try one of the four other library branches in the area, most of which had more terminals than we did to begin with. From their reactions, you would have thought we'd suggested they drive to Abu Dhabi rather than five minutes down the road.

During the weeks we were closed, we heard from these other branches about the shenanigans of some of our regulars who began to darken their doors. Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine was chief among the displaced offenders. He chose to relocate to Town-C's branch where he began to spread his usual Gene-idiosyncrasies, such as telling anyone who hoved into his field of vision the suicide-inducing (or perhaps homicide-inducing) details of his geneal0gy research, printing reams of geneal0gical records and complaining bitterly about how much it cost him to do so. See our branch charges 10 cents per page for prints, but Town-C's branch charges a full 25 cents for both prints and photocopies. This royally torqued Gene and gave him cause to complain each and every time he came up to pay for his prints; which was often. Just like he did at our branch, Gene drove Town-C nuts by printing and printing and printing and coming up to pay for each batch of prints as he printed them. You wouldn't think this would be a big deal, but Town-C's branch is wildly understaffed in comparison to ours, with barely two employees on their best day. Add to that Gene's penchant for long-ass stories about all the people he's related to with each print pickup, not to mention an accompanying complaint session over the price of each page and you've got yourself a damned nuisance. Finally, Town-C's director, Mrs. S (no relation to Ms. S) told Gene that she would charge him only .15 cents per page if he would simply wait to pay for his prints at the very end of his computing session. Gene outright refused, and went right on paying a quarter per print as it was printed and complaining about the cost every time.

I've been itching to tell that story for over a year now. I got a few more such itches left in me and soon, oh, very soon, they shall be scratched.

For our part, the lack of innanet crowders was pretty blissful, except for the few that would turn up and bang on the door to get in despite the gigantic WE ARE NOT YET OPEN sign we had outside. Sometimes, when we'd left the front doors unlocked to allow free access for the staff, the patrons would just saunter right in and would even ask if they could go ahead and use our computers anyway even after being told we were not open to the public. I gave those people a complimentary kick in the teeth and sent them on their way.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Typical Day (Moving Days E)

The first thing we did to facilitate the move was to spread the word far and wide that while we weren't accepting any help with the move itself, patrons could help with it all the same by lightening our load. To that effect, we had removed all limitations on the number of books patrons could check out at once and encouraged them to take as many as they could, the caveat being that they had to turn all those books in at our new place when we reopened. Furthermore, all fines would be waived until such a time as we were firmly ensconced in our new facility, so there would be no fear of zapping people. Our patrons, thankfully, complied and checked out a great many books.

The second major thing we did was to hire on someone whose job it would be to help plan the move itself and make things run as smoothly as we could. Her name was Ms. D. Yes, the very same Ms. D we eventually hired to replace eternal newbie greenhorn Ms. S. See, Ms. S was still with us at that time, but was, as you would expect, of very little help with the move itself. Her schedule with her fast food job suddenly became very very busy and there was just no way she could break away during the times of day we were doing the major portion of our moving (i.e. mornings, when it wasn't so butt-ass hot) so she was unavailable to help us much with that. Her schedule only allowed her to roll in in the afternoon, after most of the heavy lifting had already been done. While we were not surprised by that turn of events, we weren't too put out by it either, cause we knew she'd be useless at actual work anyway. Instead, Ms. D stepped in and helped get us moving.

So, one morning, we began boxing up the nonfiction. It was slow going, with each of us taking one shelf column at a time, boxing up the books according to how best they fit in the boxes while still attempting to maintain as much order as possible. Size concessions had to be made, though, in order to have boxes that would be full enough to be stable when stacked. Very quickly it became apparent that even after we got the books moved, we'd be reading the nonfiction shelves for order for quite some time to come.

With our original building being as ancient as it was, we had to be careful to stack our newly boxed books along the edges of the room and directly beside the shelves on which they had resided. Part of the reason for needing a new building, after all, is that the weight of the books had been causing undue strain on the support structure of the second floor itself for a number of years.

The next major problem was actually moving the boxes downstairs. With no elevator to speak of, we had to be more innovative. So we rented one of those long metal box conveyor platforms that I don't know the real name of. Whatever it's called, it's the kind with rows and rows of metal wheels that allow boxes to slide along horizontally, only, we tipped ours up and ran it down the stairs. What we did then was to haul hand-truck loads of boxes to the top of the stairs and slide their contents down the conveyor contraption at very dangerous speeds. Each heavy box of books would then be caught by the catcher (fortunately not me) and passed to someone loading a handtruck at the bottom of the stairs (often me). Once loaded, each hand-truck would be trucked out to the UHaul. It wasn't the most elegant of systems, but it saved a lot of knee and back strain going up and down the stairs. Within the space of six hours, we'd pretty much boxed everything up, moved it into the van. Another hour later and we'd unloaded the boxes at the new place.

For some reason, we decided it would be wise to stack all of our boxes of nonfiction in the aisles of the shelf sections that corresponded to where we thought they would need to be shelved. This was a bad thing. Once the boxes were stacked in the aisles between shelves they were then in the way and became an enormous hassle to try and work with. The box you needed to unpack was always on the bottom of the stack and we were forever getting them out of order as we tried to unbox and shelve them. We quickly determined that for all future shelving, we would have to pile the boxes outside of the shelving area, preferably in order, and haul each box into the stacks as needed. Lesson learned.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Construction (Moving Days D)

The new "liberry" was pretty much the daily topic of conversation, at least from our patrons' standpoint. As the structure grew and grew, we'd be asked our thoughts on it, how we planned to move into it, could we use help, etc. We really had no idea how to respond to most of the questions, as none of us had ever done anything like this before. In fact, we continued to tell patrons that we would be hard-pressed to even believe any of it until we set foot in the building ourselves. And, again, it was difficult to argue with the thing growing on the hill nearby.

Mr. Kreskin, our former board president, was delighted with the progress. Though he'd stepped down as board president a couple of years before ground was broken, he had been on the committee that generated much of the funds needed to get the project to the ground-breaking stage. His health had taken a few turns here and there, necessitating his departure from all committees. But he was there on the day the ground was broken to see his dream come to pass. All of us on staff knew his days were numbered, but we were betting he'd hang on like the Bluesmobile until the day we finally opened the doors to the public. We also joked that, like the Bluesmobile, he would then spontaneously combust. We were wrong. Several months before work on the building was completed, Mr. Kreskin passed on. And even though we knew it was an inevitability, his death still came as a shock to us because we'd all been so certain that he would hang on `til the building was finished.

And, at long long last, just over a year ago, the building was finished. I'd taken my first tour of it back before it had carpet, lights or furniture, but could see the potential there. By the time I set foot in the more or less finished creation, things looked really really nice and I began looking forward to working there. The place had SO much more space. For one thing, the entire staff would be able to fit behind the circ desk. For another, we'd have two--count `em TWO--circ computers with which to better serve patrons. There would be ultimately ten public access computers, compared to the three we previously had. Sure, none of them had arrived yet, nor had the long computer desk to put them on, and when the computers finally did arrive they did so sans monitors and it was another week or two before we could order some from a supplier who wasn't fresh out, but they would eventually come.

Which brings me to a very important point: despite the fact that all of our furniture, shelves, wooden shelf-ends, computers, and other essential "liberry" materials had been ordered many many months in advance, with a very specific due date on delivery given, you'd be amazed at the amount of things that failed to show up on time. Most of it arrived during our down-time as we did the actual move, but some of it we wouldn't receive for months after we'd opened. And when it did arrive, some of it was damaged, half-assedly-constructed or just outright wrong. More on that in a bit, though.

We the staff kept plenty busy making preparations for the move, right up until the time we were scheduled to accomplish it. We'd been hoarding boxes for weeks, but the idea of filling them gave us pause. Books, particularly nonfiction books, which was the section we were starting with first, are not always of uniform shape; they come in all sorts of dimensions, from tiny to over-sized and they don't lend themselves easily to being boxed in their proper order. But boxing things in as close to proper order as possible was exactly what we wanted to do. We weren't so naive as to think we wouldn't have to do rearranging, because while our new building offered far more square footage than our cramped and ancient original location, it was space we weren't entirely sure how best to fit our comparatively small collection into.

In the name of "getting it right the first time," we decided to refuse all active help from our patrons in the move. After all, they weren't trained to get things in order and would likely be in the way more often than not. (We already had enough problem with one of our employees falling into that category as it was.) Instead, we decided to let our patrons help us with the move in a far more passive manner.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Smiley's Ballgame (Moving Days C)

Mr. Smiley's first time at bat against the new "liberry" project was to claim (via fliers and letters to the editor of the local paper and an article written by Mrs. Smiley, published by another local paper entirely) that our new building would destroy specific examples of an endangered species of tree, the 0sage 0range, that he felt was historically significant to the area. At first everyone at the "liberry" was confused, for we'd never heard of 0sage 0ranges before and certainly didn't want to destroy endangered examples of them. Then a city worker brought us an example of the fruit of the 0sage 0range tree and we realized that we did indeed recognize the green and brainy-looking fruit, except we all knew them as "horse apples". Not only are they NOT endangered but they are in fact quite plentiful to nuisance levels throughout the state. Strike one.

Next up, he claimed that our new building was going to be constructed on a historically significant Civil War campground. Mrs. Smiley herself wrote a newspaper article about it, detailing how the parking lot of the new building would utterly destroy this valuable campsite. I'm all for preserving archeology, so I began asking questions about it too. Turns out, you pretty much can't build ANYTHING ANYWHERE in the greater Tri-Metro Town-A area without disturbing a Civil War site, being as how the entire town and surrounding area was the site of some pretty major Civil War activity. Beyond that, though, the campsite in question was, according to historical record, in existence for exactly one night and our state's historical preservation organization had already surveyed the site in question and had declared it of no historical significance. Strike two.

After that, one of his followers claimed that our new building and the construction thereof would somehow affect the wildlife within the inaccessible system of underground caves that run beneath the area and indeed the entire region. How anyone could tell this, being as how the caves are, again, inaccessible, was not elaborated upon. No one cared. Strike three.

Instead of heading to the dugout like a good player, though, Mr. Smiley and his crew brought out several more excuses that made even less sense and which no one cared about anyway. In fact, one of his people, who worked for the aforementioned another local publication, published a top ten list of things Town A needed more than a new library. The list had very little to do with the new library, but was basically a wishlist of stuff that would be helpful to have. ("10: Traffic lights that go `ping.' 9: A publicly viewable clock that's actually set to the correct time...") I proposed we write our own top ten response list in our library's weekly column, give it a topic and then proceed to list ten completely random things that had nothing to do with anything. ("10: Guacamole. 9: A handjob from Nicolette Sheridan...") Mrs. A declined my proposal, though she did find it funny.

When all of these efforts failed to result in public revolt against us, Mr. Smiley's crew resorted to actual physical sabotage--or monkeywrenching, as I believe it is also known. After ground had been broken on the site and construction was very much under way, the foreman at the site happened to be wrapping up a few details after the rest of the men had gone home when he saw a car pull up outside of the mobile-site-office. A woman got out of the vehicle, walked over to the silt fence that surrounded the site, used scissors to cut through it in two places, then get back into her vehicle and leave. Fortunately, because everyone involved with the project was fully aware who was behind the hubub against the new library and knew what his tactics had once been, cameras had been issued to the foreman and others on site and he had been able to snap a few pictures of the woman and her vehicle. Then, instead of leaving for the day, the foreman waited there for the inevitable phone call from the county building inspectors detailing they'd just received a report that the site's silt fence was broken in two places.

"Yep, it's broke," the foreman reportedly said. "I saw who broke it, too."

The police were informed of what had happened and supplied the authorities with the necessary photos. I do not know if Mr. Smiley's crewmember was confronted with the evidence, but I suspect so because all further trouble from Mr. Smiley and his crew ceased after that moment.

Some still wonder why Mr. Smiley felt so strongly that the area did not need a new library building. Certainly a case might be made, but none of his or his followers reasons ever held any water. One might presume that he did this as revenge against us for the time we nearly kicked him out of our book sale for hoarding books. And while I'm sure that incident didn't make him any happier with us, his campaign against us was already well underway before that little incident.

No, what we now believe was the real reason behind his efforts--you know, beyond the whole really really needing something in his life to rally against, to maybe let him relive a bit of his youth, and we were just the unfortunate souls who happened to be a convenient target--came down to a simple matter of convenience. The hill our new building was to be built upon was one of the only public places in the area that a) had a wonderful view of the area, b) was within walking distance of Mr. Smiley's house, and c) secluded enough that he, Mrs. Smiley and their friends could go and smoke pot there with little fear of being caught. We know this because they were caught doing this very thing by workers at the site.

We've not seen anything at all of Mr. Smiley since that time. Oh, he'd already been scarce due to the book sale incident, but after that sightings of him were limited to other parts of town and never the "liberry" itself.


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.