Friday, January 25, 2008

The Cultural Divide (More Tales of the "Good" Patrons)

My recent sojourn to Austin reminds me of a recent visit by a family of "good" patrons.

A Hispanic family, including a mom, a 10-year-old boy and his younger sister, approached me for help finding books for a book report the boy had been assigned at school. I looked up some good material and led them into the stacks to the very shelf where they could find it.

After a while, the family approached the circ desk and the boy asked if his mother could get a library card for them. Only then did I realize that the boy had done all the talking earlier when asking for help with his school research. And from her answers to my questions during the library card application process, it was apparent that the mom didn't speak very good English. Her son, however, spoke great English and was clearly serving as the family's ambassador to the English-speaking world. For a 10-year-old, he seemed fairly practiced at the job.

After making the mother's card, I asked her if she wanted her children to have cards as well. I thought that with his elevated status, it would probably make things a bit easier for the boy to have his own card rather than having to rely on his mom's. She said he could have one too. Rather than filling out a whole new application, I took hers and explained that I would write his name in above hers since the contact information was all the same.

"And what's your name?" I asked him.

"Juan," he said.

"That's J-U-A-N?" I asked.

The boy's eyes widened and an amazed expression crossed his face.

"You're the first person to ever get that right, here," he said.

I smiled at him and shrugged. It touched me that he seemed so happy to finally have someone who knew how his name should be spelled, but I wasn't really surprised that it happens so infrequently around here. It is West Virginia after all.


Anonymous said...

Well, at least the kid doesn't think that all English speaking adults are morons now!

Christa said...

Have to share my "Juan" anecdotes...
My friend Juan insisted when he was little that his Spanish speakin gramma call him by his Spanish name, Uno.
He told someone that his dad's name was Juan, too and got the response, "Your dad's name is One Two???"

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.