Friday, February 29, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #117

SETTING: My "liberry" as I stand at the circ-desk. My fellow employees Mrs. B and Ms. D are off reading shelves, somewhere, so it's difficult for me to leave the desk to do any "liberry" tasks myself. However, after nearly ten solid minutes of no phone calls and no patrons attempting to check out, I steel myself and gather up the five New Fiction books from the book cart and prepare to go and shelve them on the New Fiction shelf before Ms. D has a chance to mis-shelve them in the stacks. This I manage to do without incident. However, when I turn around from the New Fiction shelf, I spy a patron standing at the circ desk waiting to check out her books. Grumbling beneath my breath, I mosy on back to the desk to assist her.

ME— Hello.

PATRON— I waited until you walked away before I brought all my books over.

ME— I knew it!

(We laugh)

PATRON— That had to be how it seemed, at least.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Body Check!

I body checked a rogue patron today.

Well, okay, I didn't body check them exactly. But I did hit one pretty squarely in the chest with my elbow. And I didn't apologize for it.

According to my fellow employees, we had absolutely no patron traffic in the building for nearly the first hour of our workday. At 9:45 a.m., Mr. Perfect arrived to use a computer. Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, the innanet crowd followed in behind him and the computers remained completely packed for the next several hours. (And when Mr. Perfect finally left our building at nearly 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Mrs. C told him that we blamed him for the crowd, as they had not arrived until he did. "Please take them with you," I urged. He declined.)

By the time I arrived Mrs. C and Mrs. A were nuts from keeping up with the computers. Mrs. C, anxious to pass the crazy baton along, told me the patron on computer #6 was the next one scheduled to be booted if someone came in. And who should arrive at that moment but Mr. B-Natural.

While he was signing up, I went over to computer #6 to alert the patron that we needed her computer. What I didn't know was that Mr. B-Natural had signed the clip-board in record time and was now tailgating me, as though there somehow weren't at least a minute's lagtime between the point I tell a patron we need their computer and the point where they actually get off, not to mention the whole matter of rebooting. It's like he thought I was going to rip her out of the chair and offer it to him right then. So after I broke the news to the patron and turned back to the desk, Mr. B-Natural was RIGHT ON MY HEELS and I wound up elbowing him in the solar plexus completely by accident.

If it had been nearly anyone else, I would have apologized profusely, but my thought at the time was that getting elbowed was Mr. B-Natual's own damn fault since he was practically up my ass to begin with. I walked away without a word and he didn't complain beyond a slight "oof!" after being struck.

I told the wife about this later. She said my behavior was very rude and that I was a horrible person.

"But it was only a little very rude," I said.

"No. It was very very rude."

"But only a little."

"Nope. Very."

I think I probably lost that one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #116

SETTING: My "liberry" as Granny of Granny and Yosemite Sam fame steps up to the circ desk, grandson in tow. While she's standing there, grandson is getting fidgety.

GRANNY— (To Grandson, after spying our stack of InfoDepot bookmarks) Go on and get you one of them bookmarks with the train on it.

(Grandson takes bookmark, studies it for .99 of a second and then looks up at me.)

GRANDSON— What's this?

ME— That's a bookmark with a train on it.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Christmas Party

We held the "liberry's" staff Christmas party today.

Yeah, I know, it's a little later than usual, but it's really difficult to find time in everyone's schedule to have one in December, so we decided to put it off a bit. Then a bit more. Then a bit more. And, finally, it was decided that since all of us had to gather for our semi-monthly staff meeting, we'd just have it then. So we all brought in breakfast items and feasted mightily. (I'm an enormous fan of Mrs. C's monkey bread and am now an even more enormous fan as a result of eating damn near half the pan.) Then we had our staff meeting, bitched about problem patrons for a while, then opened presents.

Much like last year's Christmas party, this year each of us picked a theme and then everyone had to go buy a present that fell within that theme, spending no more than $5 for each person. My theme last year was cookies, which I thought would be a no-brainer kind of gift. Everyone knows I love Nutter Butters and Oreos, so I figured I'd get a big bag of those, which I could climb into, zip up around my head and not emerge until I'd developed diabetes. Nope. Since it was Christmas, last year my fellow employees decided it would be better to buy me so-called "fancy" cookies, the kind that look like they would be comfortable sharing space on a tea tray. Which is great, if you're British and eat a lot of that sort of thing. However, I'm a simple guy with simple tastes and a peanut butter itch that often needs scratching, so it was kind of wasted on me.

This year I asked for coffee. And coffee I got. In all shapes and sizes, from a tasty looking bag of breakfast blend, to harder French roasty sort of things, to gift cards for local coffee shops, to candle coffee samplers, to instant coffee singles, to General Foods International Coffees. I'm quite pleased.

The other gifts I received were two stories about Mr. Crab, one fun and one disturbing.

In the first one, Mr. Crab came in and hassled Ms. D during her shift this past weekend. She caught him trying to head downstairs to our multi-purpose room, which is off-limits to the public except during scheduled events or during story-hour. (It's hard enough to keep up with the members of the public at large on our main floor, let alone those attempting to wander the un-staffed depths of the building. Ms. D has seen issues with this before.) Ms. D and Mr. Crab have also had a history of run-ins with each other, particularly during Ms. D's pre-"liberry" employment at a local chain-home improvement store. She knew what an asshole he can be and was prepared to deal with him accordingly. Ms. D confronted Mr. Crab as he attempted to descend and told him he wasn't allowed to do so. Mr. Crab snapped that he was only trying to go downstairs to read, which he did "all the time." (This was a lie, no doubt, as the only place we've ever seen him settle to read is at one of the tables on the main level.) Ms. D again explained that any past excursions were of no consequence, as he was not allowed downstairs now.

"This is a public library!" Mr. Crab reportedly then said.

"No?!" Ms. D replied in mock amazement.

And at this comeback, even Mr. Crab was unable to stifle a smile and thus lost the argument by having all his steam taken out. He was left half-heartedly complaining that we needed signs saying he couldn't go down there. I agree, frankly, but it's not like patrons EVER read signs.

This incident demonstrates what I've long known to be true, though, which is that what Mr. Crab really wants is a fight. He doesn't accidentally forget to bring his library card. He either has it and claims he doesn't or he leaves it at home on purpose just so he can get worked up about it, stir up shit and fight with someone hoping they'll relent and let him have his way without a card. He doesn't like me, though, because I refuse to argue with him. He can wail and threaten to take away money all he likes, but I'm not going to fight with him about it and unless he has his card he's leaving without books. Threats aside, it's very difficult to feel like you've won the day when you're the guy walking away empty-handed.

"I think he would die a happy man if only we'd let him check out without his card," I remarked upon espousing the above theory.

"Maybe we should let him, so he'll hurry along," Mrs. B said.

The second and more disturbing Mr. Crab story came from Mrs. A. She noted that a few years back, Mr. Crab was banned from setting foot in one of the county's post offices after he became upset with the staff there and threatened to return with his gun. They reportedly told him, "No, you won't be returning at all," and then, as officers of the United States Government, they escorted him from the building and slapped an injunction against him setting foot on the premises. Now, this is basically a rumor at this point and there are clearly all sorts of legal issues that would likely have arisen from such a threat, such as the real prospect of jail time that Mr. Crab has likely not done. Maybe courts were involved and actual restraining orders issued. Or maybe the incident was actually a bit smaller in reality and he was merely banned for some slightly lesser offense and the incident was blown out of proportion by the winds of rumor. I dunno. What I do know is that Mrs. A isn't generally taken with spreading gossip she doesn't know facts about and she does have pretty deep ties in city administration. It also doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility, knowing Mr. Crab. He can't threaten the post office with the revocation of his $200 annual donation, so what else could he do?

"You do realize that he's gonna snap one day and blow one of us away," I told Mrs. A. She nodded. And really, the idea isn't so far-fetched. I suspect he's always wanted to blow somebody away and, from what I understand, he's certainly taken out enough of God's lesser-creatures to have had his fill with them. One day, he might just decide that at his age he doesn't have anything left to lose.

Course, that'd be about the only way I'm letting him have books without his card.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dear Wandering Musician...

Okay, so when you were in two days back and asked if we had the capability to burn CDs with our public access computers, I did indeed tell you "Yes."

And when you asked if we could copy one CD's worth of your self-produced music onto another CD, I also said, "Yes."

I am also the guy who then explained to you that because each computer only has one CD drive, the easiest way for you to replicate your self-produced recording of your work was to save the song files onto what I described as "our temporary patron drive," and then burn those files onto a blank CD using the same single drive.

Please do note, however, that at no point during our conversation did I advise you to go out and give away BOTH the copy and your original CD to random strangers on the street for whom you have no contact information.

I would now like to further note that this is precisely what you did, a fact which you yourself have just explained to me after returning to our library, days later, having assumed incorrectly that your music would still be found within the confines of our "temporary patron drive." Unfortunately for you, the word "temporary" in "temporary patron drive" is there for a reason and was chosen as a descriptor due to the fact that our "temporary patron drive" is automatically wiped clean each time our computers are rebooted.

While I'm very sorry that you don't have any more copies of your music, it is hardly my fault that you're a dumbass who somehow expected that a public computer could be used as your own personal digital recording studio.

I hope that wasn't the master you gave away.

Keep on playin'.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Actual Conversations Witnessed By Me and Therefore Heard in Actual Libraries #115

SETTING: My "liberry" at the circ desk as a female patron approaches. I watch as she engages Ms. M's attention and proceeds to ask a question.

FEMALE PATRON— Um, do you have any... um, returns?

MS. M— (Without so much as a beat for consideration) Do you mean tax forms?

FEMALE PATRON— (Happily) Yeah!

MS. M— Just around the corner there. (Points just around the corner there.)

(The Female patron scurries away for her "returns.")

ME— (Looking in awe at Ms. M) Impressive! I would nehhhhver have gotten that one.

MS. M— Hmm?

ME— That patron asked for "returns" and you knew she meant tax forms. I would never have guessed that in a million!

(Ms. M smiles & shrugs as only someone whose inner English/Patronese dictionary is on overdrive can. I then step into the staff workroom to spread to Mrs. B the news of the amazing feat I have just witnessed. She too is suitably impressed.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mr. Dent

A recent semi-regular patron of ours is Mr. Dent. He might be the fourth grumpiest old man in all the world, but he perhaps has more reason than some. Mr. Dent is so named because he has an enormous dent in his head. He looks exactly like he might have once had some kind of head trauma that required the installation of a metal plate, only the metal plate was either flat to begin with or has since rusted and sagged, leaving a flatish slope to one side of the top of Mr. Dent's head.

Mr. Dent approached us a while back with a reference question. He wanted a book that told him everything there was to know about the English county of Devon. Now, while I'm sure such a book on such a specific subject does exist in the world, it does not exist in our library, nor any library in our state. So we had to resort to other reference works and overall books about England to start the man off. Throughout our efforts to find information for him, Mr. Dent remained planted at the circ-desk, peering at us through his enormous glasses like some sort of myopic, cranky, dented hawk, while one, then two and then three of us joined in the search. Mrs. C went for print sources while Mrs. B and I tackled the innanet. Each of us found some general information about Devonshire, but nothing we found seemed to suit Mr. Dent. It just wouldn't do. It simply wasn't what he was looking for.

Finally, it occurred to one of us to ask him precisely what it was that he wanted to know about Devon. Mr. Dent then explained that he recently read a novel in which a fictional character, while traveling through Devon, made the observation that there were thousands of people populating Devonshire, yet there were only 14 surnames between them. Mr. Dent wanted to find out if this is true.

Now, as a library employee I should hate to say it, but there are some reference questions that, while completely possible to research, are just difficult enough to do it from THIS side of the Atlantic that the whole thing quickly becomes an enormous hassle and you wish the person making the request would realize this and go away. This was one of those questions. I'm sure there are loads of libraries in Devonshire and throughout England that could sort out this statement very quickly. I just didn't see how WE could easily do so, at least not with Mr. Dent looming over us the entire time, preening his feathers and sharpening his talons. In the end, we printed out 20 pages on the history of Devonshire, didn't charge him for any of it and he then agreed to go away.

Two weeks later, Mr. Dent returned. He deposited his books on the desk, searched out some more, checked them out and then announced to Mrs. B that he needed her help in locating some information.

"Do you already know what I'm going to ask about?" he said.

"No," she replied.

I did, but I'd seen Mr. Dent coming toward the circ desk and had retreated around the corner, near enough to hear what was going on but with no intentions of getting pulled into any of it as a participant.

Mr. Dent explained that the material we'd given him on Devon had not been at all useful. And he again told us the story about the fictional tale he'd read in which a character professes there are only 14 surnames to be found in the whole county. And then Mr. Dent laid down the basic fundamental behind his search...

In a voice far louder than necessary, which carried across the entirety of the main floor, Mr. Dent announced, "I want to see if that's why English people have their eyes so close together." He paused to allow this to sink in, then added, "You know... incest." He paused again. Then, in a voice even louder than before, he added, "LIKE PEOPLE SAY ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA BEING THE INCEST CAPITAL OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY." This last part drew shocked and foul looks from nearby patrons. Some innanet crowders also peered up at this disturbance to their netting bliss and beamed stink-eyes in his direction. I stepped even further away, fearing Mrs. B might see me and wave me over to help.

Mrs. C, who had been in the staff workroom until then, could not have avoided hearing Mr. Dent's bellowing and came out to see if she could help. She again searched the catalog while Mrs. B hit the net. Mr. Dent, of course, stood there the entire time watching the ladies as they jumped at his whim. I knew Mrs. C's search of books we had on hand would be fruitless, but Mrs. B soon announced that she had found some references to census records, though not yet the actual records themselves yet.

After more minutes had passed, during which I continued to lurk like a big coward on the fringes, I saw that there were some patrons approaching to check out and I decided to step behind the desk to take care of them, knowing this would free Mrs. B to continue her search on the other computer. Soon enough, though, I found myself alone there, Mr. Dent's gigantic, magnified hawk-eyes boring into me. I decided I had no excuse not to try and help search for something, ANYTHING, that might make him go away again. So I hit Google and tried to search for surnames in Devon, England.

I didn't expect to find much, as I'd done similar searches the last time he was in to no avail. But, oddly, it took very little time to find the information needed to refute Mr. Dent's claim. I was actually amazed we hadn't found it before. After Googling the phrase "list of devonshire england surnames" I found a site that lead me to another site and a couple of link clicks later found this page which provided me with a reference to a comprehensive list of Devonshire surnames written by Dr. Henry Brougham Guppy in 1890. Furthermore, it was a list of about 400 Devonshire surnames that were gathered from censuses taken during the mid-19th century. It even had a link to the list itself, which did indeed seem to have about 400 names on it.

I explained this to Mr. Dent, indicating the reference on my screen, then showing him the actual list itself. I even offered to print it for him it for him in case he wished to study it at home. But the bottom line of all this was that if there were 400 surnames in 1890, there would certainly be more during whatever time the fictional book he'd read in which a character was driving an automobile was set. Not knowing the context in which it was given, I suggested that perhaps the character in the novel was making a joke at Devon's expense, much as people frequently make similar jokes at West Virginia's expense. Mr. Dent, noncommittally supposed that this might be the case, but he looked rather put out that his research into English incest had been so easily squashed.

I thought our little reference battle with Mr. Dent was finished and that he would retreat to his aeiry to tend his wounds. He, however, was not finished with me.

"I have a brother..." he slowly began. Then he paused a moment, as though his brain were processing the next words to come forth, a pattern which he would continue throughout the remainder of his statement.

"...who lives up north.


"He has one of these cell phones...


"... that he has so many minutes on that he has to use.


"And he calls me on it...



"...every day.


"But he doesn't charge his battery...


"...and it goes out whenever he goes under a bridge.


"He only calls me...


"...when he's traveling.



"This really annoys me.


"The last time I talked to him...


"I told him I wanted him to research this business about Devon for me...


"...and I haven't heard from him since."

He then gave a considerably longer pause during which the corners of his mouth twisted up into a raptor-like smile.

"Maybe that's the way to keep him from calling me all the time," he finished.

I laughed, agreed with him, and Mr. Dent soon departed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #114

(SETTING: My "Liberry" where a patron approaches the desk to check books out, having turned in overdue books upon arriving earlier.)

ME— (Beginning to scan books) And there was a 40 cent fine on the books you brought back.


ME— The four books you brought back earlier... there was a 10 cent fine on each of them. It's 40 cents total.

PATRON— Oh. (Pause) I'd meant to renew those first and then turn them in. (Makes no effort to retrieve 40 cents from pocket.)

ME— I'm sorry?

PATRON— I meant to renew them first and then turn them in... so they wouldn't be late. (Again makes no effort to retrieve 40 cents from pocket, as though his explanation has brought the matter to an end.)

ME— That's not how fines work. If you turn in late books, we charge 5 cents per day as a fine. You turned in four books that were two days late. You have 40 cents in fines. Even if you'd renewed them, we have to charge you for the days they were already late.

PATRON— Oh. (Long pause) Do I gotta pay it now?

ME— No, but the fine will stay on your record until you do.

PATRON— Well, I'll just get it later, then. No use busting out a debit card for 40 cents.

ME— We don't take debit cards.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday comes to Friday

We're closed for President's Day, today. It's just as well, because I really need a break after the madness of Friday.

I don't know if it was because the patrons knew we'd not be open today or just that we were woefully understaffed, but the usual Monday Madness descended on our heads on Friday. Worse yet, it descended on MY head, as I was basically the only guy working for most of the afternoon.

My boss, Mrs. A, was out of town. Mrs. B, Ms. D and Ms. M were all out with other obligations or days off, Mrs. J left after 2 and that put me and Mrs. C as the only staff members in house. Everything seemed okay, at first. Traffic was very slow, the computers weren't busy and I even had time to shelve most of the book cart while being the only guy running the desk. Then Mrs. C announced she had to leave for some "liberry" errands. No sooner was she out the door than someone blew the crazy whistle and the needy patrons poured in.

Suddenly, it seemed that all returning books came in quantities of ten, with multiple family members bringing back their limit all at once. These quickly piled up beyond my capacity to check them in at point of return, mostly due to my having to help all the other needy patrons circling the area. In the space of fifteen minutes, I had one guy who wanted 21 photocopies made from a text book. Another usually needed to print two five page documents on legal paper, requring me to feed each sheet into the printer by hand. While I was doing that, a lady signed up for a computer. I explained I'd be with her in just a moment. She waited 20 seconds and then announced she would have to come back later because all she wanted was to use a computer very quickly RIGHT THEN.

"Ma'am, I can get a computer for you, but it's going to be a moment," I said, gesturing to the printer and pages directly in front of me to indicate that I was in the middle of something that was difficult to break away from to fetch her a computer RIGHT THEN. She began to protest that she simply didn't have the time, but as I was nearly the final page of that particular document, I cut her off saying, "I'll be finished with this in ten seconds and then I can get a computer for you." It was difficult for her to argue with that. Ten seconds later, I finished up and fetched her a computer. True to her word, she was on it for less than two minutes before leaving for good.

She wasn't the only computer person. What started out as an innanet crowd lull soon took on storm-like proportions and most of our computer patrons arrived spaced at intervals coinciding with my busiest moments at the desk. The upside of this was that I was able to boot Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine, who'd been on for five hours already, and he actually left the building rather than signing back up.

And then there was the phone—OH THE %#&!ing PHONE! It's long been a cardinal rule at the "libery" that the phone takes precedent over nearly everything else. Normally we have enough employees around that if the phone rings there’s someone else to answer it while you deal with your patron, but that was not the case Friday. It rang throughout the desk rushes, forcing me to break away from helping needy patrons to help other needy patrons on the phone. Or to continuously explain to the callers that the employee they wished to talk to was not in today and would not be in today and, no, I did not know where they were so that the callers could call them at that other location. The most infuriating, however, was a woman who explained, very slowly, that she had not been to the library in several weeks because she had been very sick and had even had to go to the hospital at one point, but was feeling a little better now and it was a good thing too because her daughter was coming into town over the weekend and her daughter thought that it might be nice for them all to come down to the library and have a look around and maybe check out some books and maybe pay a fine or two and could I tell her what our hours would be over the weekend? This I told her as swiftly as I could, but she had to take her time to write the hours down first, confirming each one with me after writing it. And, naturally, her followup question was to ask our hours on every other day of the week as well. It took her so long to write each of these down, despite my condensing it into a "Tuesday through Thursday, we're open..." style, that I’m pretty sure she was embroidering each set of hours on a pillow as I spoke. Whatever the case, it took an unnecessary amount of time for her to write it all down and confirm it. Then she wanted to tell me more about her daughter at the end, but I was at last able to excuse myself. (Now that I think about it, I don’t believe I told her we’d be closed today, which probably means today's when she'll hobble on up.)

By 3:45, I was driven nigh on to madness. Then, the moment Mrs. C returned, the patron storm-clouds vanished, the seas of crazy calmed and other than the brimming shelving-cart, the place looked for all the world like a non-busy library. Mrs. C believed me when I assured her that I had been ready to set people on fire just ten minutes before. She'd gone through a couple of waves of it herself during the morning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Motherload!

Upon arriving for work, I noticed two large boxes from Bak3r & Tayl0r in the staff workroom. They were still sealed, so Mrs. C had not begun cataloging them.

You might think we'd be thrilled at the arrival of new books, but we rarely are. Cataloging is time consuming as is the book-processing done afterward, and the fact that we tend to order books for multiple area libraries, makes sorting a shipment even more complicated.

After a couple of hours, Mrs. C suggested to me that I might want to go ahead and sort the new books. I was about to say something like, "Oh, boy! Can I?" before doing what I was told, when she added that the shipment contained most of the graphic novels and comics material I'd recently ordered for the library. That got me moving, and without sarcastic commentary.

See, a few weeks back, Mrs. C told me she was about to place an order and suggested I pick a few graphic novels out of her latest B&T order book. I rarely find anything of use in B&T because their catalogs tend to only offer the 18th volumes of seventeen different manga series, none of which we own previous volumes of and many of which look suspiciously mature and likely to piss off parents. (I know, I know, Manga is the big thing in comics these days. I'd like to order some, but I find it kind of dangerous waters to play in being as how very quickly some of it tends to leap into the realms of tentacle porn or ya0i. If you're into it, so be it, but I don't need the headaches. I'll probably donate my collection of old Gon and Usagi Yojimbo trades to even things out.) So I circled a couple of things in B&T then dashed to the special B&T comics catalog that I've been hoarding at my desk since the last state library conference I attended and gave that to Mrs. C as well. I'd highlighted a bunch of things in it, not intending to order them all at once but, instead, to give Mrs. C a goodly list of quality material she could pick from.

Well, pick she did. In fact, I think she ordered damn near all of it.

Not everything on my list arrived in this shipment, but plenty did. There was Marvel's Civil War TPB, Bone Vol 5 : Rock Jaw, two Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew trades, a new Babymouse book, Brad Meltzer's JLA: Tornado's Path collection, Spider-Man: Death of the Stacy's, Wolverine: Weapon X, All Star Superman Vol 1, a Beowulf adaptation by Gareth Hinds (making two, since we ordered Stephan Petrucha's adaptation of the same work a few weeks back), and the first TPB of Warren Ellis's Fell, called Feral City. And I think I still have Avengers Disassembled, Infinite Crisis and maybe even some Concrete on the way. (If not, I might donate all my old Concrete trades so I can have an excuse to buy the nice little Manga-sized collections for myself.)

"Wow, that blows my comics budget for the whole year," I said. Not that I've been given a specific budget for comics, but still, I'd feel guilty ordering more any time soon.

I immediately sorted the box and then divided the books up between adult fiction (Fell), Young Adult (Civil War) and then Juvenille (everything else).

Happy non-birthday to me!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #113


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

FEMALE PATRON— Yes, I have a book I'd like to renew

ME— Okay. Can I have your card number, please?


FEMALE PATRON— Oh. (Long Pause) I didn't know I needed that. My card's in my pocket book... out in the car.

ME— Okay.


FEMALE PATRON— You can look me up by name.

ME— Actually, no. We have to have the number.

(Long Pause)

FEMALE PATRON— (Angry) Oh, come on! You can't look me up by name?!

ME— I'm sorry, no. It's our library consortium's policy that we have to have your library card number to access your patron record. It's just like we have to have your card when you come in to check out books.

FEMALE PATRON— But... but... You can't look me up by name?!

ME— I'm sorry, no.


FEMALE PATRON— Can't you just look me up by name just this once?

(She really said that)

ME— No.

(Really Long Pause)

FEMALE PATRON— (In great disbelief) You HAVE to have the number?

ME— We have to have the number.

(Another really long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— Well... Well I guess… I guess I'll have to call you back some other time, then.

ME— Okay.

(Long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— I didn't know that I had to have my card.

ME— I understand.

(Long pause)

FEMALE PATRON— I thought… I just thought I could call up and renew my book… without my card.


FEMALE PATRON— I didn’t know it was policy that you couldn’t do that.

ME— Yep. We need the card.

(Long silent pause obviously calculated to try and make me relent)

ME— (Not relenting in the slightest) Yep. It’s just like checking anything out here at the desk. We have to have the card.

FEMALE PATRON— Well, I guess... I guess I'll have to call you back some other time, then.


FEMALE PATRON— (Sad tone, suggesting that her car is parked in, perhaps, Abu Dhabi) Because, my card’s out in the car.

(Another sympathy-generation-attempt long pause)

ME— We'll be here.


FEMALE PATRON— (Now, clearly attempting some sort of ignorance defense) I didn’t know. I didn’t know I couldn’t just call it in.

ME— Mmm hmm.

FEMALE PATRON— I just thought I could have the book and call in.


ME— Wait. You have the book right there with you?


ME— Ohhhh! Then I can renew it from the barcode on the book.

FEMALE PATRON— What? (Happy) Oh! Oh, good.

(I flip over to the renew screen and then wait a very long time for her to read the barcode number to me)

FEMALE PATRON— Um. The one on the back of the book?

ME— (*MENTAL SIGH*) No. I need our barcode… on the first page inside the cover?

FEMALE PATRON— Oh... oh, I see.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yeah, that'll show us.

Third grumpiest old man in all the world Mr. Crab arrived yesterday with an armload of books to return. I was pleased to see they were checked out on his own card, rather than on Mrs. A's. He must have managed to not only find his card but actually bring it in with him at some point recently. Will wonders never cease?

"And I want to give this to the library," Mr. Crab said to Mrs. B, passing over a check. Mrs. B asked if it was for the operating fund. He said it was.

Later, Mrs. B showed me the check. Instead of his usual and much heralded $200 annual donation, the check was only for $110.00. This caused me to giggle.

"He must have deducted $10 for each time he forgot his card and we wouldn't let him check out," I told her.

And I have no doubt that this is exactly what he intended. Why else would someone donate an amount as unrounded as $110? Sure, I could see $150, or $200, or even $125 has a nice ring to it. But $110? The only way I think he could have made it a more obvious THIS ISN'T MY NORMAL $200 ANNUAL DONATION gesture would be if he'd made the check out for $109. The fact that it was an even number, though, could be interpreted to mean Mr. Crab had deducted amounts from it in even increments.

Even though our card policy is clearly costing us money, I couldn't be happier about it. To me, any amount of loss would be worth it if only to see Mr. Crab not get his way.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #112


ME— Tri-Metro County Library.

FEMALE CALLER— Yeah, are ya'll doin' taxes again this year?

ME— We've never done taxes.



(Another pause)

CALLER— Do you know anywhere that is?

ME— I'm afraid we don't.

(At least, not for free. This is not the first such call we've received this year and it won't be our last, particularly since we have heard from our patrons that the folks at the local H&R Block office are yet again telling people that we're doing taxes for free. I'm afraid I'm going to have to go down there and straighten them out on this point in person rather than simply phoning them as we've had to do in years past.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

So, what's the police response code for a "domestic" at the "liberry"?

After all the other employees had left for the day, I was on the remaining two solo hours of a closing shift when I received a phone call. It was a man who asked directions on how to get to the "liberry." Ah, a regular, I surmised. So I gave him directions and he arrived shortly in company of a woman I took to be his wife.

As I suspected would be the case, I'd not seen either of them before and while they were both quiet enough I got an odd vibe off of the man. Of course, I am automatically suspicious of most "liberry" neophytes who set foot in the building only on the rare occasion that they need something from us. I wasn't sure at first what this fellow needed from us, other than a computer. He `netted for a bit before printing off some Mapquest directions, which he paid for. Instead of departing immediately, though, he and his wife went into the nonfiction stacks.

Twenty minutes later, I was doing a bit of net surfing of my own when peripherally I saw the two of them walk by the desk and make for the foyer to exit. As soon as they stepped into the foyer, however, the man gave an angry shout and then there was a loud crash as the two of them burst through the front door. I looked up instantly, but could only see movement through the glass of the front door as the couple disappeared into the darkness of the parking lot beyond.

Aw, hell, I thought. We've got a domestic dispute on our hands.

I ran around the circ desk and toward the front door, fully expecting to find the man beating his wife on our front walk. If he was, I wouldn't be able to allow this to happen and would have to get involved in it and probably get punched in the face for my trouble. The best I could hope for would be to catch him off guard, leap on him, bring him down by sheer weight alone and somehow pin him to the ground with my notoriously non-existent wrestling skills. Maybe I could dial 911 on my cell phone before being rendered unconscious?

Only when I burst through the front doors, myself, the couple was nowhere to be seen. It had only taken me maybe three seconds to get outside. There had been no time for them to even get to a car, let alone drive away. I looked around, but other than two members of the New Devil Twins Auxiliary League of Neighborhood Kids, who'd been in the library earlier and were now standing calmly at the edge of the front walk, there were no other humans to be seen.

"Can I help you?" the taller of the kids asked after several seconds of me standing there looking around for the man.

"What's going on?" I asked, thinking they could direct me to where the man and wife had vanished to.

"We were just messing around," the kid replied.

And then I realized that it had not been the man and wife who I'd peripherally seen before; it had been the two kids all along.

"Oh," I said. "You're not who I thought you were," I added. I then went back into the building where all the computer patrons stared at me like I was a dumbass for not realizing what was going on the whole time. Or maybe they were mad I didn't put the smackdown on the kids for disturbing their precious innanetting time with their shouting and bursting of doors.

The real man and wife left about five minutes later, happy as two patrons I've never seen before and will likely never see again can be.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dear Patron Mom...

So let me get this straight...

You just brought back a book that your kids checked out which is 55 days overdue. And you've now explained to me that the reason it was 55 days overdue is because the last time you returned books for your kids, eight weeks ago, you thought you'd brought all of the books back because you had counted them and saw that there were five of them, which was the number of books you knew your kids had checked out. However, as you've now also indicated, the reason there were five books in the stack, yet NOT the overdue book you've just returned, is because one of those five books actually belonged to one of your kids and not to the library. And now you've explained to me that your kids would really, really like to have that book of theirs back.

This I can understand and, indeed, sympathize with.

Unfortunately, you've also now explained that neither you nor your kids have ANY IDEA WHATSOEVER as to the identity of the book you mistakenly returned. You don't know the title, the author, nor even what it looked like. Compounding the embarrassing nature of this mistake is your now stated assumption that we've somehow been holding this mystery book for you here at the circ desk for the past EIGHT WEEKS. That we might have, as is our policy, assumed the book to have been a donation and put it into storage for our book sale or even added it to our collection is not a possibility that you have entertained.

I am even further astounded at your additional suggestion that we should now allow you to go downstairs to the storage room and have a look around for your beloved mystery tome. A nice idea in theory, but not very practical. For you see there are literally thousands of books in our storage area, most of which are not even divided into any sort of classification, some of which are not even in boxes but instead are kept in precariously teetering piles. And now that I have explained that to you I have been afforded the small pleasure of seeing your face fall as you realize the full extent of your folly. Because as much as you might want your mystery book back, the amount of work it would take to actually locate it, assuming it's even downstairs at all, has considerably lessened the intensity of your need for its return. Wisely, you have chosen to drop the matter entirely, at least until our mid-summer book sale, when you'll perhaps have a fighting chance of locating it again, provided you come early enough.

Oh, and by the way, that'll be $2.75 for the fine, please.

Yours in sweetness and light


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Actual Semi-Paraphrased Second-Hand Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #111

SETTING: My "liberry" as Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine comes up to pay for his many many prints, having spent the entire afternoon pounding away at the geneal0gy engine in the company of fellow local genal0gist Mrs. Trout. Mrs. Trout had earlier paid for her own many prints and departed. Ms. D is running the desk.

GENE— (To Ms. D) You know, I like MRS. TROUT, and all, but she sure can talk your ear off.

MS. D— (Stands in stunned silence as she processes the astounding levels of irony contained in Gene's statement.)

GENE— I can hardly get anything done.

MS. D— (Remains unable to speak.)

(Upon hearing this tale recounted, I noted that it's fortunate I wasn't there to hear it personally, for I would have been hard-pressed to keep from saying, "Oh, I know what you mean! I once had to gnaw off my own leg to escape a conversation with YOU.")

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A man walks into a library...

The exterior door of the staff workroom opened and a man we'd never seen before walked in. It sort of surprised us, because generally the only folks who enter the building via the staff workroom exterior door are the staff.

He stepped into the room, looked around at the desks, piles of book donations, processing supplies and general clutter, then walked across the room to the interior door behind the circ-desk that led to the library proper. Ms. D and I stared at him.

"Oh, uh... I must have come in the wrong door," the man said.

Ms. D and I agreed that he had and wondered how this man could have confused the door he had entered--a small door at the end of our delivery drive that's barely visible from the parking lot--with the large and obvious double doored main entrance out front. We helpfully pointed to the real entrance for him.

The man looked a little embarrassed. "This is my first time in here," he said. He then quickly walked away from us, stepping around the corner toward the nonfiction stacks and our video shelves, atop which we have our giant display of tax forms. Half a minute later he returned.
"Um... do you all have tax forms?"
"Yeah," I said, pointing back in the direction from which he had come. "Just around the corner there on top of the videos."
"There's a giant sign that says `Tax Forms,' " Ms. D added. The man dropped his gaze, embarrassed once again at his own complete lack of observation skills.
Eventually, forms in hand, he departed via the correct door.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #110

SETTING: My "Liberry" as a college-aged kid approaches the desk holding two home video tapes of the kind you can buy at Wal-Mart to record stuff on. (History lesson for you youngsters: this is what we used to do before DVRs existed.) The tapes have labels and writing on them. He holds them out to me.

ME— Can I help you?

KID— Yeah. I need to get these copied.

(First one on me)

ME— Uh, we don't really do that sort of thing here.

KID— (Looks confused)

ME— We barely have one VCR to our name. We're not set up to dub videos.

KID— But they said to bring them to the library to get copied.

(Ah, THEY, we meet again.)

ME— They told you that?

KID— Yeah. It was in my syllabus. It said to bring videos to the library to get copies of the tapes for class.


ME— Ah. I believe it meant you should bring them to the community college library.


KID— Oh.


KID— Where's that?

(And so I give the kid directions to his OWN college's library. He departs.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

T-Shirt Man sings the Innanet Commerce Blues

We don't receive many visits from T-Shirt Man, but he came in last week to use the innanet. As always, he was clad in a white T-shirt, though he wore a jacket over it, cause it's cold and stuff. As he was signing up for his session, he told me he was going to need my help "buying something."

My first thought was, What? More T-shirts?

My second thought was, Aw, shit, this is not going to go smoothly.

In my experience, patrons who don't already know how to order things online are, in 99 percent of all cases, unwilling to do the kind of things you have to do in order to order things online. Usually this amounts to not wanting to use a credit/debit card to place their order, cause the gubment will track them or someone once told them that if you use your credit card online you get the herpes, or something. More often, though, it's because they don't actually own a credit/debit card to start with and are stymied that the majority of all online transactions are done that way. ("Whuuut? I caint wriiiite a chehhhck?") As frustrating as those scenarios might be for them, actually conveying to them that there are no other options on the table is even more frustrating for us. As soon as he said he would need my help, I wanted to just say, "Sir, you may as well go on home right now, cause this is never ever going to work out the way you want it to." But, of course, I didn't say that. I just resigned myself to playing my role in the minor drama I knew was about to begin.

So T-Shirt Man surfed around the `net for a while in search of something to buy. He didn't seem to be searching for anything in particular, as far as I could tell, but instead seemed to simply be looking for SOMETHING to strike his fancy enough to purchase. He searched ebay for a bit, which I learned when he called me over to ask my opinion on a couple of DVDs that caught his interest. He even asked me the region of one of the DVDs, which surprised me because I would never have guessed T-Shirt man to be the kind of guy who even knew there were different DVD regions to begin with. Unfortunately, the DVD he had chosen, while listed as a DVD, turned out to actually be a video cassette someone had recorded from a DVD and was now trying to sell on ebay. After I pointed this out to him, he didn't want it anymore.

T-Shirt man eventually made his way to Amazon, where he found a genuine DVD for sale that he liked. Again, he asked for help, this time in the purchasing process. (Wheeee, here we go.) So I showed him how to add it to his cart and how to then hit the checkout button and then the delivery information page, etc. When we came to the credit card blank, he mentioned that he didn't have one. This was where I thought he would go off the rails and he would go on home right then. Then he mentioned that he had an American Express gift card he wanted to use. Ah, very good. Perhaps I was wrong and this would turn out to be a straightforward thing.

Then he came to the blank for an email address--a required field. T-Shirt Man said he didn't have an email address. I tried to explain that they were fairly easy to aquire, and free, but he wasn't interested in all that. He didn't need an email address and furthermore didn't want one. I shrugged and told him that this was his choice, but the email address was a required field for Amazon orders and the site would not proceed further unless he supplied one. It was his choice. I offered to show him how to get an email account, but he didn't want to hear any more. I shrugged again and walked away.

After staring at the screen for a while longer, T-Shirt man came to the circ desk and asked me again if Amazon was really serious about wanting an email address. I assured him they were. They had the little asterisk by the blank and everything.

"Well, they don't want my money, then," he said. And then T-Shirt man went on home. (Or, at least, out the door.)

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.