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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Last Minute Rogue Addition PART II (a.k.a. "Fifth Grumpiest Old Man in All the World Located At Last!")

Mrs. A, still mystified that our patron William Shatner would think she would intentionally move his position on a hold list due to some perceived but as-yet-unrevealed conflict between them, decided to do something about it.

The first thing she did was to call the patron who'd had Wililam Shatner's hold book out for two months and tell them to bring it back immediately. And, perhaps oddly, they actually obeyed and brought it back within a day. Soon it was waiting on the hold shelf for William Shatner and Ms. M had left a message on his machine to this effect.

Next up, Mrs. A gave William Shatner himself a call. I have no idea of the actual dialog of the call, but damn I wish I did. Instead, I have to rely on the bits of it Mrs. A later told me about.

Mrs. A said she started out, as usual, by being very friendly to William Shatner and explaining that she thought there had been some sort of misunderstanding. Unspoken in this was how he was clearly operating on some sort of odd idea of how libraries and their hold systems are run, not to mention that he seemed to have some ideas about Mrs. A's personal operating procedure that were at the very least uncharacteristic of her reality.

Oh, no, William Shatner said, there was no misunderstanding. None at all. He knew exactly how Mrs. A ran things down at the "liberry" and he knew she had moved him on the hold list for two months to keep him from getting the book. Furthermore, he really shouldn't even be talking to her at all on advice of his lawyer.

"His lawyer?" I exclaimed at this point in the retelling.

"Yeah," Mrs. A said. She then reported that William Shatner continued to ignore his lawyer's advice by telling her that he had inside information on how she ran our library and he didn't like it one bit. In fact, he'd spoken with a former employee of our library who had given him the complete skinny and he knew that Mrs. A ran things like a complete dictator and frequently moved patrons on the hold list when she didn't like them. No, sirree, she had not heard the last of this by any means. He'd been consulting with his lawyer and was going to have her job for this. He was going to take this straight to the board of directors. Mrs. A attempted to explain the actual situation, but he would hear none of it. And with that, William Shatner hung up.

Now, beyond the astounding nature of his claims and beyond the clearly unstable nature of his personality, the most surprising thing about his beef is the unnamed source he listed for his inside information. The way I immediately saw it, which turns out to be exactly the way Mrs. A saw it too, there's really only one person who fits the criteria to be both a disgruntled former employee and vengeful enough to spread such lies in order to create trouble like this.

"MS. S! It has to be MS. S!" I said. Yes, Eternal Newbie Greenhorn Ms. S, she who was let go without actually being fired nearly a year ago now. She's the only former employee bitter enough to pull off something like this. (Even former weekend warrior Miss E wouldn't bear this kind of hatred for us--after all SHE's the one who walked off the job without a word to us as to why.) Adding to the evidence was that Ms. S always worked weekends and was reportedly pretty chummy with William Shatner, who visits almost exclusively on weekends. My guess was that he'd run into her at her fast food job and struck up a conversation, at which point he might have mentioned that he was put out about not receiving his hold giving Ms. S the perfect opportunity to sew discord.

Mrs. A was just dumbfounded and kept saying she'd never been yelled at like that by a patron in many years. There was just no talking to him. No matter what she tried to say, he had already made up his mind that she was the devil and would hear nothing from her. Mrs. A wasn't angry about it herself, just mystified that someone could go off the rails as completely as William Shatner seemed to have done.

The whole situation made me angry. Again, here was someone who'd never given us problems who had completely lost his shit with us for mostly fictional reasons. For a bit, I considered phoning up William Shatner myself and trying to explain to him that he truly was off base in what he thought he knew. I wanted to tell him that he should consider that there might have been very good reasons his former-employee source was indeed a former employee and that he should further consider how this might cloud her objectivity in the matter and give her reason to tell him something other than the truth. I did not do this, however. If he was determined to make a fool of himself and throw his lot in with Ms. S, let him have at it.

Mrs. A immediately phoned the president of the board, Mr. Hooter, and told him what was going on and to expect some contact from William Shatner. To give Mrs. A actual evidence that she'd done no wrong, I went into the record for the book William Shatner wanted and printed out the detailed history of its brief time in our collection. It clearly showed when the book was added to the collection, the names of the people who'd been on hold for it, when they had been added to the hold list, how long each of the first two had kept the book, including the two months for hold #2, etc. Nowhere did it show any list order manipulation because there'd not been any.

The board of directors had a look at this, noted that William Shatner had failed to pick up his long anticipated book within the requisite number of days we'd informed him we'd hold it, asked Mrs. A to extend his hold time for five more days, and then Mr. Hooter wrote William Shatner a letter explaining that we'd not only extended the time but had also extensively looked into the matter, examined the records that had been concerning him and had found no wrongdoing whatsoever.

As of this writing, we've neither heard nor seen anything more from William Shatner himself. He never picked up his book and, from what we're told, has been patronizing other area libraries, complaining to them about how mean we all are.

As for Ms. S, she's still working in fast food and, from what the vine tells us, will likely not be rehired in the fall for her private school teaching position due to there not being enough students for the class to make. Maybe I should tell her that we'll have a position open here by the end of next week.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Last Minute Rogue Addition PART I (a.k.a. "Fifth Grumpiest Old Man in All the World Located At Last!")

It's an odd sensation when a person you have known for years, who you have maybe even been friendly toward, suddenly turns on you and gives you a good solid bite. This has happened to me on a few occasions and I don't typically deal with it very well. Fortunately the viper bite the "liberry" collectively received recently wasn't directed at me specifically.

A long time regular patron of ours is a fellow I shall call William Shatner, for no good reason at all. William Shatner has never before distinguished himself enough to merit inclusion in the blog as either a good patron or a rogue patron. Mostly I know William Shatner as a patron who is almost always in our hold system. Like many others among hold-patron brethren, William Shatner is usually on hold for whatever the latest new hot book is in release. William Shatner has always been very friendly toward me, and rightly so as I'm usually the guy who phones to tell him the hot new book he's been wanting to read is ready for him to pick up and he usually rolls by late on Friday or early on Saturday to do so.

In January, William Shatner put on hold the latest book by a certain southern lawyer type whose books came to wile popularity in the early 1990s and continue to be best sellers today. He did so on the day the book was scheduled to be released. Unfortunately for William Shatner--and, as it turns out, the rest of us--two other people had already put themselves on hold for this book in advance of him. Also quite unfortunate, the first person on hold kept the book a week or two past its due date, prolonging the wait for the next person. The second person on the hold list, once the book was in their hands, wound up keeping it for the better part of two months. I only know this because I did the research into it after what happened next.

William Shatner, understandably unhappy about waiting so long, occasionally would ask whoever was working the desk on the weekends (usually Ms. M) about the book and his place on the list. Each time he would be told that it was still out and he was still third on the waiting list. Now, I don't know if the weekend warriors he was talking to ever phoned the person with the book to tell them to bring it back. If not, they really should have. I and the rest of the weekday staff, however, had no way to know about it because our system doesn't generate overdue notices until a given book is three months overdue.

After two months of waiting, William Shatner was, again understandably, pissed. Anyone would be justifiably pissed at having to wait two months, but as it turns out that was not the primary reason that William Shatner was pissed. He marched in one Saturday, asked for his book, was told by Ms. M that it was still out and, upon hearing that, William Shatner informed Ms. M that he was sick of waiting and, more importantly, he knew good and well that our director, Mrs. A, had been moving his position on the hold list in order to keep him from getting the book at all. Ms. M, in her retelling, stressed that he mentioned this theory on several occasions during their conversation.

Mrs. A was astounded at the accusation. She'd never moved anyone on a hold list and had no reason to move William Shatner. She had no beef with William Shatner. She hadn't even set eyes on the man in over a year. Beyond all of that, though, was the small matter of her having no idea how to even bring up the section of our circulation software dedicated to showing exactly who is holding for a particular book, let alone know how to shuffle that list in any manner, in the first place. (In point of fact, the two people on our staff who would know how to do that are Mrs. C and myself, and I only knew about it because I recently moved a lady to the front of a completely different book list. Normally, I don't care where people are on a given list, but she had been the one to request a given book that we didn't yet own and couldn't ILL due to its extreme newness. In fact, she requested it on more than one occasion, prompting me to recommend its purchase. She was pretty much the whole reason we eventually ordered said book for our collection only to have four people jump on the list ahead of her because by then Oprah had endorsed the book. Was moving her fair? Ehhh, debatable. But I did it anyway and everyone knows you can't fight the power of Oprah.)

Mrs. A polled the staff and none of us could come up with any reason William Shatner might be so upset or make such accusations, other than his book was late. It seemed to all of us who were familiar with him to be somewhat out of character, because most patrons who entertain paranoid fantasies tend to drag them out for display earlier than this. No, though we didn't realize it then, there was an X-Factor at play that we could not yet see. As we were to learn, however, this particular X-Factor had a name and a history with our "liberry."

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Liberry" Glossary: Needy Patron

Needy Patron
-noun
  1. A patron incapable of helping themselves with even the most minor of tasks, but who is usually intent on accomplishing the most major of tasks and will often require your help over the course of a period of hours to make this a reality. This might take the form of having no knowledge whatsoever about how to operate a computer, yet need to fill out extensive forms online. Other times, they might need to do complicated legal research on a deadline, yet have no actual idea what they are looking for, or, worse yet, merely some random numbers and letters written on a piece of paper by a possibly mentally-challenged third party all of which they expect you to not only recognize but immediately spew forth the requisite information those random characters are supposed to correspond to. Often the desired tasks of the needy patron are impossible to achieve given our limited resources, but communicating this to them is often impossible in direct proportion to their neediness. The neediness of the needy patron is also often in direct proportion to how utterly swamped you already are with other pressing tasks or other needy patrons--in other words, they love to appear on Mondays.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #138

SETTING: My "liberry" at the start of the Monday workday. I've taken two armloads of books from our book return when I realize the thing is as full as it could possibly be and not vomit books out of it's door. Instead of making eight trips, I figure it'll be easier to take the removable wheeled book bin from inside the book return housing and roll it inside. The only trouble with this is, it's unbelievably squeaky. My trip across the paving stones outside and then across the tile inside sounded like this...

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*
*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

(opens outer door)

*CLUNKCLUNK*
*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

(opens inner door)

*CLUNKCLUNK*
*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

(The entirety of the library's population stares at me in deep irritation at the enormity of the sound I am causing)

ME— (Looks up, shrugs) The world's loudest book return.

(Now I can either abandon the thing at the door, or drag it the rest of the way to the circ desk.)

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

ME— Should probably oil that.

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

MS. M— You can probably put some WD-40 on those wheels.

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

ME— Yeah, I know. That's what I said.

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

MR. W. PERFECT— (Says something I can't hear over the noise)

ME— What?!

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*
*clunkCLUNKclunkCLUNK*

MR. W. PERFECT— (Shouting) You should probably oil those wheels!

ME— Yeah! I know! That's what I said!

(After emptying the contents of the book return onto the circ desk, I picked the whole thing off the floor and carried it out. I then returned for the WD-40 and applied it liberally to the wheels.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #137

SETTING: My "liberry" as a woman approaches the circ desk during story hour.
LADY— Is there a restroom upstairs?

(I'm not surprised by this question because despite the fact that our main floor technically IS the upstairs, people always seem to assume that there's another floor above us rather than below us and frequently ask us how to "get upstairs.")

ME— Actually, there is no upstairs. Everything's pretty much on this level. There is a restroom downstairs, though.

(The woman gives me a very confused look at this and raises her eyebrows in the usual expression of a soul who'd like directions to ANY restroom. I helpfully point toward the stairwell for her.)

ME— When you come out at the bottom of the stairs, take a left and it's right there.

(The lady heads for the stairs. Meanwhile, I'm wondering why she wants to use the restroom on another level at all when we have a perfectly good restroom on our main floor. In fact, she'd walked directly past it on her way to the circ desk.)

(After a bit, the lady returns to the desk, a little irritated.)

LADY— You do too have a restroom upstairs! It's right over there! (Points toward ladies' restroom which she evidently spied upon returning from downstairs.)

ME— (Slowly it sinks in that I had actually been the one to be confused for a change.) Oh... Yes... Yes, we do at that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #135

(SETTING: My "liberry," some months back, as Mr. Little Stupid approaches the circ-desk, pen and paper in hand.)

MR. LITTLE STUPID— U.S. is us?

ME— I'm sorry?

MR. LITTLE STUPID— How do you spell "U.S."? "U.S." is "us"?

ME— Um.... Yes. "U.S." is "us."

MR. LITTLE STUPID— (Writes this down) Thanks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Actual International Telephone Conversations Heard in Actual Libraries #134

*RING*

ME— Tri-Metro County Library?

CALLER— (A man who sounds exactly like Desmond from Lost, on a crackly line that sounds as though it might indeed be coming from the island, or at least from England.) I'm callin' for Lehnda (DIDN'T UNDERSTAND LAST NAME).

ME— Um. There's no Linda working here.

CALLER— What's the numba' theh'?

(I give him our number)

CALLER— An' the faerst three?

(I give him the area code)

CALLER— That's what I have he'e.

ME— Okay. But there's no Linda here. This is a public library.

(Pause)

CALLER— Thanks, mate.

*CLICK*

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Anti-Monday?

I arrived at work yesterday to find NO cars in the parking lot, let alone innanet crowders banging on the door to get in. Very very odd for a Monday. So odd, in fact, that I immediately wondered if I'd somehow missed that it was a holiday on which we were closed. It's not the first time I've had schedule issues recently because I'd failed to look at my schedule. I actually turned up for my shift last Friday only to discover I wasn't on schedule in the first place--a fact I might have realized had I the good sense to have taken home a copy of the work schedule. I'd made a copy right then and there, but have somehow misplaced it, for it's not in the house.

I parked, went inside and found Ms. M setting up for the day and my name on the schedule beside hers.

Our 1p Monday opening time arrived and two patrons turned up just as I went to unlock the door. Neither of them wanted computers. In fact, it was a few minutes before the first of our usual innanet crowders arrived. And while we did eventually fill all the computers, it took nearly three hours before Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine showed.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fragmentary Dilemmas

Patrons frequently request books from us. Patrons frequently know the actual title of the books they want. Just as frequently, however, they don't.

Yes, I'd say half the time they are barely even in the ballpark as to the title they're searching for. This I chalk up to the tendency of people to request books they either heard about on the radio, while driving, without pen or paper to write it down, and faulty memories of what they actually heard. Or, they request books they heard about, second hand, from truly clueless people, who whispered it across a noisy, crowded room during an epic game of telephone but didn't have the title right to begin with. We've even had people who wanted us to look up books based on their shape and color, because they knew precisely fukall information otherwise. We kicked those people right in the junk. Then there are the occasions, like I experienced recently, when someone has merely a title fragment to go on.

Take the phone call I received last week from a lady looking for a book she claimed was called 0pen House by Patr!c!a Wi11iams. She phoned up, asked if we had it, I looked up the title and came up with two books by the same title but which were not written by Patr!c!a Wi11iams. I expanded my search to the county and then to our consortium's catalog, but while there were lots of books with those words as part of the title, there seemed to be none by Patr!c!a Wi11iams.

On hearing this, our patron gave me a lecture on how Patr!c!a Wi11iams was a famed African American writer whose works were widely known and respected and which more libraries should really have on the shelves, implying, of course, that we were falling down on our job because we didn't have the full catalog of Patr!cia Wi11iams books set up in a display by the front desk. That's when I decided to finally do an author search and see what else we might have by her. And there, in my search results was the very book our patron was looking for.

ME-- I'm sorry. It looks like the book you are looking for is available after all. I didn't see it at first because there's actually more to the title. The actual title is Open H0use of Fami1y, Friends, F00d--

PATRON-- (Interrupting) Ah, I see--

ME-- (Interrupting right back) I'm not finished... (Starts again) Open H0use of Fami1y, Friends, FOOD, Pian0 Less0ns and the Search for a R00m of My Own."

(Very long pause)

PATRON-- Oh.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sadie Meets Mr. B-Natural

I snuck Sadie in to the "liberry" to meet the staff. They'd heard enough about her, it was time to get some one on one time.

I'd been careful when I arrived to do a quick visual check for Mr. B-Natural's car in the parking lot, but we had a lot of cars there at the time, so I couldn't be sure. After the understandable fuss he made over various dogs that had been allowed in the building when his flea-ridden pooch Bubba had been banned, I knew he wouldn't like Sadie getting special treatment.

Sadie stayed in the staff workroom as each of the staff came in to love on her and pet the new baby dog. She was on her best behavior, didn't piddle in the floor, didn't bite anyone, and was loved and adored by one and all who saw her, including several patrons who happened to spy her through the open staff-workroom door. Eventually Sadie, with no one holding her leash, became curious enough to venture beyond the staff workroom door, then through the opening by the circ-desk and started out into the library itself.

"Oh! Oh! Better not," Ms. M whispered to me. She pointed out toward the long desk of internet stations where Mr. B-Natural sat, computing away, his back to us. I pulled Sadie back into the workroom and closed the door.

After Sadie had said hello to everyone and had even gone "big bathroom" outside, with Mrs. A there to hold her leash, it was time to leave and I hauled her out the loading area door.

As I came around the corner of the building and was headed across the grass toward my car, I happened to look over toward the front entrance of the building and saw Mr. B-Natural exit from it. He, in turn, looked over and saw us. From his perspective, I clearly had a dog on a leash and was clearly exiting the interior of the building with said dog. I waited for the inevitable grunting and growling, but instead Mr. B-Natural grinned at me and came walking over. So I turned and pulled Sadie toward him, meeting mid-way toward the front door.

Mr. B-Natural squatted down and petted Sadie.

"What sorta dog is it?" he asked.

"St. Bernard mix," I said.

"Oh, gonna be a big one," he said. Then, looking up at me with deep seriousness in his face, he said, "One thing you'll have to get used to though..."

"Yeah?"

"The shedding."

"Oh, yeah," I said. I explained that my wife had had a saint before and despite the fact that she'd died nearly nine years and four moves ago, we could probably still come up with some of her hair.

He gave Sadie a final pat on the head and walked away, as happy as the grumpiest old man in all the world can be.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Uh, what is "No," Alex?

A lady phoned today to ask if we could FAX her kid's internet permission slip to another library branch where her kid happened to be at that moment so her kid could use the computers there.

I explained to her that while we existed in the same library consortium as the other branch in question, each library was an entity unto itself as far as computer policies went and permissions at one did not affect permissions anywhere else. If the other branch was willing to accept the permission form as proof, so be it, but we couldn't dictate to other branches what they would accept in such a manner as she was suggesting.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Easy work, if you can get it

Word has gotten out that the "liberry" is about to have a staff vacancy. Actually, this particular instance is my own fault.

There's a local attorney who I'll call Ringo with whom I've acted in a couple of plays over the years. Some weeks back, while dining at a local pub in which Ringo happened to also be dining, I got into a conversation with him and the topic of my impending disappearance from Tri-Metro came up. Upon hearing the news, Ringo noted that he had a friend who could use a job and would be perfect to work in a library. "After all," he said, "all you do is shelve books and check them in and out."

I allowed Ringo to live, though my choice to do so is merely a testament to the fact that I tend to mellow out after I've been drinking and I'd already consumed a Guinness at that point. Those of you who work in "liberries" know how tempting it was to disembowel him on the spot, though. After all, a "liberry" ass.'s job description might read pretty simply, but there's a damn lot of skill that goes into successfully doing the actual job, not to mention all the skills and finesse that you have to have or develop that aren't listed--for instance, the ability to refrain from disemboweling people like Ringo after they make such wildly uninformed comments.

A couple of weeks passed.

One morning at the "liberry," Mrs. C told me that there was a woman there to see me. I stepped out to find a middle-aged lady who introduced herself as Ringo's friend. She also mentioned that she'd heard from Ringo that I was soon to be leaving. During our conversation she seemed to behave very much as though I were not only the person vacating the "liberry" ass. position here but also the person hiring my own replacement. She also seemed to be under the misconception that my departure was going to happen sooner, rather than later, since my wife's job in Borderlands doesn't start for a while. I remained friendly and explained that she was welcome to turn in a resume and I'd see that Mrs. A, the real boss, received it. At that moment, Mrs. A happened to walk by, so I introduced the two of them and mentioned that she was a friend of Ringo's.

After the woman had departed, Mrs. A said that the lady would have been far better served to have kept the fact she was friends with Ringo a secret, as Mrs. A has no great love for him. I told Mrs. A of what Ringo had said concerning the limited job responsibilities my position offered. She snarled appropriately and suggested I should have told Ringo that he could give his friend a job as an attorney in his practice; after all, all he did was look up laws in books, so how hard could it be?

The following week, Ringo's friend returned. I happened to be leaving the building at the time, so I only spoke to her in passing in the parking lot. Ringo's friend again behaved as though I was about to depart my job right away--perhaps at that very moment, in fact, seeing as how I was already leaving the building--and had an air about her of a person who could start immediately. Before I could disengage from the conversation and go about my way, Ringo's friend asked how much my job paid. Cruelly, I told her. I then took mixed pleasure from her falling expression.

"Yeah. Nobody in library science is getting rich," I said.

And that, I believe, will be that.