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.

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...

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

1 comment:

Manda said...

This is getting very creepy. It's so similar to my experience. The one circ computer, the upstairs/downstairs (only our main level was downstairs and upstairs was library patron space but had major safety issues that took months to address), the tour guides, the people who thought it was to be a whole new library with all new books, even the lack of signage and fighting over what kind to use.

If this pattern keeps going, next you'll tell about the lack of working innanet computers!