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, 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...