Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friends to the Rescue

Well, on a regular basis, ya'll give me a hard time about my habit of buying books from the ongoing Friends of the Library booksale here. But ha! Listen to this!

A teen girl came up to the Info Desk today and needed a specific memoir...very obscure...only two libraries in our system owned it and both copies were checked out. She needed it for a school report due, like, yesterday.

The title rang a bell with me..."Hey, self" I thought to myself. "You just saw that book (which you've never ever heard of before) on the booksale shelf just yesterday. Oh yeah! I bet it's still there!" So I told her about it, and we went running downstairs to see if it was still for sale. Everything went in slow-mo, and I could hear the Chariots of Fire theme song in my head. Both arms extended, reaching towards the books on the sale shelf...reaching....reaching....Yes! The book was still there. I was so pleased, I even paid for it myself. A whole 50 cents.

And that is why I shop the used book sale shelf in our library. It's a selfless act, really. ;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finishing Up Bathroom Day

Pardon me while I use a little Purell. I'm getting a bit creeped out.

It must be bathroom day

A patron came to the desk with a section of the local paper. He had been reading the paper and brought a section of it with him to the Gents' and when he came back the rest of the paper was gone. I did not offer to take the section. I asked him to put the newspaper, which he presumably held with his unwashed poo-wiping hand, on a shelving cart. Mental note: buy own newspaper unless you grab it first thing in the morning.

Here's a new one...

A patron came up to tell me that there was somebody asleep in the Men's room. I admit, I was incredulous. The patron insisted, though. "He's in the stall, snoring away. See for yourself." Being the token Y chromosome on the staff, this lovely task fell to me. Thanking my lucky stars that I got that Masters degree after all, I took a deep breath and plunged in. The patron was right. Stall locked and some world class snorage going down. Reacting decisively, I pounded on the door.
"Hey, wake up!" I said in my calm, self-assured voice, doing my best not to breathe in since this was the men's room after all.
Nothing. Pound, pound, pound! "Hey! No sleeping in there!"
I heard something that sounded a lot like "Hhhmmmmwwwffff," but I could be wrong.
"Okay! Finish up in there! Other people need the bathroom, too!"
"Ssswwwrrrgh," he opined, which I think means "Righto!"
I left and started breathing the relatively normal air of the library proper. I figured five minutes would do it before I needed to check again. After his five, I took another deep breath and waded in. He was at the sink, looking pretty bad but at least conscious and upright. Just your typical homeless guy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Internet Interaction-Evah!

I was checking the identification of our Google users to make sure they were all 18 or had parental permission to use the unfiltered Google. A young woman pulled out a torn sheet of notebook paper with a note in pencil and said, "I have a note from my mom". I looked at the note and had to stop myself from giggling. It was written in a very juvenile hand and it was in PENCIL! I don't know many adults who write in PENCIL. I told her (nicely) to get off the Google and tell her mother to come in and sign a permission form.

It made my night.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Brief Analysis

I tried to help this guy navigate an online job Website today. I tried hard, really I did, but had almost no luck. He just didn't get the whole computer thing. Which led to this small insight.

Me, too, I guess

Found in a returned book

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dear Serial Drunk Guy

Some people maintain that you can't smell vodka on people's breath. I am here to say that this is not correct.

Jack the Ripper

No, not like that. We have a patron who comes in one or two evenings a week and sits at a public access computer and rips CDs to his MP3 player. I kinda doubt that this is legal and I put a request in with the higher-ups to look into it and see if we are liable for anything. I understand that most folks check out CDs and do this at home, I'm just worried that we are in troubel for doing this on library equipment. Anyway, he just left and in the interest of full disclosure, I grabbed the CDs and present to you tonight's playlist.

Lauryn Hill: Unplugged
Paul Simon: Negotiations and Love Songs*
Barry White: Staying Power
Ike & Tina Turner: Greatest Hits
Third Eye Blind: Blue
Spinners: The Essential Spinners

Eclectic mix, heavy on the melody. Nice work, Jack.

* Some men should not wear hats. I should know.

Monday, December 10, 2007

You Probly Think This Song is About You

Automatic 4 Point Deduction for Spelling/Grammar, though. Interweb station find, of course.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deck the Halls with Frozen Deskslaves

Last week it was hotter than a greenhouse, so I brought no sweater today. Mistake. I don't think I c-c-can t-t-ype mmmmuch l-longggggerrrr....

Maybe I could bust up the Interweb computers and burn them and several of their users for heat.

Happy Holidays to you, too.

I got in trouble just now because we don't have any holiday CDs. Or so I was told. Summoned to the Xmas music shelf, I was scolded for the fact that we only had 3 CDs of dubious quality in the section. Even pointing out the fact that the blessed day was only 2 weeks away and people cleaned out the section a month ago in joyful preparation thereof did no good. I refrained from giving her a "next time start earlier" sort of comment since this wouldn't help her now. I also didn't recommend that she check out her fave holiday music in the summer and, you know, violate the Digital Millenium Copyright Act since that would not only be a crime but would also be totally sick to commit the crime in order to get a copy of Bette Midler or Andrea Bocelli or John Tesch serving up Silent Night.

Oh, for a freight entrance

As I have whined about before, people are always trying to get in on Sundays before we officially open. I forgot to mention that it is worse when the courier shows up to drop off books from other libraries in the system. We only have a main entrance and an emergency exit, so the courier props open the front door to bring in the dolly loads of books and stuff. And then people appear out of nowhere. I can understand...the door is open, lights on, busy people scurrying about, but some people do not want to take no for an answer. One person plead a special case because she just needed a museum pass that patrons can check out (sorry) and the other just wanted to use the Interweb (naturally, but sorry anyway). Oh, for a freight entrance!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let's Play "Count the Mistakes"

Found by an Internet station, of course.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bottle Cap Lady

Whenever I close, there is a woman who comes in close to quitting time with a bag of bottle caps from some soda company's game. You have to enter some code from the cap to win something. Anyway, when she's there there is no possibility of closing on time since she is almost done, having ignored the polite reminders and barroom-style light flashing. She's here with her sticky bag of caps and her bottle cap kids. It's Sunday and the boy child needs a book from a very short list for school tomorrow. Of course they are long gone and he is dismayed. He's not a friendly or polite boy, so I have have taken a pass on sympathizing. His sister is a different matter. She is polite, so I put many seasons of Little House on the Prairie on hold for her. Mom is dissatisfied with the speed of our computers. She cannot enter secret codes nearly fast enough on our decrepit machines, once again making me wonder why again we are the ISP of last resort. Fifteen minutes to doors shut. I'm not optimistic. Excuse me while I let people know the bad news.

Closed is such hard word to understand

I work opening on Sunday. People NEED to get to teh Interweb on Sundays, so for the hour or so before the doors open, people try the door, notice it's locked and start knocking. It's not that we try to hide the hours--there's a sign right on the door that either says OPEN or CLOSED. I often can't see the face of the knocking person (to see if they are a volunteer who works before opening) because it is obscured by the sign. I guess that people see lights on and people scampering around pulling holds and assume that we MUST be open.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Books?

They're right over there...four feet from you...yes, right under the great, big sign that says...yep, you're welcome.

I'm not sure what it was

Maybe it was Mr. Helpless, whom you have met before, who told me all about the heating in his home and how he has disagreements with his dad about it. (He said "dad." I'm a little annoyed by people who say things like "I told dad..." when they are not my sibling.) Keeping in mind that the guy is probably in his mid fifties, it was disturbing as well as boring.

Maybe it was when Mr. Helpless came back proudly bearing some printouts he'd made of different traffic cam shots. Who would print a traffic cam shot? Unless there is a UFO or bigfoot or compassionate conservative or other mythical entity in the shot, that is.

Maybe it was when the lunatic lady who prints dozens of gigantic, server-choking genealogy lists every time she sits at a computer that she never actually wants to pay for or even own and which have to be deleted causing a cascade of failures in our fragile network showed up and started doing her sad thing.

Maybe it was the blood-pressure-spiking attitude I got from the effete young men I kicked off the grownup internet for being loud and underage.

But for some reason I'm just not...I dunno...feeling fulfilled in my job today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Is that book in yet?

That's what he asked me. "Book?" I asked, all polite-like.
"That book we talked about last week."
(A friend who had been a "barista" at $tarbuxx a long time ago told me that people would get upset when they would say "The Usual" to her and she would have no idea who they were and what they wanted. I get a similar thing from patrons sometimes.)
"Sorry, I don't remember what book we talked about," I confessed.
"Me neither. I hoped you would remember it because I can't."
Hah! Dodged the bullet, I think.

A new word for you

A person who acts like they know a lot about something (computers, movies, genealogy, life, etc) but actually knows very little about anything?


What's more educational than taking your kids to the library?

Why, taking them to the library and abandoning them in the Kids' section while you dash upstairs to fart around on the Interweb for a couple hours, of course! Remember, if your unsupervised child gets antsy and raises a ruckus, the responsible parent of today delivers a serious threat sotto voce.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dear Music enthusiast

who is talking to the other music enthusiast at the CD spinner rack. Please promise me that you will never (NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER) use the phrase "sultry, bluesy" to describe any music, musician, voice, instrument or sound EVER AGAIN. You see, you used it three times in the last 10 minutes and three times is your lifetime limit. Thank you.

Funny, they weren't standing at the SULTRY/BLUESY section, they were at INTERNATIONAL/WORLD

I'll go out on a limb and say no

Sorry random caller, even if I had the home numbers of any of the city's employees, I wouldn't give them to you. Yes, I'm certain it's important. Yep. Sorry. KayBye.

Hoff UnHassled

On the shelf since 8/10/07.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Adsense nonsense

So I signed this blog up for Googles Adsense program, or whatever they're calling it. Not that I expect to get rich blogging, but I'd like to eventually like to transfer this over to my own domain, so I was kinda hoping that the ad might generate some simoleons. I know, not gonna happen. Only three people read this (thanks for that, by the way) and the ad doesn't get clicked too often. ANYWAY, Adsense is supposed to analyze your content and push a relevant ad through. Which is why I was surpised to see this one:

Any thoughts?

Monday, November 19, 2007

David Hasselhoff?

For some bizarre reason, our library purchased David Hasselhoff's autobiography. We have owned it since early August, and so far nobody has checked it out. I have tried putting it on displays and I have dared people to check it out, but so far, no dice. I almost feel sorry for him. No, I take that back. I'll keep you posted on othe circ status of our favorite former pretend lifeguard.

My life as a dog

Already twice today I have been summoned to Internet computers with sounds that were not language. I don't mind being mistaken for a machine, but a dog...well that's just too much.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is this mean?

I have finally had it with providing tech support to children who want to play games on the Interweb Komput0rz. I used to help them get into Nickelodeon and PBS kids and what-have-you. I even sympathized when the wheezing old mules couldn't render the whizz bang flash animations at a speed that was satisfactory.

But today I had had enough of it. Maybe it was the kid starting to talk without making sure she had my attention. Maybe it was the annoyance she showed at not getting what she wanted. Maybe it was her inarticulate request that really gave me little useful information beyond "here, you do it." But I told her that I wasn't there to help her or anyone else play computer games. Sorry. Was that mean?

Dear Drunk Guy

I don't care that you saw Jimi Hendrix in concert twice and the Beatles once. I don't want your analysis of Creedence, the Dead or any other 60s band. Or band of other decades. Or music in general. Or anything.

PS, it's still morning. Ante Freakin Meridian! Do you think you could lay off the sauce until lunch?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Little Editorializing

I'm not the technical support guy, just the RefDeskSlave. But I try to help. Sometimes. Not often. I don't want to give the impression I actually work or anything. Anyway, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with one of our dazzlingly impressive Internet computers (see below). An Internet habitué was at the machine next to me and next to her a would-be power surfer was waiting patiently for a computer (not reading a book or anything, you see, just waiting, staring into the middle distance). The habitué said to her, while looking at me, "I think there are some computers over there--tilt of the head to a different part of the library--unless THEY'RE broken, too." Makes me wonder anew why it is that the library has to be the ISP of last resort.


Today a man in his 60s came up to desk to share not just his cigarette smell (MMMM!) but also a fantastic quip, the likes of which have not been enjoyed since Oscar Wilde. Drumroll....

I was hopin' that the pretty young lady who works here would be at the desk, but I guess you'll have to do.

Cymbal crash.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Library FAQ Version 1.0b

Why are your computers so slow?

Glad you asked. Luckily for our internet connection is supremely fast. In fact, clicking a link should load the page faster than you can say "Melville Dewey." Sadly for you, we don't want you to have a satisfying internet experience so we installed a very clever device at the access point. It looks like this:

As you can see, we can "dial up" any speed we want with this little switchy thing. In the photo, you can see that it is on "full" but in reality, we have never had it on anything but "slow." Next fiscal year, we are hoping to upgrade the device so that it switches down to "Painfully slow." Stay tuned.

Monday, November 5, 2007

How many people does it take to run the copier?

Apparently 12. And that's all I have to say about that.

It's not that I mind the wifi people

They usually keep to themselves. Unless the there is a connection problem and then they run up with the sort of panicky look you only see in movies when a scuba diver realizes they are out of air. Then I'm not so fond. But today, a boy came to the desk and pointed across the room at a man sitting at a table frequented by wifiers due to its proximity to an electrical outlet. "My father," he said while the man waived, "wants to know if you'll program his web cam."

I was stunned, and that's not all that easy to do.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Turn it off, Eugene

"Bathroom?" the guy said.
I assumed that he actually meant "Pardon me, good sir, but does this library have a public restroom?" so I gave him directions.
"DO YOU HAVE A BATHROOM" he said, kinda loud. I saw the earbuds and heard the music at about the same time. If I was totally committted to customer service to all, even inconsiderate jerks, I could have pointed to the restrooms. But I'm kinda passive aggressive. So I repeated my directions, even softer this time, finally forcing the buds out of his ears. He repeated his question/demand and I repeated my directions. The buds went in, and off he went (sans thank you).
A moment later I heard him closer to the bathroom, hollering "DO YOU HAVE A BATHROOM" at somebody else.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Noises

There are some people who like to make noises rather than ask for help. I used to fall for it. I hear someone nearby who sighs or grumbles about not being able to find something and my first reaction is to run to their aid. But I have grown weary of this passive call for help and resolutely ignore the noises as much as I have trained myself to ignore all calls that are not verbal (I have gotten whistles--like to a dog--and finger snaps) and specifically directed to me. So save your groans.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How did I answer this question?

When the clueless teen, whom we will call Trevor, pointed to the water cooler that sits a mere 10 feet from my chair and asked, "is that water?" what did I say?

a. No sir, it's hydrogen dioxide.
b. No dumbass, it's vodka.
c.'s water. Help yourself.
d. Said nothing, ran from building screaming

From the Way Too Much Information Dept.

Not only was the guy at the urinal in the Gents talking on his cell phone, he didn't wash his hands.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Caught, Part 712

Yep, it's true. The reason that you didn't win the grand prize in the adult summer reading program even though you read a lot of books and you and your friend deserved to win because your friend is having a real rough time these days and could have really used it? Me. I fucking rigged it. Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall crooks could have learned a thing or two on stealing an election from me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Harumph! I am offended. I go to extra effort to track down this woman's book, since she called me with slightly inaccurate information. And once I finally find the book, she tells me she doesn't actually want to put it on hold. She thinks her daughter should have it first, and launches into this long story about how her daughter might have a disease which is affected by your diet and that's why she should read this book and the daughter will call me to put a hold on the book later.... and on and on.

After two minutes of this, a patron arrived at the desk and I simply interrupted her. "Okay, well have your daughter call us and we'll put it on hold for her!" I said in my most cheerful voice. "I'll do that," the woman said. And as I opened my mouth to say "goodbye," I heard a click and the call was ended. Well! Don't act huffy with me because I didn't want to listen to your long health story! This is a library, not a doctor's office!

Turns Out

Turns out that if you turn your back on the deskslave while shouting into your cell phone he can no longer hear you. It's as though you turn on some sort of cloaking device like they have in SciFi movies. Only it's with sound.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gosh, Thanks

Dear Strangely Helpless Man Who is Always in the Library,

Thank you so much for telling me, in detail, about the TV show you watched last night. You see, I don't watch TV myself, so I must rely on kind people like you to keep me abreast of popular culture. A lesser man would have walked away upon seeing me starting to type at the computer and pretty much ignoring you. But you soldiered on, giving me the minute details of Kid Nation and your incisive opions about the show, the kids, the people who dreamed it up and likely audience reactions. Your nuanced view enlivened my day and made it worth living, at least for the moments that I basked in your presence.

I experienced the feeling that the beaver gets when it contemplates gnawing its foot off to escape the trap's jaws.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I can't get no respect

When I tell you that I can't help you and that you need to go to the circulation desk where they CAN help you, don't argue and plead with me. I don't make the rules. When I say I can't help you, I'm dead serious. I really cannot, even if I wanted to. When you continue to plead and argue with me, I'm going to have repeat myself and tell you to go to circulation, because apparently you didn't get it the first time, or the second time, or even the third time.

And when this happens, don't insult me by coming back to the reference desk 20 minutes later and berate me for "talking at you" instead of "talking to you." "I'm not a robot," you say. "You didn't have to keep saying over and over that I have to go to the circulation desk." Well I did have to keep saying it over and over, because you refused to give up after the first three times I told you. And I was trying very hard, by the way, to be polite about it despite your blatant refusal to listen to me. And I still remained polite as you wandered away after chastising me, though you certainly didn't earn it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wow, I can't believe you just said that

Cast of Characters
Patron A: Asian man in his sixties
Patron B: Young latino woman
Patron C: Middle-aged caucasian man
Patrons D-I: Random people using the library, some on computers, some browsing nearby collections.
Library Assistant: That's me. I'm a young caucasian woman, which isn't as important to the story as the races of the other characters, but I disclose it in the interest of fairness and political correctness.

In the library on a Saturday morning. The place is extremely quiet. Patrons A-C are using filtered internet terminals. They do not know each other. Patrons A and B are on terminals facing each other. Patron C is at a terminal against the wall, so his back is to them. Patrons D-I are around, but not involved. Library Assistant is at the Information Desk.

And now...for the theatre!

Act 1, Scene 1
Patron A: (approaching Library Assistant at Information Desk, points across room to Patron B, speaks in agitated tone) She is using her cell phone.
Library Assistant: Yes, actually, cell phone use is allowed here as long as the person talks in a normal voice.
Patron A: She isn't!
Library Assistant: Okay, I'll speak with her.

Act 1, Scene 2
Library Assistant: (approaches Patron B, bends down next to her, points to small sign on computer monitor regarding cell phone rules, and speaks quietly) Excuse me, but your use of the cell phone...
Patron B: (interrupts, argues loudly, and points to her computer screen. Looks at Library Assistant like she's an idiot) BUT I HAVE TO USE MY PHONE TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT MY ACCOUNT!
Library Assistant: (remains calm, emphasizes how to talk slowly and quietly) You may use your cell phone here, but you have to speak quietly, in a normal talking voice.
Patron B: (argumentatively) BUT HOW WILL THEY HEAR ME???
Library Assistant: (remains calm, continues to talk slowly and quietly, but asserts more authority) You are in a library. You must keep your voice down.

Act 1, Scene 3 (And this is where it starts to get weird.)
Patron C: (Turns around from using his computer against the wall, addresses Library Assistant) Thanks for that. (Looks at Patron B) You see, you're in AMERICA, not MEXICO.
Library Assistant (shocked, but responds immediately, out of anger): That is entirely inappropriate and I could KICK YOU OUT for that.
Patron C: (Turns back to his computer): Okay, sure.
Library Assistant returns to her desk; considers kicking both of them out.

[a mere ten seconds pass]

Act 2, Scene 1
Patron B gets up and leaves library, talking louder than ever on her cell phone, in an attempt to aggravate Library Assistant and prove some kind of point.

[three seconds pass]

Act 2, Scene 2
Patron C (gets up, stands in middle of open area at top of stairs, shouts for all to hear) WELL, I GUESS THIS IS THE AGE OF INAPPROPRIATENESS, ISN'T IT?! (stomps down the stairs and out the door).
Library Assistant: (Does not look up to acknowledge Patron C. Would have kicked him out if he hadn't left on his own at that point. Looks around at Patrons D-I and they all act like all is normal. Thinks to self.) Holy crap, did that just happen?

The End

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Things I don't know...

I don't know your yahoo id. I don't know your yahoo password. I realize that I'm an idiot for not knowing these things and for misunderstanding your request for a new password as you hand me your library card. I think it was an honest mistake to assume (yes I know what assuming does) that you meant your library password and library acccount since you never mentioned yahoo in our initial conversation. It is not my job to get your yahoo id or password. These are personal information that I would rather not know. Sorry. Glad that when I stood behind you and you typed in what your thought were your username and password and they worked you thanked me. NOT. YOU ARE WELCOME.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Just Remember

When you don't follow the directions and you accidentally make a photocopy of the inside of the copier lid rather than printing off the dreadfully important thing you printed from the internet computer, print, please proceed to the reference desk and treat the person at the desk like the printer is broken and that this person broke it. Wave the sheet of paper about, demanding to know what the problem is. GET THE DIME BACK. It's critically important to GET THE EFFING DIME BACK. After all, it's a dime. When the meek employee shows you where you went wrong while paying for your print with a shiny, new library dime, show no remorse for your bad behavior. Continue glowering.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


If you come to the library to take a computer class, it is only polite to turn off your cell phone during the class. It is especially impolite to answer the cell phone and proceed to talk on said phone for a few minutes during the class. Rude.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

New Library Rule

If a car alarm is going for more than 5 minutes in the parking lot, staff may go out into the parking lot and smash the sh*t out of the offending vehicle with ALA-approved baseball bats. Make that 2 minutes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Busy Busy

Not strictly a reference issue, but this is what the book return looked like after the Labor Day holiday.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I'm Quite Certain

A mom and daughter came up to the desk. Mom all cheerful, dispirited kid looking like she was being dragged by a leash. Chipper Mom wanted to "finish up" the Summer Reading program for the daughter. She had documentary evidence of her daughter's studiousness in the form of a piece of loose leaf paper with book titles on it. I compliment the daughter's efforts and talk about the number of books read. A short silence follows. Mom, somewhat less perky now, wants to know about getting her child's prize. Only we don't have one for her. Not only is the program over, but we gave out the prizes at the beginning. No, I am told, there is a prize for her daughter. She knows this. I ask if she had gotten the prize at the beginning. She drags a positive response from the now virtually catatonic child in the form of a nearly imperceptible nod and an eye roll. I try to explain that the prize came first and perhaps they signed up at a neighboring community which has the prize at the end, but am cut off by a dismissive wave of the hand. "I know where we signed up," I am informed. There were a few fairly meaningless gimme sort of things which I mention, things that could hardly be considered prizes. These are dismissed, too. She is getting impatient and the daughter's ability to stand upright is clearly compromised as she slumps over the counter. I think this is the moment where people ask to talk to a supervisor. I promise her that I have been here all summer and there is nothing more to be had.
Changing tack, she asks to see the form that the kids fill out. Did I say ask? I meant demanded. She slowly reads through it, saying that she is quite certain that the kid is owed something. I'm starting to think that the kid may have a pretty good tactic for dealing with the Mom who is quite possibly insane. I want to put my head on the desk, maybe do some eye rolling which is a skill I used to have and deployed to great effect as an adolescent. The close reading continues. I wish I'd had that level of focus in Liberry School--I might have finished some of those articles I was supposed to read. I consider an impromptu prize award of things on the desk. "My mistake, madame! I forgot that your daughter wins a pair of scissors, a blue highlighter and a bottle of Purell!" I mentally inventory the money in my pockets. Maybe they would leave if I give them the seven dollars I think I have.
In the end, though, she finds no evidence of a promise of prize. She knows she is wrong, but she still hates me, so she leaves with scarcely a word to me, and her daughter stumbles after her, jerked along by her invisible leash.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's me or the cell phone - you can't have both

The rudeness of some people ASTOUNDS me sometimes. I was helping a guy find a book this morning. I left him browsing the shelves while I went and did a quick catalog search at the reference desk, 20 feet away. I heard his cell phone ring, and he answered it. When I went back to the stacks with the information from the catalog, I indicated that he couldn’t use his phone in the library. Yet he continued to talk leisurely for another two minutes, standing there unhelpfully, watching me while I tried to "help him" find a book. He did not apologize when he got off the phone.

DO NOT come to me for help and then have a phone conversation with somebody. That is unless you have suddenly decided you no longer need my help, because that kind of behavior certainly indicates that you have ceased to care about finding the book you came here for.

Agreed! A thank you would be nice.

Or I love it when you help someone, and then they don't say anything at all. It's like they totally forget that you just helped them and that you're still standing there, waiting for some feedback. Their attention has totally turned to the computer, or the books, and they don't give you any leave. I find myself walking away slowly, backwards, quietly. Or, on the flipside, if I'm feeling sassy, I'll say loudly, "Okay then, let me know if there's anything more I can do!" And then they usually wake up and go, "Oh! Yeah...thank you..."

It's not the same

If people saying "OK" meant "Thank you," I'd be a lot happier.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We're the kind of people...

After providing stellar reader's advisory service to two prepubescent girls (who reminded me all too much of myself at that age), which included the placing of tens of holds, one of them smiled at me, head cocked slightly, and said, "You see, we're the kind of people who love books." In true Julie fashion, I responded with a smile, winky eyes, and a "Then you're my kind of people." It's moments like that when I truly love my job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Supply Seargent

What's that? Oh, you'd like a piece of paper? Sure, here you go. Oh, and a pencil? Of course, here you are. Hmmm? You need to borrow a dime for the copier. Sure, here, what's a dime? And some white out? I think I have some white out here somewhere. Oh yes, here it is. Please bring it back when you're finished. Three hole punch? Umm...I think there's one somewhere in the back office. Let me take your papers and I'll see what I can do. There you go. A floppy disk? Yes, we sell them for fifty cents. Oh, silly me, I should have known. You don't have fifty cents and you just want to borrow one for a minute and you'll bring it right back. Before you go, here's the tape and a stapler. No, no...just take it. I'm sure you'll need it later, so let's get it over with now. You know, we have a little stash of candy in the desk drawer here. Would you like a York mint patty? No? What's that you say? My soul? Oh no, no, you can't have that. I can see that you are trying to rip it from my very being, but you're going to have to try a lot harder than that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What do you need?

A man came up to me at the desk the other day and asked where the business books were located. Naturally, I needed some clarification. Sometimes, a patron says business and they actually mean real estate, or how to start a small business, or business leadership, and these would all be found in different places. So I began the usual reference interview: "What kind of business books do you need?" I asked. Offended, he responded with, "Well, I don't need any of them. I just want to look at them." "Okay," I said, quickly making a mental note that this guy has an ego problem, that this reference interaction might get worse before it gets better, and that I'd better tread lightly. Then before I could filter myself, I started laughing as I said, "Fine. What kind of business books do you want?"
Yes, I was mocking him.
No, he didn't seem to notice.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I realize that your print job was Very Important and that it had Sensitive Information on it. I further realize that you cannot be blamed for not understanding how our hideously counterintuitive photocopier/printer works (or doesn't) and that it is NOT YOUR FAULT that you closed this ultraimportant document without saving it or making sure it actually printed. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. I take full responsibility for the situation. It's clearly my fault, so, in the interests of fairness please feel free to abuse me personally for any frustration you may be experiencing. I seriously don't know what the heck I was thinking when I wired our network. I guess I just wasn't thinking and made a few mistakes. Or maybe it was when I programmed the router. Or when I designed the pathetically inadequate Xerox Document Center combination copier/printer and then, in a fit of insanity put a gun to the library director's head and made him both a) buy my poorly designed piece of you-know-what and b) hire me to sit near it, so that I could enjoy the fruits of my evil. But now you have caught me and I humbly bow my head and meekly accept the condign punishments you shower upon me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Old story, first post

I feel jealous because I haven't had any interesting reference interactions lately. Perhaps because I haven't been on the desk too much of late. So I'm going to write of an incident that occurred during my first month as a librarian in a library that shall remain unnamed.

I was working at the children's reference desk of said unsaid library when one of the adult reference librarians came up to me in an agitated state. She said, "xxx, where do you keep your Joy of Sex for children". Excuse me? My what? Huh? So I had to do a reference interview with the reference librarian in order to figure out what it was she was looking for. Turns out she was helping a couple that was getting married and they were both mentally disabled. They needed a book on marital relations written at a level they could understand. I explained to her that I thought the original version of Joy of Sex would work just fine, seeing as it had a lot of pictures. We also found some anatomy books that explained where babies came from for them as well. What a day.

Monday, August 6, 2007


It started as a pretty normal telephone call. A patron had purchased some lipstick and read the ingredients list and came across an ingredient she did not know and decided to find out more about it. OK, maybe not that normal. The ingredient, which observant readers like you already figured out is Squalane. A little research (which involved more than Googling I'll have you know) gave her the information she was looking for, but since this goo can come from animal sources, she wasn't sure she wanted to use it. Then she told me that the lipstick came from China and launched into a real tirade about all the crap turning up things imported from China. At this point she veered away from the realm of the acceptable and turned her tirade away from the crap and the crooks who sent it to a blanket condemnation of the Chinese in general, using several nasty terms I haven't heard in quite some time and a few she probably made up on her own.* When I didn't join in, she worried aloud that perhaps I was Chinese, but then went in for another round of icky name calling. I suppose I could have used this moment to engage in a bit of anti-racism work and I really wish I knew exactly how to do this, but instead I pretended that I had another call and quickly disconnected. Cowardly, I know.

* I resisted the temptation to point out that technically she oughtn't call people in the People's Republic "Chop Sueys" since that dish originated in the United States.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Google as operating system

So one of the people I taught in my computer class today wanted to know about Linux. I was really surprised to hear this. Most people in a beginning computer class have probably never heard of it, let alone want to use it. I know very little about it myself and have never seen it in action, so I wasn't very helpful in telling her about it. It didn't really matter, though, because she seemed to be pretty unclear on the whole concept of operating systems. I explained that Linux was an operating system like Windows but that it wasn't the kind of OS novices should be using.

"So I should stick to Google then?" she asked.

Umm.... "Well, Google isn't an operating system," I said. "It's a website, a search engine."

"So, like America Online?" she inquired further.

"America Online???" I thought. I haven't heard it called that in years. It's "AOL." And who still uses it, seriously?

"No, that's an internet service provider," I told her, not knowing if she'd been referring to it as a search engine or as an operating system, but either way she was wrong.

We dropped the whole Linux conversation. I'm not sure if it was that or just everything else about computers, but she said she was going to take the class again because she didn't get it all. I'll have to remember to stress the difference between an OS, an ISP, and a search engine!

We have been warned

Found at a public access computer, naturally.

300 movies

A patron came to the desk and said that he had read in the newspaper that we had just gotten 300 new movies in and wanted to know where they were. Naturally, I stuttered and panicked began my patient reference interview. Eventually I figured out that it wasn't a newspaper, but the city's newsletter which is sent to every household in town. And it wasn't 300 new movies. Rather, it was the new movie, 300. You know, battle of Thermopolae, Persians, Spartans, Special Effects. Our copies were all checked out and had a million holds on them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Angry Senior Male

Angry Senior Male
A play in one scene
CAST (in order of importance in universe):
Angry senior male
Timid librarian

Scene opens with the timid librarian putting paper in temperamental copier. Angry Senior Male enters from right carrying two carved and painted wooden salmon.

Timid Librarian. Compliment of carved fishies.
Angry Senior Male. Outraged expressed at having to wait for library to open.
Timid Librarian. Apology for inconvenience, attention drawn to library hours which have remained unchanged for years.
Angry Senior Male. Demand to know where our glass display for fishies his fishy carving club display each year at this time.
Timid Librarian. Polite explanation that case was in old library. Observation that library is in temporary location with limited space, ergo no case, ergo no nice fishies behind glass.
Angry Senior Male (Condescending, slightly malevolent). Claim that, since they put fish in case EVERY year at this time since the carved species was still evolving, that case somehow materialize before him.
Timid Librarian. Allusion to laws of physics and probability couched in soothing tones.
Angry Senior Male. Speculation (unfounded) about librarian's mental health and intelligence.

Angry Senior Male exit.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

OK, I give up

Just what is a Poptart Mommy? Do I even want to know?

(Found by an Public Internet Computer)


I'm no stranger to little kids having no patience for waiting and barging into someone else's High Quality Reference Interaction™. It's part of growing up, I guess, and with any luck the kid won't be scarred too much by the experience. Though I do hope the kid will actually learn the lesson, or else they might turn into the kind of patron I had today. I was in the middle of one of my HQRI™s trying to find a book for a very nice patron, and a man I had previously helped walked up to the desk. I probably should have ignored him, but I like to acknowledge everyone who wanders by. As soon as I looked at him he held up his Food Handler's Permit that I had helped him print a few minutes before. "You got scissors?" he demanded. So what do you do? Do you stop your little interview so that you can satisfy the line crasher? I told him that I'd be right with him and returned to the patron I had been helping and started in on her search again. "I need scissors," he said stridently, waving his permit sheet.
"Hang on," I said in a tone that I hoped was firm but not unkind. I really wanted to find the book the other patron was looking for. He said something like "I need scissors" every six or seven seconds until my concentration and willpower collapsed. In a sort of snippy compromise I fished around in the drawer without looking at the scissors or the lout, found them (the scissors, not the lout) and held them up in his general direction. He took them and I went back to the HQRI™, which was losing all of its H and probably some of its Q.
The kicker, of course, was having to go look for the scissors later and finding them and a piece of paper with two Oregon Food Handler's Permit-size holes in it at a table not far from the desk.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heart Ya!

Found inside a book that was returned. Probably a former bookmark.

I'm So Glad I Got that MLS

Why is it that I am the person in charge when there are bathroom problems? I find facing the red-faced patron in high dudgeon much easier than opening the bathroom door after the report of a problem. Today, a coworker informed me that one of the women's room toilets wasn't working. My heart sinking, I found out that a patron had told her of the outage and that beyond slapping an Out of Order sign on the stall door didn't know anything else. If it hadn't been the ADA stall, I would have let it go until tomorrow (Monday) when the real grownups are here. I considered calling the guy in charge of buildings for the city, but didn't want to wreck his Sunday without knowing how bad the problem was first. So I bravely entered the women's room (after determining it was unoccupied, of course!). I'm glad I checked before phoning the buildings guy since the complainer just hadn't pressed the handle very far before giving up and reporting a problem. And there wasn't even a nasty surprise in there waiting for me!

The time I was most grateful for the degree, though, was when a homeless patron had washed his socks in our restroom and put about 6 gallons of very filthy water on the floor. I wouldn't dream of having anyone else clean that up...they weren't qualified. I was the only MLS holder.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I need this specific book, but I don't know the title, author, or what it's about

A boy came up to the desk several weeks ago and asked if we had the book they talked about on the Today Show. He said the title was Stormbird and the author was an asian girl. I searched all over our library catalog, The Today Show website,, and couldn't find any reference to this book. I took his library card #, hoping that continued searching would yield some result. After some days, though, I gave up hope and forgot about it. Fast forward a few weeks, and a different patron comes up to the desk and asks to place a hold on a recent book club book from Good Morning, America. The book, she said, is called Swordbird. Ding ding ding! That sounds all too familiar. I do a happy dance that the mystery is solved, then realize I no longer have the original boy's name or library card #. You see, that's what you do when you give up hope. You destroy the evidence that you ever tried, and you shred the patron's barcode number too. But don't worry, I wouldn't even be telling this story if not for the Happy Ending: I was just cleaning at my desk and found a post-it note that reads "storm bird" "[patron's barcode]" "by young asian girl fiction". YES! Hold placed, patron happy, me happy. All is well in library land.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ring tones

That's it. Just ring tones. The generics are bad enough, but the deeply personal ones really make me rethink my position on capital punishment.

Everything here is free

A girl began rifling through the cut up scratch paper and stubby golf pencils that are kept in boxes on the ref desk so that patrons have plenty of...ummm...paper and pencils. "How much do these things cost?" she asked.
"Nothing," I said, a bit taken aback, "It's free."
"It is?" She was psyched. I looked at her more closely. Was she putting me on? I mean, it's not like this is an ice cream shop, so our freebies shouldn't cause too much joy. But she was chuffed and announced loudly to her sister that "All this stuff is FREE!" She loaded up on golf pencils and cut-up, outdated flyers until her mother finished doing her thing in a different part of the library. Mom made a halfhearted attempt to get her to put everything back, pointing out that they had plenty of paper and much better pencils at home. Her tired tone suggested that they had had similar run ins before. Mom caved and they left with the girl carrying her booty, still remarking on the cost-free nature of today's take.

Found Art

Found near--you guessed it--a public Internet terminal

But I think the artist should be marked down for logo inaccuracy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

He Did What?!

I'm sorry, I shouldn't tell a story like this so early in the days of this blog. But it happened, and it's all about capturing the special moments, right? So I'm working the late shift at the Reference Desk, and it's kind of quiet, and there's an elderly gentleman standing about 2 yards away from me at the New Books shelf. Apparently he doesn't have the control he once had, because he lets off this long, drawn out, know...fart, and I swear it lasts a good ten seconds and ends on a different note than on which it began. It was all I could do to pretend like I hadn't heard it. Because I think librarians should be all about preserving a patron's dignity, right? At least, in person. Now, I will unflinchingly mock him with this blog! Bwoo ha ha!


The other day, I helped a little boy who had waited a good five minutes in line before getting to me to ask his question at the Reference Desk. After finishing the transaction with him, I said the usual "Thanks, have a nice day." Then I added, "And thanks for being so patient while you were waiting." As he walked away with his mother, he looked up at her with a big smile and said proudly with a whispering yell, "Mommy! I practiced my patience!"