Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Man and His Brand

I was weeding in our dusty dusty adult fiction section and came across some Westerns that hadn't been checked out in years. It made me a little sad to get rid of them, but we're running a library, not a trophy shelf. Westerns just aren't the high-demand item they used to be, even out here in the West. One library wag explained to me that Vampire books are today's Western.

One thing I like about the Westerns in every public library I've worked in is the brands of the readers. It was explained to me years ago by the person who taught me weeding that many older men--the presumed audience for Westerns--might not remember if they'd read something, so they'd make a mark in the book someplace. You can find it in Large Prints of all kinds, but it's usually a polite little dot here or there. The boys who read Westerns put a real manly, bold mark. Here are some from the fly leaves, title page and even first page of Lassiter by Zane Grey's son, Loren. (They always downplay his first name and add a "Zane" in there, even though that wasn't part of his birth name. Anything for a book sale, though, I always say.)

(fly leaf...click to embiggen)

(back fly leaf...what would that be...recto fly leaf?)

(title page...including the old school cataloging marks)

(page one)

They are as interesting as cattle brands. I find it interesting, too, to see how consistent the marks are across the books. The guy who used the T with the stitch mark below it was a prolific reader. Almost any Western that entered our collection more than about 8 years ago will bear his brand. (Few of his marks in books published this Millenium. I hope he moved and didn't die.)

You can also see which writers individual readers liked. The man who used the brand that looks like "8B" or maybe "SB" on the same page as T Stitch really liked Zane Grey and Ernest Haycox, marking up nearly every copy of ours. He branded about half of our Max Brand, but almost no Louis L'Amour.

One library I worked at had a patron named BILL TANNER. I know that because he wrote BILL TANNER in letters an inch high on the title page.

So crack open some Westerns, pard, and let me know if they bear the brands.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The man who stood at the Ref Desk said that. It was somewhere between a statement and a question.

"Twelve," I replied, maintaining eye contact. I really had no idea what he was talking about. Right before I opened my mouth to ask him he waived a bunch of pages in front of himself.


Still not entirely on my game, it took a second before I realized that he was referring to his computer print outs and I could I please take his money. When our transaction was done, it amused me to think that he had only flung an integer at me a few times and said nothing else.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Our Defective Computers Strike Again

A patron came to the desk to tell me that her computer was not connecting to the Internet. I followed her back to her computer and watched her go through the who process of typing in her barcode and agreeing to our terms of service. The Interweb is the default state for these things, so Interweb Exploder automatically launches (Why do IT departments still put IE on computers? I don't get it.) The home page for the browsers is the library's home page. Why this would be so is a mystery. Perhaps it is based on the insane notion that the people using the Interwhat are there to use library resources. No--that's just too far-fetched. I think we should make Facebook the home page.

The patron pointed to the screen. "See?"

I didn't see and told her so.

"There," she said, pointing again. "No Internet."

I quizzed her a bit and found out that on the computer she typically uses, Google is the home page. To her, Google=Internet; no goog, no Internet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hey, I'm a Parent, Too, But Seriously

I realize that when you hang around with toddlers all day and talk to them and not other adults you tend to talk a certain way, but when you burst into the library hauling your two-year-old behind you, please do not shout, "Where's the potty?!" at the deskslave. Thank you.

And this, friends, marks the 500th post at deskslave. Looking back, it seems like just yesterday that I was a embittered, middle-aged man whining about my job.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Consider the Grocery Store

Most of the time there is no line at the ref desk and I can spend a decent amount of time with each person who walks up. Occasionally, things back up a bit and I start to feel an overwhelming pressure. I get anxious because PEOPLE ARE WAITING. In a way, I understand. Maybe they just want to ask where the copier is or want to know what they need to do to get on the Intrawebs. Sometimes, the frustration of having to wait for something small causes people to interrupt whatever transaction I'm doing.

I thought about this as I waited patiently in line at the grocery store. I love self check; it gives me the opportunity to work for free and avoid interpersonal interaction. Sadly on this occasion, all the beep stations were occupied by people who did not seem to know how to move objects across a flat glass plane and then put the objects into bags that were being held open for them by a clever bag holder. These same people then had trouble swiping cards and/or inserting currency into slots. People got in line behind me and together we watched the pageant of incompetence. It wasn't very interesting. No matter how ridiculous it got, though, none of the people behind me jumped the line to say that they only had one thing and that they should be allowed to play through. They restrained themselves even when it was my turn and I walked toward the vacant machine with my large basket of important items including several varieties of unhealthy snacks.

So: why is it that people feel OK about getting huffy about waiting when they are at the Ref Desk and not when they are at the grocery store?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some People Get All the Fun

While I was in the back doing something very important (probably whining about something stupid while making yet another pot of my famous coffee*), a coworker on the floor got to put out a fire some nice person set in a trash can.

He was, however, disappointed that it was so small and his foot did the trick. He told me that he considered waiting a minute in order to justify busting out the fire extinguisher.

* Famous, but not in a nice way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Have a Heart, Willya?

A patron in his late teens and his mom came to the desk. They needed, I was informed in grave tones, directions to the Heart Institute. There's all kinds of hospitals around here. I asked if they knew which hospital it was associated with. They gave each other a "What's-up-with-the-moron" kind of look.

"It's not associated with a hospital," the mom said flatly.

I did my best to find it, but came up blank. Cancer Institute? No problem. Thoracic Surgery Institute? mais bien sûr. But no Heart Institute. I told them. They looked somewhere between surprised and peeved. Luckily, an astute coworker was also at the desk and told me that maybe what they wanted was the Art Institute.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Library, A Dog Parking Lot

I'm know it's very hot. I'm certain he's a very good boy. But unless you go through the charade of pretending he's a service dog, he's not coming in.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lean on Me When You're Not Strong...I Mean Turn on Me

A patron wanted help doing a post office change of address thing, which I guess you need to do online now. I was really in the weeds at the desk, so I gave her a guest pass to our computers and told her to go to usps.gov and come back if she had trouble. Then I got back to the others I needed to serve. I forgot all about her as I looked up movies for people, showed a young student how to use the catalog and fulfilled my professional duty by telling people where the bathroom was and how to use the photocopier.

The address change woman crashed the line to tell me that she couldn't find the right page. I was not firm with her, since she'd already waited in line. Instead, I looked up the page for an address change. I was going to write it down, but it was one of those 87,000 character URLs with lots of numbers and question marks. I figured it might be beyond her.

"Why don't I email you a link that you can click on," I suggested.

"I don't have an email," she replied.

Looking at the undiminished line, I decided to use a URL shortener to make a reasonable URL for her. I pasted the bloated URL into bit.ly and then wrote down the shortened URL. Handing it to her, I told her what I had done and that all she needed to do was type in these ten characters exactly, and she'd get to the right URL. I told her to give it a shot and let me know if it didn't work and as soon as I was free I'd help her.

Going back to my line, I forgot about her completely. That is until a few minutes later when she walked by the desk. Pausing briefly, she said/kinda shouted: "That didn't work either. Thanks for nothing, asshole!"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Let's Make a Deal, Shall We?

How about this: I'll pretend that you are not dressed in flowy, white, semi-first-century-Galilee-chic garb and sandals with socks and head wear that looks like something a Berber warrior might wear if he was also into golf if you stop calling me "brother" while I look up your books for you, OK? Only one person gets to call me brother, and I only talk to her when a parent has a health crisis.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Can't Decide

Was tonight's shift purgatorial, or was the pace just glacial?