Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm Afraid They Do Know It's Christmas, And That's the Problem

I worked today, even though it was that most ill-named day--"Christmas Eve Day."* It's an utter waste of time to be at the Ref Desk on such a day. It's all the usual suspects at the Internet computers who would be there no matter what day it was. And there were people looking, amazingly, for Christmas movies and CDs. (And nobody else.) The movie seekers were probably the same people who were looking for the movie Halloween on Halloween.

When someone came up and asked if the movie Elf was in, I actually looked it up out of a strange sense of professional duty. Whatever holiday film or CD they wanted was invariably out, naturally. There were heaps of holds on all of them to boot. If they added themselves to the list they'd be lucky to see the movie over Memorial Day weekend. I might as well have just typed random keystrokes into my computer and just said, "oh, sorry, all checked out."

deskslave patron tip #14: Place your holds for next year now
Most systems will let you make your hold inactive. You move up the list all year until you sit at number two, right behind me. Then you activate your holds on December 15th and you have the movies of your choice over the holiday. So you can see that, even adjusted for the time of year, Scrooged hasn't aged very well, Love Actually is pretty vacuous and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is creepy as hell.

In a new twist, our long-suffering Interlibrary Loan specialist told me that someone put an ILL request in today for a Christmas CD. One that we own, naturally.

* This means that the night before that is Christmas Eve Day Eve, and the night before that Christmas Eve Day Eve Day Eve. And so on. So the night of December 20th is something like Christmas Eve Day Eve Day Eve Day Eve Day Eve. August 30th? Don't get me started.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let's Play "What on Earth are You Talking About, Madam?"

A woman in her sixties came up to the desk and asked, "Where are your storylines?"

I've been working in libraries a while, but this was a new one. I used my usual question to elicit more information about whatever it was she wanted. "Could you tell me a little more about storylines?"

She gave me the "you moron" look that I am, to my distress, all to familiar with.

"You know...they're....STORYLINES!"

It took a little time, but I got it. Any guesses about what storylines might be?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Just Another Saturday

I was at the desk fulfilling my Saturday destiny--looking up movies for people. A young guy in his early twenties and another guy in his forties (maybe his father?) had quite a few requests. They wanted the usual action/horror sorts of things. They were very nice to eachother and I would have thought it was all very nice except the young guy had face tattoos. It's so distracting.

The younger guy thought of a film and asked the older guy if he had seen it.

"Oh, yeah. I think I went to that one right before I went to prison," he said.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where would we be without traditions?

There are some important--nay sacred--traditions at deskslave central. Last month, we observed an important Halloween tradition whereby people show up on Halloween expecting there to be scary movies on the shelf. Some get upset, some seem to harbor suspicions that we are hiding them for ourselves, but all are disappointed. 

Today we had the traditional Thanksgiving Eve pageant. Well, it's actually less of a pageant and more of a collision of two things:

  1. People come to the library on Thanksgiving Eve looking for an armload of movies for the upcoming long weekend or to spend some quality time on the Intarweb before their one day computer fast;
  2. The library closes two hours earlier than usual.

It really doesn't matter that the early closure is on the library's calendar. It doesn't matter that signs at eye level have been on the doors since Halloween. The early close always comes as a shock. When the announcement that we are indeed closed came over the intercom, it lead to agitated turbo typing by die hard Internet habitués and some particularly frantic power selecting among the motion picture enthusiasts. 

Tonight, I managed to herd the last of the movie-seekers toward the self check machines and turned to try to shoo the remaining netizen. 

"OK! Just a second!" she carped after I told her that we had closed five minutes before. 

I told her I was heading to the management station to terminate her session. 

"I'll be done in a second!"  

Her time estimation skills were not good. After about a minute, I clicked the button and her computer shut down. 

She wished me a Happy Thanksgiving on her way out, but her tone suggested that she didn't really mean it. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Almost Made it Through 2012

without somebody asking me if I was a volunteer. My luck ran out and I had the usual conversation about being at an actual job with actual responsibilities.

One of these days, when somebody expresses incredulity that someone could possibly get paid to do something as easy as being a librarian, I may just say, "OK, you have $250 this month to buy items for the 900s collection. That's biographies and history to you, champ. What are you going to buy and where are you planning to get it? Defend your decision. While you try to figure this out, some dipshit walks up to you and asks if you're a volunteer. What do you say?"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Irony Meter Broken Again! And I just got it recalibrated!

I helped a patron get a bunch of audio books. Thrillers, mysteries, etc. Some of them were even those $#&! Recorded Books which cost a fortune. He seemed pretty happy with our selection and found four or five titles he wanted to check out. I went back to the desk, metaphorically patting myself on the back for a job well done. 

As a coda, he later came up and, completely out of the blue, told me that he hated taxes and government and that if people got to keep their money instead of having Obama take it all (that’s how he put it) people would build things and the country would be a greater place. I think I showed admirable restraint in not pulling the big stack of audio books from his hands and suggesting that he find a free market solution to his lack of audio books. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Really am Sorry

I’m sorry you’re frustrated. Really. I believe you when you tell me that you don’t know how to use a computer and that you need help. And I will try to help you to the best of my ability. I’m a geezer myself and didn’t even touch a computer until I was in my 20s (a PDP 10 terminal: look it up) so I know how intimidating technology can be to those of us who grew up in a pre-digital age. Really.

(Believe it or not, this was super cool back in the day and you
had to sign up days in advance to use it for an hour or two. 
You think the patrons at the public access Internet computers are
jealous of their computer time? You have no idea.)

It is certainly cruel of your health insurance company to require you to fill out forms on line and I'm sorry that you are in a hurry. Forgive me for asking you if the document was a pdf file. I should have known that you would not know what a pdf was or even understand the concept of a file type. I wish our printing system were more intuitive and I will indeed refund the ten cents that our equipment maliciously "ate." I will not be offended with your response of "you better" when I inform you of this. Really. So now that we have gotten this out of the way and you have all your forms printed off--mostly for free--and I have used up 25 precious minutes of this, my only life (which I will never see again), could you please go the fuck away as soon as humanly possible? Thanks. Really.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From the "I Thought I'd Seen Everything" File

For whatever reason, people like to flush strange things down the toilets in libraries. Even the urinals. So many urinals have these little plastic grates in them to prevent people from flushing weird things that might cause big problems.

Today I was informed by an alert patron that the little red plastic grate thing had been taken. That's right: somebody stole the thing that all the guys literally piss on.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I think I came out even

To my credit, I did not order:

But to my eternal discredit, I did order:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guess the Topic Game

OK, an older woman came in looking for books on a particular subject. It took me a while, but I finally got it. So, what do you think?

The original questions:

Do you have any books on microbionics?

I asked her to spell it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can we just weed this one now?

I hate it when grownups try to be cool to teens.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Unhappy Patron, Late breaking Olympics Wrap-Up Edition

A patron took a moment to complain to me about the closing ceremonies at the Olympics. When he asked me if I had seen them, I replied that I hadn't and hoped that this would be enough to stop the conversation. He held forth for several minutes about how awful it was. He was specifically unhappy about the fact that the American influence was too great and that it wasn't British enough. American bands dominated the evening, he opined. I asked which American bands played, since I'd only heard about British bands from a coworker who stayed up too late to watch. "The Who, for one," he said.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Which is Worse?

Your library buying expensive DVDs of crap TV shows from the 80s (or 70s or 60s), or using Interlibrary Loan to acquire them?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pop Quiz

Since it's been a while since I've tested your knowledge.

You summon the deskslave to your computer. You are having trouble logging in to the computer. You have certainly typed the barcode correctly and you know your password better than you know your own name. Clearly, there is something wrong with this defective machine. The deskslave types your card number and password and it logs in. You:

a) Thank him
b) Say nothing and get to your important business
c) Grumble about the crappy computers and get to your important business
d) Reach into your purse, grab a farthing, and toss it to the deskslave with a hearty, "Well done, my good man."

From the Snagged Item File

Books get wrecked every day, but few get wrecked this maliciously. Or ironically:

Thanks, Mary!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Formerly Common Questions I Have Not Been Asked in a While

I got a call the other day that I used to get fairly often. Back in the days when people used videotapes, we used to get calls for all sorts of VCR repair services we didn't offer. After video was supplanted by DVDs, we used to get calls about DVD polishing, but those have trailed off. But my caller didn't ask if we had a DVD polishing service, he asked about the process he needed to follow to get his discs polished. When I told him that we didn't do that, he informed me that we used to, which was news to the folks in technical services when I asked them later. 

It made me think of an old chestnut of a question that I used to get when the television show Frasier was on the air. There was a charming dog on the show, so people wanted to get one for themselves. They'd call the library and ask if we had books on them, only about 30% of the time, they'd get the breed's name a little wrong. So the call would go something like this:

Patron. Do you have any books on Jack Daniels terriers?

Me. Let me check the catalog.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sad Irony

We have two books for ex-offenders trying to find work. Both are missing.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Good, A New Format for Us to Carry

We've all heard audiobooks called all sorts of things. Typically, people still say books on tape. But today somebody asked me if we had "story tapes." 

I said something helpful like, "Do you mean books on CD?"

"Yes!" she agreed brightly, "Story tapes on CD!"

I showed her our extensive story tape selection.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's Been A While--How About Some Found Art?

A colleague found this at a study table. It looks like it was torn from a book and is about 6" high. I'm thinking the answer was no.

I think the circles may be something to hide writing. Get to work, you steganographers!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Something I Learned Today

I helped a patron re-find this story. He'd read it a few weeks back and was very interested in reading it again. In case you don't care to take a look, an MIT professor is predicting a worldwide economic collapse in 2030. The really amazing thing about it, he told me after I fished it out of the printer for him and handed it over, was that after he read the article, he began to do some Very Serious reading of the Bible, particularly and unsurprisingly the Book of Revelations. You're not going to believe this: according to his most recent calculations the world is going to end right around 2030! I know, pretty amazing, isn't it? So maybe the MIT dude is on to something since the Bible is backing him up and all.

I was trapped behind the desk while this guy nattered away. I let my mind drift, practically hoping that somebody would walk up with a genealogy question.

Journalism's Greatest Hits: Pope Hearts Oprah Edition

In the article "Britain Reopens the Madeleine McCann Case," (You can read it here: we learn a few things about her parents, who have been incredibly diligent since their daughter disappeared. But we also learn about how the Pope has done some extraordinary things on their behalf. This is from the article's second-to-last paragraph:

Since their daughter’s disappearance they have traveled to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, who blessed a photograph of Madeleine, published a book and even appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

I really think I'd have heard about that episode of Oprah. Must have been after she was off network TV. Nice work, newspaper of record!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

OK, Now I'm Depressed

I saw one of our homeless patrons reading Napoleon Hill's 1937 classic Think and Grow Rich.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Knew I'd Seen it Somplace

I reshelved this book called Boiling Point by Karen Dionne the other day and as I did I got a funny feeling of  déjà vu. The cover looked awfully familiar, but I'd never heard of the book or the author.

Does that look familiar to you at all? It nagged on me all day until it struck me:

Pretty uncanny, I'd say.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

From the Annals of Disagreeableness, Thursday Odd Male Edition

The moon was not full this past Thursday night which is the typical reason people give for serial off-kilteredness. It was a waning, old moon in Capricorn, FWIW, yet people were acting odd.

One aggressively friendly man in his twenties wanted a fairly obscure book. He told me that he had asked at over 50 libraries for it, and nobody had it. We didn't either, but several libraries in the state did. I offered to interlibrary loan it for him. His reaction indicated that he had no experience with such a thing and none of the fifty librarians before me had suggested it. It's hard to convey how wildly enthusiastic he was the whole time. He didn't want just any book, he wanted "One of the best books EVER WRITTEN!" He hadn't tried to get the book at one or two libraries in this county, he had "GONE to over FIFTY LIBRARIES!" He excitedly proclaimed his astonishment that he could get a book sent in from "FAR AWAY!" It was all a little UNNERVING and left me feeling UNCOMFORTABLE and GLAD when he LEFT ME ALONE. 

One patron, a geezer like me, summoned me to the Introweb computer he was using. His browser window had gotten itself pretty small. They start off big, but he must have done something to it. But he wasn't copping to it. “I can't use this! I need it bigger!" he carped, jabbing a finger into the monitor. "This is too small!” 

Later, I took out my trusty Pilot G3 and pointed to the three buttons in the upper right of the window and told him to click the middle one. he moved his mouse and hovered the pointer over the rightmost, close this-window one. “Don’t click that one,” I advised, “click the one next to it. The middle button.”

He clicked the close button. He turned to me, his look vexed. “Goddamn it! I said I wanted it bigger, not closed!”

Later still, another gentleman approached the desk. He's a repeat offender, so I was braced. He's a truculent old cuss and has a bifurcated relationship to librarians that probably brings out the worst in him. I'm guessing that his default response to other humans is that we're all a bunch of morons. Yet, he has to come to the desk to ask for help since he doesn't know how to use a computer or a library. I'm sure asking for help just makes him feel like he's dying inside. He deals with this by establishing from the first moment that the librarian doesn't know something. He doesn't know it either, which is why he's standing there. But the ground rules have been established: you're an idiot.

Once he walked up, his equally but uniquely nasty wife in tow, and boomed at me, "What do you know about the War of 1812?" As a bit of background: way back in historical times, I studied history in college, particularly US history. While I'm not exactly an expert in anything and didn't go beyond undergraduate study, I still read history and think about it and like to imagine that I am fairly clued in for a civilian. Even though the War of 1812 was sort of the Korean War of the 19th century, I have read about it. But I'm not at the desk to dazzle anybody with my erudition, so I just said, "What sort of thing do you need to know about the War of 1812?" You know, open questions.
"See?" he smirked to the missus, "He doesn't know anything about the War of 1812."
I did find him some books about the subject. We don't have much in my library about it. If you want Civil War or WWII, you've hit the jackpot, but 1812 doesn't get a lot of love. He was annoyed about that and came back the next week to complain about how boring our books were, as though tediousness was a selection criterion for us.

In any event, on this strange evening, he slid a piece of paper across the table. "I need this." I looked at the paper. It made almost no sense to me, but it had some sort of index numbers and prominently featured the word microfilm, so I guessed that it had to do with genealogy. I have ranted about genealogy before. I don't like it and don't care about anyone's research. It's hard, tedious and detail-oriented work and most people don't have it in them to do it for very long. Most of the time, I see people when they are just starting out or getting to the point where they are giving up. The noobs think it's going to be easy and fun and you have to disabuse them of that notion. The people who are close to giving up want to vent about how hard it is and relate wearisome stories of their tiresome efforts. The dude appeared to be somewhere in the middle. A look of mean-spirited satisfaction appeared on his face as I told him that I needed more info. The look disappeared from his face when I told him that I'd have to refer everything to the nice folks in Interlibrary Loans. Maybe he thought we have vast microfilm vault in the basement which has the death notice or foreclosure issuance or probate record or whatever the hell it was he was looking for. I got harangued for several minutes as they tried to find out how long it would take to get the film. It's the sort of thing you can't help people with since you don't know where the thing is coming from or even if it's coming at all. He had to leave unhappy that he couldn't get what he wanted right away but probably satisfied in the knowledge that everyone at the library was a moron dead set on being incompetent.

Feeling a bit discombobulated, I really wanted to sort this out. I looked at a moon phase/astrology website to get to the scientific lowdown on why people were being so odd, but it wasn’t any help. Evidently, a moon in Capricorn indicates

self-control, prudence, ambition, patience, conservatism, responsibility, discipline and order.

Nope, definitely not.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It Was Nice of the IRS, I Guess

I'm really ready for tax and tax preparation season to be over. It's a little disappointing that it's going on until Tuesday the 17th this year. We are pretty much out of tax forms and instructions and people are none too happy about it, which means they get peevish with me. If they're ever unhappy about the fines on their cards, I hope they take it out on the IRS.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Mappie McNally Thing, I Mean

Mr. Scruffy walked up to the desk. “Do you have a national atlas?”

Ever the helpful reference librarian, I sought to narrow it down. I wanted to ask if he wanted a Rand-McNally road atlas or if he wanted a political atlas or a historical one or what.

I stammered for a second because I couldn’t remember the name Rand-McNally. ""

He leaned in a bit. “A map,” he said firmly. “You do know what a map is, right? I want a map.”

We are told all the time not to take things personally, which is easier said than done. It's not about you, by which I mean that it's not about me. He's the one having a bad day/week/season/incarnation and I just happen to be in the way. Or something.

I really wanted to say something mean, especially since the leaning in made me realize that his aftershave was losing the fight with his cigarette habit. (Ladies: do you actually like the man-scents that the boys put on? I find them repulsive and strive to live an unscented life.) As a dedicated deskslave who is not permitted to vent at the public, I went passive-aggressive and just gave him the call number and went back to my work. I almost felt bad, since I actually hate librarians who do that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Me And My Faulty Memory

I helped a guy look up several books. We didn‘t have one of them, so I went through the whole Interlibrary Loan process. I always check to make sure that we have the correct patron information. I hate it when we go through all the trouble of getting a book from far away and we have the wrong phone number or email address The item languishes on the holds shelf for a week or two and then gets sent back home. Within minutes of the mail truck trundling out of the parking lot, the patron appears and is none too happy. So I go through it all, including his email. He had one of those ridiculous addresses that may have seemed clever or funny when he first thought it up in high school, but now makes him look like a tool (we're talking "" level of wit here). The patron was brusque about the whole thing, maybe a little annoyed with me, but not overly so.

A half hour later, he was back to sign up for a class. To sign up for a class, we just want your name and email address.  I asked for his name, and was given it peevishly. I asked for his email address and burst out, “I already told you!!”

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Sexy Means

You know what’s sexier than a podgy, 55-year-old with a none-too-tidy, grey ponytail? A podgy, 55-year-old with a none-too-tidy, grey ponytail who is sitting at Computer Number 14 picking his nose.

As comedian Greg Proops once pointed out: the only males who should have ponytails are ponies. On them, the ponytail is adorable.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Technology is Our Friend, Phone Clash Edition

I had been on the phone with a patron on a fairly routine sort of reference question when a tinny chime started on her end. “That’s my cell phone,” she said, “hang on a sec.”

The phone clattered to the table. I hung on and on (and on) while she discussed her husband’s health with somebody. (Full disclosure: it looks like he’s going to be OK, or at least that’s what the doctor said. The tests don’t indicate anything bad.) Since I am basically spineless, I listened for way too long before I hung up. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring is in the Air, Part 1

...must mean spring break.

A dad came in with his two sons (9 & 11, I'd guess) and went over to the computers. It was 11:30 on the first day of Spring Break. All of the computers were taken and had been since about 11 seconds after we opened. His face fell as his plans to maroon his progeny at the library for a few hours while he did something more fun, i.e. something that didn't involve the progeny, evaporated.

"Do you have any more computers?" he asked/demanded.

"All the computers are right here." He looked over at them again, checking to see if any had become available in the last 3 seconds.

"You should have more computers for Spring Break," he opined before dragging the boys back out of the building.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PLA Notes: An Ongoing Series

It used to be that when you saw librarians waiting for a program to start, you'd see a lot of them knitting. Now they're all using phones, tablets and e-readers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

PLA and Gender Discrimination

I haven't seen another guy in any of the restrooms I have visited. Between sessions, there are always lines for the women's room. See? Even in a female-dominated profession, the men still get everything.

Philadelphia - Some Preliminary Observations

  • If the tobacco companies go broke, it won't be due to the valiant efforts of the people of Philadelphia.
  • Philadelphia pizza is the best thing since New York pizza.
  • Philadelphia coffee is the worst thing since New York coffee.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

PLA Rule #6

In the main aisle of each presentation, we provide microphones. They have been finely calibrated for a specific purpose, and should be used only for their official purpose. If you currently do not have serious allergies, SARS, an acute upper respiratory infection or bronchitis, please sit at least seven seats from the microphone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Meet Me at PLA!

OMG, deskslave, you're going to be at PLA? 


What, are you giving a presentation on the role of cynicism in today's library? 


What are you going to do, then? 

Sit in the back of the room at a few things. 

Then how will we know it's you? 

 I'll be the one avoiding eye contact.

Friday, March 9, 2012

LC: Keeping it Old School

The young man wanted a DVD, not a book, on how to rap. He was probably a freshman in college, fresh-faced, well-groomed and handsome in a way that suggested that most things were given to or done for him. The word insouciant came to mind. In short, just the sort of person we think of when we think "rapper." Sadly, we didn't have any videos like that at all. We did have two books, believe it or not, on the subject, but that both books were checked out. Evidently, the poor lad has been the target of many confidence tricksters in the past and has finally learned his lesson because he asked me three times if I was kidding him. The first time I told him that I was not kidding him. The second time, I said "nope." The third time I told him that asking me would not make any videos appear. I offered him the books, but the look of distaste he shot me before stalking off said it all. But my main point has to do with the subject headings for these books. I still look at subject headings and still find them occasionally useful. They can be annoying, like the subject heading for longshoremen. (That's your LC test for today: what's the subject heading for longshormen? Hint: it's not longshorepersons, but it's equally dumb.) They are also occasionally hilarious, as it was with this one:
Not silly enough for you? Then take this little quiz. What item do the following subject headings describe?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Finally Thought of the Comeback

We've all had it happen: somebody does something and you're all tongue-tied and 20 minutes later you think of the thing you wish you'd said. For me, this particular one happens every year or two for years and I never know what to say. Until now. Has this ever happened to you? Of course it has: somebody tells you, usually while you're trying to help them with something difficult, "Must be nice to be a librarian--you get to sit around and read books all day." 

I usually splutter out something lame and unconvincing and feel icky about just how much I resent (OK, hate) the person. But today I resolved to say: 

 That's like saying "Must be nice to be a pharmacist--you get to sit around and take drugs all day."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

After So Long an Absence

Blogging tradition dictates that after a long absence from posting, the blogger must apologize and offer a reason for the absence. So: sorry. But why? That's tougher. A few months ago, I saw a homeless guy, a regular, somebody I say "hi" to each morning, sitting on one of the not-exactly-comfy comfy chairs reading. He was reading Napoleon Hill's great contribution to society Think and Grow Rich. I wanted to write something about seeing that, something about the irony that wasn't at all funny and couldn't. So I won't write about that, but will start writing about the rest of the quotidian nonsense again soon.