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.