Thursday, May 25, 2017

A book detection victory

At Small Town Library this morning:


Patron: Sorry in advance, this is a stupid question.
Me: Believe me, it's fine. There are no stupid...
Patron: Is there a way to look up a book if you remember things about it, but not the title or the author?
Me: My first suggestion would be to find a librarian and tell them everything you remember and we'll see if we can find it.
Patron: Okay. It was from a dog's point of view and I think the guy is a repo man and he stumbles across a mystery and then has to solve it.
Me: I have a few ideas! It could be one of a few books by W. Bruce Cameron. He has a series about a repo man who has a dog, the dog isn't the narrator but he's definitely a character in the story, and then he has some other books from dogs' points of view. It also might be this mystery series that is definitely written from the dog's point of view, they're by Spencer Quinn and I think the most famous one is called "Dog On It"...
Patron: I think that first one sounds familiar!
It was The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron, and I looked like a wizard to the patron. I ruined the mystique a little bit by confessing that I'd listened to the book within the last year, but I couldn't help it because that book is soooo good* and I couldn't stand giving up a chance to tell someone how excellent it is.


*If you're going to listen to the audio like I did, I actually suggest you listen to the sequel, Repo Madness, because I personally thought the narrator was much better, but if you're going to read it they are both excellent.

Things Downtown Library does well

I wrote a post last week about ways in which libraries could do a better job of living up to their own values and I illustrated some points with examples from Downtown Library and Small Town Library, the two places where I currently work. I don't want you to get the idea that either of those places are bad, or even below average, compared to other libraries, so today I want to tell you about some of the things that make me proud or happy to work at those places. I'm starting with Downtown Library, since that's where I am today. These aren't the only things I like about Downtown, but they are the ones most related to last week's post.


Privacy:
  • Items on hold for people to pick up are shelved spine downward, and are labeled with a code (first three letters of your last name, first three letters of your first name, last four letters of your library card number) instead of your name.
  • Our IT department does a really good job scrubbing internet history, created files, etc. between each user's computer sessions.
  • Our catalog computers and print stations are set up to time out if they are left untouched for a while so that people who forget to sign out still have their privacy protected, even if on a delay.
Access:
  • We have a patron elevator for our two-story building, and a process for taking patrons through the staff areas to use the freight elevator if the patron elevator is broken so that they can still get where they need to go.
  • We have library card brochures and applications in four different languages (including English).
  • I am pretty confident that all public areas are passable by electric wheelchair (you might think this would be an Americans With Disabilities Act requirement, but actually it isn't).
  • We have many members of staff who practice extreme patience with, and have great empathy toward, patrons with intellectual or mental disabilities. It's a pleasure to listen to our circulation staff chat with some of our regulars who have limited capabilities--they not only make them feel welcome, they always make sure to keep them in the loop about any library changes that might affect them.
Copyright thoughtfulness:
  • The system of which Downtown Library is a part is the only one where I have ever worked where I have had first-hand evidence of the library paying for stock photos instead of just borrowing photographers' work and using it without compensation to the creator.
  • The existence of colorful sign templates that are used system-wide discourages people from pulling any old file off the internet in order to create signage.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To do list

Today I found a list with the heading "Library" in the recycling bin next to the printer. Here's what was on it:
  • Budget
  • Golden Corral locations
  • Touchless car wash
  • First pass on photos
  • Backup to HD



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Grr

Things patrons have told me lately that have made me (at least briefly) angry:
  • That I don't understand what Microsoft Silverlight is
  • That I was "just making excuses" for the local history librarian's failure to immediately return a phone call
  • That I'm racist
  • That they don't understand how many copies of pornographic trash (i.e., the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy) the library has to buy with taxpayer money
  • That the library should be open until 9 p.m. on Fridays because "some people have to work"
  • That I let other patrons be too loud in the library
  • That a picture book about gender identity isn't appropriate for children
  • That, no matter what I may claim to the contrary, they were just speaking to me on the phone

Finally some funny things

I know this blog has been all serious lately (it's been a serious week, sorry), so I thought I'd point those of you looking for funny reference interactions to this LibraryThing thread about them. My favorite is probably the patron who wanted to renew his books and phrased that need as "I want to make the fining stop."

Unexpected

Today there was an incident where I was accused of being racist, and it made me feel good rather than bad. Let me explain:


I think I'd like to be a department head or maybe even a library director someday. Knowing this, I keep an eye out for things that happen at work that would tell me if it am suited for the work and would help make me more qualified. So today was sort of a weird experience.


A woman was having trouble with a website in one of our PCs. At first she was cursing and mumbling to herself but it started to get louder and I thought it might bother other patrons. Instead of starting us off on bad foot by having my first interaction with her be a complaint, I went over near her and said "Do you need some help with the computer?" to which she responded something like "No! I need you to get out of my space and I need your mother f***king computer to work! So you can just go back and get away from me." So I did. Soon after that I went to help a white woman sitting a few chairs down whose web browser had frozen. That was a normal nice patron interaction where no one was mad at anyone and we fixed the problem and I left again. 


After a bit the first woman started cursing again so this time I went up and said "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you can't use language like that in here. I know you're frustrated but it violates our code of conduct. If it happens again I will have to ask you to leave the library." While I was saying this she was simultaneously talking to me about how I needed to get out of her space (I was about 5 feet away from her chair) and how she would leave if we asked her to and she had her own car and we could call the police if we wanted. So I left again.


Unsurprisingly, the cursing didn't stop, but as I got up to go over to tell her she needed to leave the security guard approached (my colleague had heard our last interaction and called her on the radio, anticipating what would happen next). The security guard escorted her out while she continued to curse and make complaints about me getting in her space and being racist (she said she was being kicked out because she was black and that I had been rude to her but nicer to the white woman I helped with her web browser). Since I grew up in a culture with institutionalized racism, I am sure I have some racist feelings and beliefs at a subconscious level, but I know I didn't make this woman leave because of the color of her skin and I am confident that I would have treated a white person who was behaving the same way in a very similar respect.


Both of my colleagues on the floor came over to say how mean that woman was and how I had been perfectly reasonable with her. Even a patron came up to basically say the same thing. I know they were trying to help me feel better, and I appreciated it, but actually...I didn't need help. I was feeling pretty good about myself. One of the things I worry about disqualifying me from management is not being emotionally tough enough to be the person who tells patrons they have to leave, or to stand up to people who are being verbally abusive. I did have the safety net of the security guard to fall back on, but I still felt like the confrontation I had today was an indication that I was getting better at it and would eventually be able to do it well. I dreaded the conversations I had with her a little, but I still had them, and had them confidently without getting emotional myself.


So that was a victory for me, in a weird way.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My First Book Challenge

There are a lot of things that library school didn't teach me, but one thing they did prepare me for was book challenges, that is, when someone points out an item in the library's collection that they don't feel should be there. Going by how library school treated book challenges, I expected them to happen all the time, not for it to take three years past my degree to get my first one.


Yesterday at Small Town Library a patron came up to the desk and said "I need to talk to someone about this book that I borrowed from another library." Small Town Library is part of a consortium that does interlibrary lending, so this seemed routine. I was ready to direct her to the circulation desk, thinking that she had damaged the book or that it was overdue or that it had arrived for her in bad condition, but then she said "I don't think it is appropriate for children."


It was a picture book called Who Are You?: A Kid's Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee. It's really worth taking a look at the website, which shows the wheel a kid can use to identify their body (sex), identity, and gender expression. It seems like a well-done, thoughtfully presented book and it got positive reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, which are standard sources that we used to buy books for our own collection. If I were the selector I'd be prepared to go to bat for it.


Fortunately, I didn't have to. The patron understood that it wasn't our library that had bought the book, and just wanted us to give her insight into the process of making a complaint. I explained that libraries generally have a collection development policy that professionals use, along with their trained judgment, to buy books for the library collection, but that they also generally have a process for addressing objections to items in their collection. I told the patron that she could go to the library that owned the book and they would probably ask her to fill out a form that would ask for more information about the book and about her views on it, and that that would start a review process for whether or not they wanted to keep the book in their collection, and either way would allow her to have a conversation with staff about her concerns.


I think I handled it pretty much by the book, but honestly it made me feel kind of slimy. I really wanted to say what poor Other Library's selector is probably eventually going to say: "This is a well-respected book about an important topic and we will be keeping it in our collection. If you are concerned about your own children seeing this book, remember that a child can't get a library card without a parent's permission and that you are more than welcome to monitor what your child looks at in the library and to set your own rules. Also, you're bigoted and I disagree with the grounds of your objection."


Hopefully she won't say that last sentence aloud, only in her head.