Saturday, October 13, 2018

Today at Mystery Library

Kid: Do you have any chapter books about unicorns?

Confused old man: You called and you said my movies had come in. Where are they?

Phone call: I heard an author is going to come out and talk about her book. Do you have the book?

A regular: Do you ladies have today's newspaper?

Volunteer running a kid's program in the program room: Can we borrow the blocks from the children's area? The kids are demanding them.

A million different patrons: Can you look up my library card number so I can get on the computer?

Patron using a garbage bag as an emergency poncho: Somebody told me, and I understand this might not be true, that I can get copies of something from my email here at the library. Can I do that, and if so how do I go about it?

Excited patron from nearby senior living place: Are you the one who came to my house!?

Chatty guy who always wants to tell me about his religious experiences: So, the boss is on vacation. Are you the boss now?

Grandma: When is your storytime? By the way, I am also a children's book author. I'll leave this copy of my book for you to look at while we are in the library.

Same grandma, to kid after kid has thrown a block and narrowly missed her head: If you were to say sorry to me, I might just be able to find it in my heart to forgive you.

Random kids: When are there going to be Legos at the library again?

Family of patrons who are a constant irritant to the staff: We definitely returned the Curious George movie you're saying we have checked out.

Youngest kid from that family is trying to climb right up on top of the reference desk. I stop him but I know as soon as I turn away he's just going to start again.

Confused teenager: Can I register to vote here?

Fun regular: Can you please request the movies Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man for me? My wife and I watched the Avengers and she never watches movies, and she wants to know who all the people in it are.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Too much excitement

It's been a big week for me and for Mystery Library. I haven't been writing about it because it makes for boring blog material, but recently I applied to be a branch manager at a sister branch of Mystery Library and I just found out that I got the job (hooray!). I'm looking forward to it but it's going to be a crazy transition because Mystery Library is still understaffed and my boss is taking a long-planned international vacation (I don't resent her for this at all, it's extremely well-earned, just rough timing).

I won't be moving to my new branch--which I'm going to call Walnut Bluff because it has one of those comically nature-y names for an urban area--for a few weeks, but I was asked to come in for the 8 AM monthly meeting of all the branch managers to see what it is like on the morning that I normally work the evening shift, so I got to work an 11-hour day yesterday, which was exhausting but went by surprisingly quickly.

The most dramatic thing that happened was that I made my first ever 911 call in my capacity as library staff member! Fortunately for me I didn't have to make a judgment call about if it was the right thing to do. A patron came to the desk and said "I think I'm having a heart attack. Could you call for medical assistance!?" The paramedics came really quickly so I am optimistic that the patron will be okay--he was still conscious, standing, and breathing when they took him off to the hospital. It's weird to think I may never know!

Here's what was also weird:

I was convinced by TV that the first thing the 911 operator would say would be "911, what is the nature of your emergency?" but instead she said "911, what is the address of your emergency?" Fortunately I was only taken aback for about a half second. I've always worried that I'd freeze in a emergency, so this was a relief.

A group of kids who were too young to know what was going on kept trying to talk to me while I was on the phone and it took their adult ages to catch on and shush them.

My coworker who was on the desk with me is very new, so she is still concentrating hard on all her tasks, so she didn't even notice that I was on the phone with emergency services until I said "I am on the phone with 911. I need to go out and meet the paramedics so I need you to take this phone call."  She was a good hiring choice, though--she picked it right up.

Our first aid kit has Tylenol and Advil in it, but no Aspirin.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Hard questions

Kid to mom: Mom, do we have a resume? (re-zoom, not reh-zoo-may)

Patron calls with a real research question: There's a parcel of land in the neighborhood that she thinks used to be owned by the federal government and might still be. She remembers reading a long time ago that there were restrictions on what could be developed on it, specifically that it had to be developed "in the public interest." She wants to know who owns the land now and if there are currently any legal restrictions on development there. She doesn't have an address but she can describe where it is. Sounds interesting and exciting...unfortunately she needs the answer in 4 hours for a town hall meeting she wants to attend. I manage to ID the property but the legal questions are beyond me. Good luck with the county law library, ma'am! (As an aside, I think county law librarians must have the worst of both the public and the academic/corporate library worlds, and must be absolute saints).

Do you have the movie Boss Baby? What about Over the Hill? I mean, Over the Hedge?

One of the pages is picking up trash outside the library and has found a dead bird and wants to know what to do. I suggest leaving its corpse for scavengers, but he says "It's right in the road, though! If someone runs it over it's going to make a huge mess!" This will made a good addition to one of my favorite lists: "ridiculously titled emails I really had to send."

Friday, September 14, 2018


A weird thing has been happening lately. Well, lots of weird things have been happening, but at this second I'm specifically talking about patrons coming in and asking me to help them fill out I-9 paperwork as an employer's "authorized representative."

The first time this happened was last fall, but I've had 3 or 4 additional requests since then. Apparently a requirement of the I-9 is that the employer (or their 'authorized representative') view the employee's actual physical ID and work authorization documents, which presents a problem for companies that don't have a local office. Apparently, companies are telling new employees to take their documentation and the form to a library and have the librarian be their representative.

Now that I've done a little research to verify that I really am qualified to sign people's I-9s (that is, that legally there are no special qualifications required, it can be anyone the employer agrees to), I don't mind doing this for people, but it's odd that I never saw a request like this for years and all of a sudden there's this spike. Maybe it's all one staffing agency and I just haven't noticed? Or maybe some government entity put out a bulletin advising employers to deal with this obstacle by using the employee's public library?

I was hoping one of the readers might know more. Any ideas? Also, does it seem like a privacy issue to be looking at people's social security cards?

P.S.: I investigated the government bulletin theory, but the closest thing I found was a first-page Google search result that included this image:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A really big waiting room

A toddler cried and cried today because he was convinced that the library was a doctor's office and he was going to have to get a shot. His mom kept saying "Look, look at all these books! This is a library!" but he was not buying it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Upgrade downgrade

We can't do what anyone wants today because our computer system is being upgraded, meaning anything that requires checking someone's library card isn't really possible. People can still take things home (we scan their library card barcode and the barcodes of their items into an offline circ system) and they can still use the computer, but that's about it. Here's what I did in between breaking the news gently.

Eavesdrop on three girls reading Moana comics. One says to another "Are you wearing makeup?" Third girl answers, "No, she was born like that," and the original subject of the question indignantly jumps in "No I wasn't!"

I go through the lost and found and take out all the flash drives that we've had more than 30 days, clear them, and add them to our stash of loaners. This is a Priority One activity.

What do you need to sign up for a library card?

Can you help me find some books about 9/11? My son didn't know what it was.

I go into battle against the housing authority website for a new patron.

Interesting reference question! Somehow a patron has gotten the job of doing something with the collection of a private school's library, and they gave her a huge spreadsheet with item title, item author, format (paperback, hardcover, etc.) and a mysterious column labelled "FLR" full of alphanumeric strings that look like airplane ticket confirmation 'numbers,' like "1171RA1." She wants to know what an FLR is and if it's a unique identifier like an ISBN. My parapro coworker says cautiously "Why don't we ask the librarian about this one?" The number format is totally unfamiliar to me and traditional Google searches don't turn up anything, but trying some example searches allows me to find out--they're the number the book vendor uses as a unique identifier--1171RA1 shows up as a "Follett number" on Follett's Book Fair webpage. I suggest she go back to her employer and see if they can re-export a list from their ILS that includes ISBN if that's what she needs.

Can you show me how to print? times 3.

GED teacher wants to know: Can you show me that database with practice tests again?

Where would your books about astrology be?

Kids have made a huge mess in the children's area. Probably my fault for planning "Make a Parachute" as today's STEM activity.

Friday, August 10, 2018

That's Google calling

Today I had a computer help appointment to help a patron sign up for an email. This is a really common thing because the local public housing authority requires you to have one for some unfathomable reason, and we are just down the street.

This guy was a real beginner, as in 'didn't know what the mouse is' level. He was also just having a rough time in life at the moment--he was caught in the awful web of the housing authority because he was trying to get emergency housing. Fortunately, he had a buddy with him (possibly a relative but, from the way they interacted, they didn't seem related).

The buddy brought the guy in to make the appointment and then came back with him and sat through it with the two of us. He didn't know a ton more about computers, but he knew more than his friend and he would helpfully point out where a letter on the keyboard was or repeat my instructions in different words if his friend was struggling. However, he always waited a few moments to let his friend try it himself first. For the first three quarters of the session, I was thinking that if the buddy knew more about computers he could teach the session just as well as I could and I'd be totally obsolete.

As I said, the applicant was really struggling, like, a lot. I think he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with, or maybe it was just because he was under a lot of stress, but he kept forgetting what he'd chosen as his email and password, even though his friend had written it down, stuff like that. In contrast, the other guy was picking things up really quickly, but again held back to let his friend try things on his own.

Anyway, we got to the point where the applicant had to get a verification code on his phone from Google, and he said he didn't have text, so I showed him the "Get a phone call instead" option and got him to click the button. His phone immediately rang, and he stared at it in confusion for a few seconds, causing his friend to finally snap. The buddy yelled "That's Google calling! Answer your god-damned phone!"

He had to go stand in the lobby and cool down for a couple of minutes. It was like watching my own id work alongside me.