Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Closure questions part 2

Things patrons want to know right now:
  • I have a ton of zucchini from my garden and I thought the library staff might like them. Can I put them in the book drop for you?
  • How late are you open today?...What do you MEAN I can't come into the building?
  • But I've been holding on to these old magazines for you for MONTHS--are you SURE I can't just donate them? Don't worry, my house is very clean, I'm sure they are safe. They are great magazines, in perfect condition.
  • Is there still storytime this Friday?
  • Did you know that people were parking in the library parking lot while y'all were closed? I thought you should know that people were violating the law.
  • I came by the library back in April to return my books, but the book return thingy was closed, so I just put my books on the top. Did you get them?
  • Is the library going to never open again?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Curbside callousness

Like many public libraries, my library is not letting people into the building, but will let people come pick up their requested materials via curbside service. Our administration had the brilliant idea that we should get a service that allows patrons to text us when they are here for their pickup instead of calling. It's supposed to save us time because it forces the patron to go through a little back-and-forth to collect information before we even see their message. The phone number isn't on the website or anything, it's ONLY posted in the parking spots where patrons who are picking up their held materials are supposed to park for curbside service.

How the new text service is supposed to go:
Patron: Hi I'm here to get my books.
Chatbot: Welcome to [library system]'s curbside service! Text "book" to get started.
Patron: Book
Chatbot: What is your first and last name?
Patron: Ramona Quimby
Chatbot: What parking spot are you in?
Patron: Spot 1
At this point, on the staff side, we get a message saying:
Name: Ramona Quimby
Parking spot: Spot 1 

Them we trot cheerfully out to Ms Quimby, who is indeed actually parked in spot #1 and is even wearing a face mask and keeping her window rolled up, and has her trunk popped, and we drop her stuff in the trunk and close it and she drives away. Brilliant, right? Here's how the chatbot actually works. It turns out you can type in absolutely f-ing anything in response to the chatbot's questions, so lots of 'conversations' go like this:

Patron: why can't I come into the library to print?
Chatbot: Welcome to [library system]'s curbside service! Text "book" to get started.
Patron: i don't want a book, I want to get n the computer!
Chatbot: What is your first and last name?
Patron: cruella deville
Chatbot: What parking spot are you in?
Patron: why does tha mattter??? i just want to come in the library!
Staff member (who can only see: "Name: Cruella Deville. Parking spot:
why does tha mattter??? i just want to come in the library!"): Hi Ms. Deville. I'm sorry, but no one can come into the library right now. Did you need to pick up your requests?
Patron: no I need to get on a f-ing computer!!!!!!!!
Staff member: I'm sorry, but you can't do that right now. If you'd like to call us at [redacted], we might be able to help you find somewhere else than can help you with what you need.
Staff member: *bangs head on desk in frustration*

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Open for your phone calls

This is a delayed post. We've all been sent home, but there was about a week where the library was closed to the public but staff were coming to work. We mostly worked on collection projects, cleaning, training, etc., but we were answering phones during open hours. Here's what people wanted to know:

Are you open? When are you going to be open again?

Is tax help still happening this week? What about next week?

I'm not going to come pick up my holds. Can you guys hold on to them a little bit longer or will I lose my place in line? 

I've been self-isolating at home and I cleaned out my house. I have a lot of books to donate. Can I bring them in? What if I just put them in the book return slot?

If I come sit by the front door and use your wifi, will you call the police?

Can I email you something to print, and you print it, and then I come to the door and you just hand it to me really quick?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

From the last staff meeting

“But the bad things are so funny.

And, a suggestion that we get a fake police uniform, since people who don’t listen to us listen to our security guard right away: “Spell ‘police’ with a ‘u’ and we’re not legally liable!”

Saturday, February 29, 2020

More bad signs

Signs I have found in my library lately:
  • "Children's Books on Tape"
  • "NO bicycles or shopping carts in lobby"
  • An emergency evacuation chart showing that our official safe meeting point is across the street next to a building that no longer exists.
  • "Videos"
  •  "DO NOT place anything in this area!!!"
And, most ominously, one by the front doors that just says "Pacemaker warning."

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Every time you think you've seen it all

One of my least favorite parts of my job is checking the public bathrooms. I try really hard to visit and tidy both the men's and women's at least once every day. I've found toilet paper messes, graffiti, drug paraphernalia, and small floods, but until earlier this week, never had I found the top of the soap dispenser pried open and something barely visible submerged in the cheap pearly pink soap.

I got the tweezers out of our first aid kit to try to pry it out, just in case it was something awful, but the tweezers weren't quite big enough to grab it. A male colleague who is more blase than I am about touching things in the public bathrooms ("It's submerged in soap, I'm sure it's fine") stuck his fingers in there and, as soon as they brushed the object, confidently proclaimed: "This is a crummy disposable shaving razor. I know them well from my teenage years."

He was correct, although he and I couldn't agree on whether the razor was dropped into the soap by accident while someone was shaving, or if it was deliberately hidden/stored there for future use.

Helping the pros

I had a great phone call on the desk this week:
Patron: "Hi. I have kind of a weird question for you."
Me: "I'm happy to help, I am pretty sure it won't be the weirdest thing of my day."
Patron: "Are you familiar with the author Jonathan Safran Foer?...In your system, are his books under S for Safran or F for Foer?"
Me: "That's a great question. I think under F for Foer, let me check...yep. F for Foer."
The patron thanked me for that, and then asked me to check another author with two last names, this one a black woman. Unfortunately it wasn't someone I'd previously heard of and I can't remember it now, but she was also listed under the second of the two names. I told him that and he said: "Ha, excellent! I'm the co-owner of a new bookstore that is about to open, and my partner and I are arguing about this. I thought we could consult an expert!"

I laughed, felt pleased with the relevance of libraries, made a mental note to visit the bookstore, and said goodbye. About 5 minutes later, the phone rang again:
"Hello, was I just speaking to you? Can you check one more author for me? Carlos Ruiz Zafón?"
He was under R for Ruiz. And Gabriel García Márquez was under G. Huh.
The patron on the phone said, "My business partner is Hispanic, and he was the one saying it was the first of the names. He made me call back with different examples."

After a bit of research, we concluded that this seeming discrepancy is a deliberate standard: English-name authors are classified under the last of their surnames, while Spanish-name authors are classified under the first. Presumably, this is due to different cultural traditions, with multiple last names being the norm in Spanish but rare in English. The Chicago Manual of Style has a succinct but not particularly informative FAQ on it, but I also came across a bilingual picture book called Rene Has Two Last Names, which has hideous art but still warmed my politically-correct heart.

That caller and his bookstore co-owner are for sure patrons of the week. I look forward to visiting their store and reporting back on how it's organized!