Thursday, September 21, 2017

At New Library

My new coworkers, who seem pretty great so far, point out the patrons it's important to know: The pee-er, the family who is only allowed to eat in the lobby because they make a huge mess, etc.

Our page's name is Donald McDonald. Poor man.

A woman wants to know the status of her account, so my colleague asks her for her ID. She says "I don't have an ID, so this'll have to do" and hands over an offender card, which is just what it sounds like. 

We have a box for raffle entries to win four tickets to Paw Patrol Live. Two sharply-dressed, extremely cool-seeming men around my age come in and get so excited about it--"My nephew loves Paw Patrol! Can I enter more than once!?"

In my new capacity as Children's Librarian, I and the Children's Library Assistant attend a brown bag workshop about using puppets in storytime. This is starting to become real.

Two young teenagers ask for books about slavery. Since they're on the fence age-wise as far as sending them to Juvenile Nonfiction or Adult Nonfiction, I ask how much information they want. The answer: "A lot. We have to do a report!" 

The cleaner, who mainly speaks Spanish, notices that the water fountain isn't working. None of my Spanish-speaking coworkers happen to be out at the moment so she and I combine broken English and broken Spanish to pass this info onto our boss. I'd forgotten that "oasis" is the word for water fountain in Spanish! 

A tiny gecko falls onto someone's shoulder in one of the study rooms. We commend him for not freaking out, then one of my coworkers catches it in a pencil holder and names it "Overdue." She is practicing making her case for keeping it as a library pet when the Children's LA (my new role model) firmly takes the pencil case from her and releases the gecko back into the wild.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I had my first day at New Library yesterday. One of the first things I did was do the branch's pull list to help familiarize myself with where things are in the collection. (For non-library readers, the pull list is the list of items that need to be collected from the shelves because a patron has asked for them.) One of the things on the list was a copy of 1984, which I couldn't find anywhere despite searching high and low. A little bit later I noticed that there was a copy in excellent condition sitting in our pile of donated books to be sorted, so I asked my manager if the library ever adds donated books to the collection. The answer was 'pretty much never,' just like it has been at most of the libraries where I have worked.

This bums me out a little bit, since I'm pretty sure that a big fraction of the patrons who donate books think that they are contributing to the library's collection, when instead they're contributing to its book sale (or, sometimes, its recycling dumpster). This made me think of other common misconceptions about the library that seem to cross the various public libraries where I have worked.

Librarian readers: Anything to add?
Non-librarian readers: If any of these are still a surprise to you, I apologize.

1. If you donate a book, it is added to the library's collection.
2. The librarians know where all the books are.
3. The library keeps track of what you have checked out.
4.  If you wanted, you could volunteer and staff the information desk.
5. Surely the ISBN is important somehow. (About a 50/50 split between people who give to me for item lookups and people who scan it thinking it's the library barcode)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New job

Good news, everyone! I had scheduled blog posts out through August mainly just because the number I had written spread neatly over that length of time rather than because I realistically thought I would have a job by September, but I am starting at a new library next week!

I haven't come up with a nom-de-blog for New Library yet (I think I'll need to get to know it a bit better first) but the striking thing about it is that I'll be working in its children's department. It's a small library so I'm sure there will be a lot of cross-over, but I'll be doing kid's programs and things and doing some extra chatting to small children and their parents. I expect that that will make for good blog material.

I didn't specifically seek out a children's librarian job--instead, I wanted to work at this particular branch of Sprawling Metropolitan System because it's in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, so the materials and services that the library is providing access to are really, really important to the people living there. I'm not sure if I'll make a good children's librarian or not, so if any of you have tips or resources to suggest, I would be grateful!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Where my house moved

Friday afternoon on the 2nd floor of Downtown Library:

Years ago, I used a service where you could have them call a friend and sing them happy birthday. But I just tried to call them and it didn't work. Do you think you could find another phone number for them? Or another company that does the same thing? I think they are based in California, if that helps.

Can you renew this book for me? I keep trying to read it on the bus, but people always talk to me. We know each other well, this patron and I, so I say, "maybe you need to look meaner."

Excuse me, can you help us with the scanner? Common scenario where the parent thinks they need help but the kid disagrees.

Hello. Is this your local history research department? I have a really odd question for you [for once someone said this and their question was actually kind of odd!]. When the highway was built through town, they demolished most of the houses, but they put my grandmother's house up on blocks and moved it across town. Can you help me see if I can figure out where they moved it to?

I need some articles that are pro or con. I am writing a paper about smartphones. Can you help me?

Mormons come in. Sure, you are welcome to use our computers, 'Elder' John, just please don't leave literature that I will just have to throw in the recycling when you leave!

Do you have meeting rooms there? What do you need to do to reserve one?

Excuse me, can you tell me how to find a copy of the book When Panic Attacks?

Is the library showing a movie tomorrow afternoon?

I understand that it's empty, but I still need you to throw your box of Dots candy away.

I lost my phone--someone stole it, actually--so I want to make a new email address since it was all on auto-fill and everything. That sucks, sir, I'm sorry!

One old man is teaching another old man to use ebay. The teacher says, "If I'm too loud, please tell me!" Sorry, but you are a little bit too loud.

Oh no! Why is the text so giant? Is this a special computer for people who are visually impaired?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Blast from the past refgrunt

The first patron through the door is one of our board members, who has the a meeting room booked and wants to book one for next week as well. Our circ person doesn't know how to book a meeting room, and our security guard is new and hasn't turned his radio on for us to call him and ask him to unlock the one he already has. We're not really showing off our best work, here.

A man whose son broke his printer and who needs my help to print some pictures of tattoos calls me "Hon" like 10 times even though he's only 4 years older than I am. Also he lifts up his shirt to show me a tattoo. But he's basically polite and well-intentioned so I don't push back on any of that--if you learn anything in the public library, it is the importance of picking your battles.

Someone shouts all his sentences during a normal checkout transaction for some reason. He's not mad, just really, really loud.

Phone message: Can you tell me what hours Little Branch is open today, Saturday July 15th?

Phone call: Can you give me the number for the hotel or motel in the town of Kingwood, West Virginia? I'm pretty sure there is only the one.

I check out movies to a couple of patrons while my circ counterpart is helping someone else.

Page #1 reports that Page #2 hasn't shown up for her shift. Uh oh! Hopefully she is just confused, not hurt.

I teach Page #1 to hand out summer reading prizes, since she will be covering my lunch break later. Roles at this library have gotten pretty crazy since we went to a one-desk model.

Patron to clerk: "Your hair is sharp!"

Where's the bathroom? I thought you had one on this floor. Oh, for kids? Never mind, we'll go downstairs to the main one.

The question "Where is the Dewey number R 303?" morphs into "let me show you our online business databases!"

I thought I had put my first name and middle initial in to get on the computer, but my printouts aren't showing up under that name. Sorry!

She is printing out $24.75 worth of documents! Why oh why aren't you open on the weekend, Insta-Prints!?

Call from my counterpart upstairs: Have you talked to the woman who needs someone's phone number in Neighboring City? She is hard of hearing and she keeps hanging up on me! If she calls back, could you please give her the number of Neighboring City Library, because the person she needs isn't in any of the online directories and we don't have any of their paper phonebooks.

Mr. Timmons stops by to return some movies and to request Striptease with Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore. He is always telling me outlandish stories about celebrities he met because he used to be a bouncer or something at a big entertainment venue in Florida, and today it's how he took his mother-in-law to meet Burt Reynolds and she was sooo happy.

Business database guy comes back down and stops at the desk just to thank me.: "I learned a lot." Nice!

Someone was jumped and beaten up in the park across the street. He comes to use our phone to call the police and his mom (the latter so he can get her to buy him a bus ticket out of town). I also recognize him as the "I'm not an addict anymore; I'm on methadone" guy who has been kicked out of the library several times and owes us a hundred and twenty dollars. I can see him outside, hiding behind a tree and talking to a police officer, so he's getting help with this situation at least.

I spot a woman with a shirt that says "Any dog can be a guide dog if you don't care where you are going."

Hi, can you tell me where your restroom is?

When are they going to put out the Legos!?

Do you have any of the Adventures of Gumball books?

A patron talks to me for three minutes about how great the TV show "Ancient Aliens" is and how "it's all true."

The computer catalog says there is a copy of The Grapes of Wrath in storage. What does that mean?

Old white lady: I need a library card. I'm a refugee from Neighboring City. They don't have Value Line anymore.

Answer some summer reading questions for a nice family with three kids. Mom is wearing a hijab. After that, check out a big pile of books to them, including a few related to Islamic culture and one on Islamophobia. Makes me sad, but we have a nice conversation about picture books and the dad says to me "It's nice to see so many people using the library!"

Friday, August 18, 2017


I was checking out the DVDs that a dad and his small son had chosen, and the son was looking at the covers of the different movies. He pointed at Benedict Cumberbatch (who, in fairness, was wearing a red cape) on the cover of Dr. Strange:
Son: That's Superman!
Dad: Well, he looks like Superman, but his name is Dr. Strange.
Son: But does he have to save the day?
Man behind them in line: No, he gets to save the day!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why, humans, why?

Sometimes people come to the library and need to use a computer briefly even though for whatever reason they can't use their library account (they're not a resident, they owe us too much money, etc.). Usually they just need to quickly print something out. Here is how the process for printing a document from one of our "guest computers" works:

1. Enter your name to log on to the computer.
2. Locate your document and hit the "print" button.
3. Hit "ok" on a prompt that warns you that printing costs fifteen cents per page.
4. Go to the "print release station," which is a computer next to the printer.
5. Enter your name again to view and pay for your printouts.

Today two men got stuck on step 5 because they had entered random key strokes instead of their names during step 1.