Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good parenting day at the library

Apparently yesterday was secretly Parenting Day in My Library's Home City, TX. I observed the following in a single afternoon:

-I helped a woman find 'age-appropriate' books for her four-year-old daughter. When I asked whether she was thinking of books for her daughter to read herself or for her to read to her daughter, she said both.

-I helped a man find books that would help his four-year-old daughter with phonics. Then he and the woman I helped before got into a long conversation about resources to help kids learn.

-Same woman asked for my help logging her daughter into a computer so she could play educational games. She had her daughter operate the mouse, etc. She said "I'm trying to teach her computer literacy; I think it's an important skill."

-A single mom came in wanting books about male puberty so that when her 11-year-old son starts having questions, she will be ready. Her son was in the library with her and she was also teaching him how to use the Dewey Decimal system.


(Lots of the patrons today are really crabby so it's nice to have this to think about instead.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snakes on a bookcart (a refgrunt)

The old man who told me about dendrochronology comes back: He got confused trying to find the database I showed him when he tried it at home, but this time he is prepared: He uses a digital camera to take screenshots of the steps as I show him. Resourceful! Then he talks to me about his wife’s great grandfather for an eternity.

We have an educational program about snakes today, with real live snakes, so the next ten or so questions or so are all related to that: Where is the snake program? When does it start? Is this the desk where I get a ticket?

Healthy cookbooks (for a kid!).


Are you here for the snake program? You need a sticker. Times 100.

Get on the wireless without a library card? asks someone from all the way up north in my home state.

An older gentleman comes up as the snake program is starting and asks, what’s going on in there? He is very alarmed by the idea of live snakes on the library—oh no, that is very dangerous, my goodness, etc etc. But he doesn’t argue with me—he seems resigned to the fact that it is happening.

A family trying to use the copier turns in an abandoned original: photocopies of a driver’s license and social security card. I thank them and shred it.

The same family needs help to copy. The mom speaks only Spanish but instead of trying to talk to her in Spanish I let her son translate because he is so efficient and self-important.

Are you waiting to check out, ma’am? You don’t have to wait for this machine; there are more over there.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Not on shelf but I find it in the back.

More copier help.

Lady whose photocopy we shredded comes back, but fortunately she is mostly relieved rather than annoyed.

Is Midsomer Murders still on TV?

More copier questions.

You need a library card to get on a computer, but don’t worry, it’s free.

Where do you return books?

Help some new library users print.

What are your hours this weekend?

I can‘t get onto the computer!

Can you help me find this book? No, because it’s not at this library, but I can place a hold on it for you.

Printing assistance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A good day at the library

1. Watched at least four books get selected from displays I created
2. Hugged by a patron, but it wasn't creepy
3. Number of pens in the 'homework supply' box: Net gain!

New word

Today I learned a new word from a patron (possibly the old man who called about spelling and definitions last week): dendrochronology. It is the study of tree rings and dating trees from said rings. We have an ebook about it, but when the old man went to read it, it was already checked out! Can you believe that!?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Favorite patron of the day

So it's only 11 a.m. and I spent the first hour and a half of the day helping with a computer class, but I can say with confidence that I have already had the day's best customer.

A very old man called the library and even though I was at children's I ended up catching his reference call. He wanted to confirm the definitions and spellings of:


He apparently had all this information saved on his computer (one of my many favorite old people things is old people who are only moderately computer-literate but use computers for everything) but lost it in a crash.

He was so excited I could help him and he kept saying "All you girls at the library are so smart, thank you so much for helping me, this is great, have a great day."

I spent all morning talking to people who had not grown up with computers, were just learning how to use them, and were absolutely floored by their potential and power.Working in a public library is a great place to be reminded of how awesome (in both senses of the word) it is to live in the modern first world.

Mostly boring refgrunt

Copy and Paste Guy (one of my favorites) wants help getting just an article he is reading online, not all the comments, into a Word document to print. I reiterate how to copy and paste but end up doing it for him after a valiant effort on his part, as usual. He just can’t seem to master the text-selecting part.

Do you need help finding your hold, ma’am? What’s your last name? Rodriguez. Okay, so look under R-O-D. Now what is your first name? No, Rodriguez, R-O-D-R.

A rowdy regular (a nice kid, just a lot more energy than discipline) runs by. He slows to a guilty walk as soon as he sees me looking at him but all I was going to do was compliment his new mohawk.

Can I borrow your pin? (Of course this is Texas and he is saying pen but sometimes I still mishear it since I am a recent immigrant.)

Excuse me, I looked up this book in the catalog and it says it is in the ‘story collection.’ Where is that? I explain and ask her if I can walk her over to it, but she says “No, I’m an old librarian.”

Cute little boy: What is my PIN number? I explain that it is the ‘last four numbers in your telephone number’ and a moment later hear him carefully repeating that to his mom or dad over at the computers.

Caller wants an audiobook from the Babylon Rising series.

Show a new library user how to print. He balks for a moment at ten cents a page but decides to go for it—he needs his company to reimburse him for his phone bill. Spend a moment commiserating about the difficulty of getting large entities to reimburse you for anything.

Help the same guy send his first email ever (?). Pretty much my favorite thing!

Five seconds away from calling the Story Collection lady  to let her know we have her bag when I discover that she is still in the library, despite saying ‘I’m going to just set this here for a moment while I go grab that book’ half an hour ago.

Son of coworker conscientiously returns a wiimote.

It’s three weeks [for book checkout], right?

A guy with an unlit cigarette sticking out of the side of his mouth sees me looking at him and says “Hi, howarya?”

I want to return this book. Okay, do you see the window…aaaaand she walks away.

Captains and Kings (TV series).

The Pearl by John Steinbeck—put on hold at another branch but it never came. Fortunately, it’s here!

Friday, December 14, 2012

All I want for Christmas

For the boys who play their online shooter games with the volume turned up waaaay too high: A pair of giant, ear-covering headphones each. 

For Mr. Take My Card, who we always have to wake up at closing time: A tent and a battery-powered space heater, so he doesn't have to relocate further away than the front lawn at night.

For Fedex guy, who we think is running a business out of the library and is always asking for shipping supplies: A stack of flat rate USPS boxes.

For the families who wander to different parts of the library and then shout across the building at each other: walkie-talkies. No, even better, tin cans attached to each other with string! That would give them a maximum radius.

For the Teen Librarian's Number One Fan: A framed photo of her and said librarian, for her to cherish forever.

For each high school kid who wants an immensely well-known book right now, because she is supposed to have read it by tomorrow, and she can't believe she'll have to wait two days for it to come over from another branch: A ten dollar gift certificate to Half Price Books, printed with a detailed map on it.

For whoever is stealing all the best DVDs as soon as they come in: A Netflix subscription.

For Construction Vest Man: His own bottle of whiteout. (Still haven't figured out what exactly he is using it for, but he asks for it every day.)

For the guy who is always thrilled when we copy and paste for him: Anything he wants, because he is great!

And, for Do You Have... Boy, a free pass to somewhere where he can look at or borrow as many books as he wants, even if he is never even going to read them. Oh wait, that place is called the library.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Alternate job descriptions

Today at the Community College Library I was given the exciting job of replenishing all the supplies at the 'courtesy stations' throughout the library--this means staples, paper clips, hand sanitizer, etc. So I now appear to be (chose from the options below):
A. The world's lamest Santa Claus
B. The creepy student the librarians all never hope to have to speak to
C. Overpaid

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Found by the children's computers

A 1 1/2 inch long plastic tarantula, rainbow-colored. I left it be.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Everything you ever wanted to know about Dr. Seuss

Today one of our regulars asked how many books Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) had written. This turned out to be a surprisingly difficult question. I spent 30-45 minutes taking a leisurely look around various websites and databases and concluded that he wrote 44 books for children and in  the neighborhood of 55 total. I also came across an interesting and heart-warming fact: When asked what he considered his greatest work, Geisel said that it was "not a book or an illustration, but the Lion Wading Pool at Wild Animal Park in San Diego, which he donated in 1973."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Twilight's international appeal

I looked up Robert Pattinson in our catalog today and discovered that all the records that mention him are for English titles, with one exception. The exception is a biography in Chinese, and is romanized in the catalog as Luobote Padingsen.

Your Walgreens Personal Identification Number

A lady walks up to the desk and says, "I forgot my PIN and I can't get on the computer."
I say, "No problem, I can look it up for you. Can I see your card?"
She hands me a card and I am reaching to scan it when I realize--it is a Walgreens card, not a library card.


This morning I showed a man with a long list of print jobs how to release more than one at a time. He thanked me with the normal amount of enthusiasm, but then later I saw him pump both of his fists in the air in triumph when the machine told him that all the print jobs had been released. Put your hands in the air!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Emma the Reference Assistant, PI

I helped an old man (my favorite customer demographic) find a novel. He had the author and title, which he carefully read to me from a piece of paper. As I was walking him over to the shelf I said, "It was so nice that you had the author and the title. Usually people just say something like, the cover was green, and it's a really famous book." He replied, "Well, maybe you could get a job as a police investigator next."

All the news about printing that's fit to print

Spot Dysgraphia Guy, who I haven’t seen in ages, but he gets away before I can tell him about speech/language pathology! Bummer.

Demonstrate num lock.

Is this where I would find Chuck?
The TV series?
No, the librarian.
No…he works at a different branch. But can I do something to help you? Get three articles from JSTOR and email them to her—she doesn’t want to pay ten cents a page at the library, she would rather go to Office Max where she has a ‘special deal.’

Michelangelo? The Art of the Vatican?

Where can I find a French dictionary? Oh, I thought it would be in reference (Just for my own edification I checked—there are two there, but both giant and not Webster’s, and she chose the small Webster’s from the regular shelves)

Help our happiest regular print out an article about some kind of herbal cure and he is thrilled! This is great, thank you so much! Thank you!

Observe him assisting two other patrons with the printer.

It took part of the screen away. Don’t worry, that will go away, it won’t affect your printout.

(Different patron) These all printed out cut off. Did you print preview? No…Help me fix it? Sure, as soon as you are back on those six websites.

Unfiltered computer—blocking a religious website.

Explain holds process, place holds for Lego Ninjago movies.

Really loud cell phone—after a couple of rings the owner runs with it to the lobby.

The ‘printed out cut off’ patron reprints all her pages without giving me a chance to intervene.

Patron on the unfiltered computer not only thanks me when he is finished, but turns the monitor off and puts the ‘unfiltered’ sign back up, just like it was when he got there!

Struggles with the user-unfriendly printing system.

You need to click ‘okay’ for it to print.

How to track changes on Microsoft Word. She doesn’t have a question, only a warning that she is going to have a question. Or, more probably, a lot of questions.

Can I borrow a pen?
Track changes is a success!

Books on dance, any?

Pointing at picture: Do you have this book? (Pok√©mon Handbook—Black and White) Nope, sorry.

Chat with the usual cute three-year-old. She wants the newest Library Mouse book, but it is checked out.

Mercer Mayer books.

Another branch calls with a shelf-check. It’s there!

Princess books.

Pointing to poster: Excuse me, is this the title of a book, and is this the author?

Which library is this?

Christmas books: “My little fellow, this is the first year he understands Christmas, and he keeps asking me when Santa is coming. I hope I can find something that will appeal to him.”

Where is my hold?

Lonestar books.

I can’t get back into my computer!

The Name of the Star, checked out.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shaken, not stirred

We have a book display highlighting the 50th anniversaries of Spiderman and James Bond. On Tuesday night one of our regulars took all the Bond books (no Spiderman ones) off of the display, shoved them through the bookdrop, and demanded to speak to the library director.

I wasn't (fortunately) the one who had to speak to him, so I never found out what his exact grievance was.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Library stereotypes day, continued

Although there is a stereotype that librarians love printed material and fear technology, at least at my library that is normally more true of our patrons than of our staff. However, the City changed its website (and thus the library website) and today the library director sent us all instructions on how to make the new site your homepage in Internet Explorer:
·         Click Tools on the right side of the page
·         Click Internet Options
·         Click Use Current
·         Click Apply
·         Click Okay
·         Exit the internet
·         Verify your success by opening internet

This is just like our patrons who don't understand the difference between the specific computer they are on and the internet! What!?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The RFID sorter is good at what it does

Forgotten story from awhile ago: A kid put my favorite puppet from the children's area (an iguana) through the returns slot and the RFID sorter shot it straight into the children's bin. Awesome.

Oh dear

One of the regulars stopped by to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, and then winked. I feel like I'm in the branch that's the home of Love the Liberry.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ethical question, this one about staffing

I have noticed that we get more 'directional' questions (where is the bathroom, how to I log on to a computer, etc. etc.) when I am on the desk compared to when only librarians are on the desk. This could be because I am better at logging them or it could be because patrons are more willing to ask me those questions. I think that it might be the latter, but not because of anything about me personally. Rather,  it might be just a matter of denmographics. I am substantially younger than most of my colleagues, and I get the impression that people care less about sounding stupid in front of me--"just a kid"--than sounding stupid in front of a middle-aged librarian.

It's a given that some questions in a library are going to go unanswered because they go unasked, no matter what you do. But in theory, if the library could reduce the number of questions that go unasked by hiring staff who are more approachable not because of training or attitude but simply because of how they look, would that be ethical?

Library stereotype day at my branch

Today is apparently the day for all the stereotypical questions that modern libraries get--the kind that make actual librarians say, 'I got a master's degree for this?' This is a sampling of how my day has gone so far:

Argue with a patron about two overdue books, which he says he returned.

Do you have a pen I can borrow?

Two patrons get into a heated discussion over whose turn it is at the copier.

Where do I return books?

If I don't like how this copy comes out I just lose my ten cents?!

Do you have a clear envelope?

Do you have a highlighter?

Where is the bathroom?

Friday, November 16, 2012

One last Freaky Friday post

Two different patrons came in today and said "This is the first time I've been here. Where do I return books?" What is wrong with this picture?

Today's highlight

I have been on the desk with a substitute librarian all day today. She answered a phone call while I was fixing a display and had to consult with me to answer the patron's question. Then I overheard her saying into the phone, "I checked with one of the other librarians, and she says..." YES!

New record

A new record has been set for the patron whose motives I most wanted to enquire into.

A 20-30ish man, well-dressed, hurried up to the adult reference desk a minute ago and said breathlessly: "Where are your books on fire trucks?"

Me: "For kids or for adults?"

Him: "It doesn't matter."

Me: "Are you looking for a specific piece of information? I'm seeing some titles here but I'm not sure they are relevant."

Him: "Like what?"

Me: "There is one about fire chiefs' cars, but it is at another branch."

Him: "Well do you have anything here?"

Me: "It looks like we have some in Junior Nonfiction. Let me show you where they are."

I take him to the books, walking as fast as I have ever walked across the library, and he says, "This is great. Do you have more?"

Me: "If we have any in the adult section they will be at this same number, but on the other side of the library."


What did you need to know, fire truck man?

Don't talk to strangers (this is why)

Colleague has me check a patron’s PIN—it matches the one the patron thought he had, but the patron was trying to enter it into the Internet Explorer web address bar, so predictably it didn’t do anything.

Do you need some help with the copier, sir?
I’m trying to see if it’s a fax machine.

Is there a way I can get more time on the computer?

Fax man, shown the real machine, says ‘It says it sent, so thank you!’

How can I find out where the latest Consumer Reports with flat screen TVs is?

Incoherent complaint about a website from one of those patrons who thinks all of the internet is controlled/run by us. Turns out they have been given bad instructions, will have to call the people who run their online class.

The Beginner’s Goodbye.

Observe the Consumer Reports man helping two other patrons with the copier. Awesome.

Walk please!

Guy who asked about computer time (who I was NOT helpful to because we just changed our system and this was my first ten minutes with it) says “thanks for all your help!” and is completely sincere.

Coworker comes to report that the TV is still broken and they have called facilities to help them figure out how to cut the power to it.

Are you who I bother for change?

A very polite man wants help with label templates in Microsoft Word, but the process snowballs out of control, beginning with him saying “Word Perfect,” continuing on to him getting a library card so he can get on the wireless network, etc. etc.

Template guy is trying to enter his password into the keyword search box on the main page of a catalog-only computer. I redirect him to a regular public computer.

I tried to place a hold from home but ‘it’ wouldn’t let me.

Guy calls, confused about his hold on Bones—it is set to go to another branch but he actually wants it to come here. Since I saw that exact title less than 2 hours ago I rashly tell him that things are taken care of without checking the shelf, and then I can’t find it ANYWHERE. Now I’m in dread that he’ll come in and find out because he said he’d come in and get it today.

How many CDs can you have checked out at a time?

Can I hold these? Not until you get a card…Come back after that and we’ll do it (he never comes back).

Help the label guy for about a zillion hours. How do I save this, what is its name, how can I find it again, how can I print, how do I make it bigger and move it over there? His labels are for “Corporate Shakes” and he struggles with the spelling of ‘corporate’—‘copirate’ is my favorite alternative.

Can I print from here? And do you have Excel?

Which library card do I use, the one for this city or the one for [neighboring city]?

The color printer says it is on ‘pause.’

The Bones guy arrives but it still hasn’t turned up. And it turns out he has left his baby outside in a bike carrier while he comes in to ask. My coworker does a really good job not quite shouting at him. (Later one of our…eccentric regulars comes up to ask if everything is all right and to commiserate with us about how alarming that was. You know you’re doing something wrong when the library regulars are concerned about your behavior.)

Someone at the other branch calls over and asks me to pull a hold—he is coming right over to get it.

Mom, to son leaving the library: Don’t talk to strangers!
Son: I’m not!

I need help to print. Well you release your print job from this computer here…I thought you just put your money in the machine.

Label guy is still here! I teach him the concept of backing up your files.

I want to know if you have any other books by this person (Eyone Williams).

Do you need help finding your hold? Well, did you get a call that it was here? Let me check where you are on the list…Is it the audiobook of Fifty Shades of Grey? You’re number 60 on the list, sir.

Can you help me? I’m trying to save my resume to a USB drive.

They told me you had this book in your 983 section. It’s a history of Chile. Can you help me find it?

Do you have the holy books of different religions here? (Wants the Bhagavad Gita but doesn’t want to stop talking on his cell phone long enough for me to explain where it is.)

The Death Cure by James Dashner.

Do we have to have our card to check out books? Can you look it up by phone number or something?

Walk please! Walk please! Walk please!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The customer service desk at the community college library

Me: "You have two overdue items. Do you want me to check what they are?"
Student: "Yes...wait a minute, no, I know what they are. An Aristotle and a Plato."

Student, with no prompting except brief eye contact: "Look at what I have on my keychain. I have a flashlight."
Me: "That's neat."
Student: "I used to have a cross too, but it decided to break off."
Me: "I'm...sorry?"

Attractive Fire Science student: "Um, can you tell me how to log onto a computer?"
Me: "Are you a student?"
Fire Science Guy: "Yes, but I'm from the fire school and we never use the computers!"

Student holding two books with large 'In-Library use only' stickers on them walks out the doors and the alarm goes off.
Coworker: "You have to use those in the library."
Student: "I was going to go upstairs."
Coworker: "Sorry, you can only use them in the library."

Do you have the world literature book, the blue and orange one?
Do you have books for a history class?
Do you have Police Systems and Practices? No, that is the name of the class, not the name of the book.
Do you have the neonatal respiratory care book? It's the really big one.
Do you have the statistics book with the sweater on the cover?
Do you have the chemistry book with the flamingo?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Biggest pet peeve

As of today, it's people who walk away while you are researching their question! Not  people who leave because they don't want the answer anymore, people who act like their time is too valuable to stand there for 30 seconds and answer your follow-up questions while you are working on their problem!

Friday, November 2, 2012

This all happened in two and a half hours at the library.

Is there a map of [two nearby cities] that I can check out? No…we call another public library, they don’t have it either and she won’t use anything that’s been printed off the internet or photocopied. I ask her if I can get her directions to somewhere specific but no, she is house-shopping. Eventually after perusing the reference maps and checking out irrelevant maps, she decides she will be fine and leaves.

Where can I vote?

Phone call: I have several questions about early voting. How long is the line there? If I don’t have my ID can I still vote? How can I get to the library from here?

Which branch is this? Oh, that explains a lot.

The printer is super-messed up and the patron who it benefitted by printing a zillion copies of her document for free is mad for some reason.

The new flood insurance maps—We have them at the other branch that starts with the same letter as our name, but not here.

Mom and 7-or-8-year old daughter. Daughter whispers ‘Can you ask her?” but mom says “No, you ask her.” Where is the ‘Junior Professional’ section?

Group (with ipad...): Do you need a library card to get on the computers?

Gentlemanly old guy: May I leave these right here? My card’s out in my car.

Gentlemanly old guy comes back with his card.

Do you have books on ancestry here? (No, because it turned out what he wanted was historical documents, not genealogy research strategies.)

Extra computer time.

Bored. Fiddle with all the displays. Think about trying to steal phone calls from the children’s desk using the ‘call pickup’ function.

A loud, repetitive squeaking noise (like from a squeaky toy) coming from over near the front door. I thought it was a dog but it’s a small child, whose shoes make that noise every time she takes a step. Who would buy that for their child!? My boss, who has teenage children, shakes her head and says "A rookie mistake."

Then, over in Children's:

Walk please! (This is how every shift in children's starts. And ends. And is in the middle.)

Get one of those patrons who has built up a major store of questions before coming to the desk. Do we have computer classes? How can he register for them? His father wants to learn to drive, do we have instructional DVDs? This was kind of a failure from my perspective because A) I defied library policy by keeping silent about the fact that he intended to sign himself up for the computer class and then send his dad (not a resident) in his place, and B) I couldn’t find good instructional DVDs. I referred him to my boss.

I can’t find this book. That’s because it is in young adult, and we are in children’s.

Do you have any recommendations for a three-year-old boy? Suggest Mo Willems’s books about Elephant.

Books about presidents. Anyone in particular? Mitt Romney. (Shudder.) Well, there aren’t any books about him yet. Would you like one about someone else, or about presidents in general? Someone else. Who? I don’t know. Well, people who were president just a little while ago or a long time ago? A little while. How about George W. Bush, he was the last president before Obama. Yes!

Busiest time in Children’s ever:
Lewis and Clark.
Davy Crocket.
Geronimo Stilton book that we can’t find ANYWHERE.
Super Mario.
Boxcar Children.
Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Fairy Chronicles series. Times two when another little girl sees them.
New ‘Olivia’ books.
Robin Hood DVD.
Power Rangers.
Scardey Squirrel—there is a movie!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Roderick Rules. The movie.

Highlight: Cute little boy who is fulfilling the quota/limit of four books and two movies set by his dad. He asks for a couple of movies which are checked out. On a hunch I ask him if he has seen Ben Ten Alien Force. At first he said he had seen all of them, but he wanted to see one again, but he didn’t know what it was called. He described it and I found it for him, and he was thrilled!

Mom: He doesn’t want to share.
Little girl: Why?
Mom: No quiere compartir.
Little girl: Why?

Lowlight: A very small girl is holding an Elephant and Pig book, standing near the desk, and crying. I ask her if I can help her, what’s wrong, etc. She just cries. I ask her if her mom or dad is here and her mom, who is three feet away, says “I’m right here.” But she makes no attempt to talk to or comfort her daughter. I eventually figure out that the girl will answer yes or no questions.
Me: Is something wrong?
Girl, in tiny voice: Yes.
Is something wrong with your book?
Can you tell me what happened to it?
Girl, now bursting into tears: I was writing!
Me: Did you write in it by accident?
Girl, wailing: Yes!
I explained to her that we understood that it was just an accident and that no one at the library was mad at her. I thanked her for telling me and told her that she did the very best thing by bringing the book to me instead of just putting it back, because we could fix it and make it as good as new. Then I found her a new book to read and traded it to her for the damaged book (which turned out to be barely damaged). Her mom was right there the whole time and she didn’t do anything!

“I survived” series. But then the girl is called away by her mom and never comes back.

‘Where is the poetry section?” Secretly wants two specific books and one specific author. Then when we get to the shelf it turns out she wants a specific book by the specific author, but doesn’t know the name. And she won’t come back to the desk to look for it with me, she just wants to look on the shelf.

Place holds on the entire Mermaid Melody series for one of my favorite regulars.

Her number three fan wants to know, where is the teen librarian?

Thanksgiving books?

Demanding poetry lady: How do I get on a computer?

She leaves her bag over by the desk and I bring it to her at the computer—I don’t want to be here when she comes back claiming someone stole it or something.

The cute little girl who accidentally wrote in Elephant Broke His Trunk!  is playing with the electric pencil sharpener. "We have one of these. But when I put my finger in it, blood." Well, be careful then! Let's be done now. This time Mom intervenes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I am an expert at doing things on the computer (A refgrunt)

A man in a bright orange shirt and hat comes up and asks, “Are you an expert on doing things on the computer? I mean, do you help people do things on the computer a lot?”
Me: Well, I don’t know if I’m an expert, but we do help people a lot. Usually I can figure things out. What are you trying to do?
BOSH Man: My father has a biography on Wikipedia and some of the things are wrong. I want to edit it but I’ve never done that before. Have you done that?
Me: No, but I think I know how. I’m sure I could figure it out. Let’s go take a look.
BOSH Man: I’m not on a computer right now. I just wanted to know if someone could help. I’ve got to go to my mother’s house first to get some information, like his birthdate.
Good luck, sir!

A woman on her cell phone is talking so loudly that, halfway across the library, I can hear about her rash. My colleague on the desk with me winces, but doesn’t intervene, and after a minute or two the woman either leaves or finishes her conversation.

Old man: Do you have a mapsco?
Me: Sorry, what?
Man: A mapsco.
While I try to figure out another way to say, “sorry, what?” my colleague, who is older, has lived in the area longer, and has worked here much longer, pulls out a book of maps for him. Apparently “Mapsco” is a brand.

How can I get a library card for my son?

Over the phone: Do you have The Racketeer by John Grisham? Yes we do, there are only 169 holds since it is his newest one!

Where would the Mapsco be? (I answer this one with great enthusiasm!)

Pointing at the stapler: Can I use this?
Do you have a paperclip?
Thank you!

Loud man on yell phone: “Yeah, I’m at the library right now!”

An adorable little boy wants to know “where the math books are.” Further questioning reveals that he wants books on “feet and inches.” I show him the measuring books in the children’s section.

Do you want me to show you how to print more than one thing at a time?

 The line at circulation is up to 4 or 5 groups of people so I go over and ask if anyone is just checking out. Most people look around the way you do in those situations rather than saying no, but one woman points to the person being helped at the moment and says, “she is!”

Various simple fixes to out-of-action computers.

Pick up “Line 2 for reference” but no one is there.

Um…yesterday I lost my card…did you see me leave it anywhere? I want to say that I wasn’t at work yesterday, but instead I say, ask at customer service, if someone found it that’s where we would have put it. The line is still really long there and he leaves without checking. Sigh.

Walk please! (To two surprisingly old teenagers)

You can’t pay for sixty cents’ worth of printing with a debit card. Not matter how you rephrase it. You. Just. Can’t.

Find a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation for a school project. I have a bit of difficulty when I start looking for one in print but then it turns out the kids are already on a computer so it’s easy to bring it up on the NARA website.

Estimate for an excited teenager how soon her hold is coming—it’s a new book and is still In-Process.

Nice regular: Can you believe this? My pen doesn’t work. I left mine outside. Don’t worry, I’ll bring it back.
Me: Let me get you another one.
Regular, a moment later: This one doesn’t work either!
Me: It’s new, let’s try scribbling with it.
(Why didn’t I just do that the first time?)

Refreshingly direct young man: We need help. We want to save my powerpoint onto a flash drive but we don’t know how.

Girl waiting for her hold is back. She wants Pride and Prejudice.

Help with the printer. The only problem most patrons have is a lack of confidence.

Teenage girl: I’m typing on a computer but I need more time!

Walk please!

Borrowed pen returned.

The printer is asking me for the staff password.

How do we make this extra page go away? Oh, never mind, we already figured it out.

Do you have a fax machine? Yes, it’s here, six feet away from me. I indicate it and the guy says ‘thank you,’ but then walks away to a completely different part of the library.

A patron walks up, uncomfortably in the ‘librarian’ area of the desk. But he was just throwing something away. A rock!

Caller looking for an obituary. He has lots of information about the woman, but as far as I can tell she wasn’t famous. My colleague and I look a little bit and then pass the question on to the Genealogy department.

Books on the history of radio.

Can you help me? I want to email this to someone.

Books on radio prove insufficient—expand search to online databases.

Do you have the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens? Can I come pick it up in like…10 minutes?” (He never comes, by the way.)

Voter’s guide.

Find a book that was not at its call number for a grateful tween girl.

Do you want me to show you how to print more than one thing at a time? No, I just need this one.

The Bad Beginning.

Do you have a phone I can use to call my mom?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We're so cool we're in cartoon

Libraries, especially public libraries, take a lot of flak for pandering to the lowest common denomiator of the public. In my experience, this is mostly deserved, especially when that 'pandering' is done in massively clueless ways. Take my own library as a stelar example:

Teen participation is the holy grail of public libraries. For some reason, even though teenagers tend to be loud, to curse, and to take up a disproporitionate amount of the bandwidth on libraries' free internet, library management really, really wants them to come to the library. To this end, our branch recently got a videogame system to lure in teenagers and installed it in the teen area along with a T.V. purchased specifically for gaming. We wanted teenagers to play so badly that we even instituted a policy that an 8-12 year old can be kicked off the system if an older kid wants to play (seriously.).

The idea was that we'd leave the T.V. on as a regular T.V. when no one was using the game system. One problem:

Absolutely no policy has been formed about what channel to put the T.V. on. Also, administrators are afraid of offending any of the nutty conservative patrons, so the T.V. is currently being left on...the Cartoon Network. Yes, that Cartoon Network. Known for Scooby Doo, Dexter's Laboratory, and Johnny Bravo.

Not surprisingly, this encourages kids to hang out in the teen area. Again not surprisingly, the few teenagers that previously hung out there (mostly nerdy types) don't want to hang aroudn with a bunch of eight-year-olds watching Annoying Orange and shout at each other about Mariokart. So, in summary, the expensive television and viedogame system actually discourage teens from hanging out in the library.

I think more teenagers watcg Dexter than watch Dexter's Laboratory.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Update on Wild Minds

My supervisor recommended that we withdraw Wild Minds (the academically scandalous book mentioned in this previous post). However:
A) There are other copies in our library system, and
B) We are going to end up selling it at a booksale fundraiser! (So we'll sell you sketchy books, we just won't give them to you for free.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It’s about a girl who gets cancer so they take her to this island. It’s supposed to be really sad.

Can you look up a movie for me? Antwone Fisher? Sorry, our copy is lost (actually, half of all the copies are lost) but it’s in at another branch—let’s put it on hold for you.

Restart a messed-up catalog computer.

How many things can you check out at a time?

Little girl is walking around lingeringly eyening all the library technology. She looks like she might be trying to check out books. I ask her if she needs some help, but she says no.

Lady holding a piece of paper: I don’t know how to pronounce this book. It’s for my book club…Molo…Mola…
Me: Do you have it written down there? Can I see it?
She hands over the paper. I can’t read my own handwriting on the last letter there. (I can) (While I’m looking up the book) It’s about a girl who gets cancer so they take her to this island. It’s supposed to be really sad.
Me: All our copies are checked out right now and there are a few people on the hold list; do you want me to add you? Can you wait a few weeks for it?
Lady: Sure. I have plenty of things to do.
Thanks for that less-than-enthusiastic book recommendation, lady.

The wandering little girl comes to the desk: Where are the Bluebonnet books? All checked out, I’m afraid, was there a particular one you wanted? Zita the Spacegirl. Place a hold for her.

Lady: “The printer, when it prints…”
Me: “Did you release your print job?”
“If it’s black and white, the big printer right there [is where it prints].”
“So, where do I release my print job?” (Called it.)

Is there any way I can put money on my [printing] account? I only have a credit card.
Aww, this is a public library, we don’t have credit card machines and stuff…

Books on Greek mythology for a teenager. I don’t usually ask why a patron wants something, but this time I did and she said it was just for her own amusement—she is a big Greek mythology nerd!

Do you give temporary IDs for people from outside of the area to get on the computers? Not unless you’re from a lot further outside the area than that, sir.

Help an adorable kid with her geometry homework at the request of a coworker, who says, “Are you good at math?” and then “I knew it! I can just tell.”

Give out a prize from Star Wars Reads Day to the world’s quietest child.

Cinderella books for the prize winner.

Beezus and Ramona, the movie. Then Sailor Moon, books AND movie.

Books about fairies. The additional specifications are revealed painfully slowly over a long series of searches.

Ma’am, you know you can see the regular catalog on that computer too, right? Not just the children’s one. Patron launches into a long monologue about how she teaches (“teaches” one-year-olds). It takes a while to extricate myself.

Do you have another of these? Sometimes it is hard to explain to kids that not every single book is part of a series.

I want to play the Wii.

Um, do you have a pencil I can use?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The perfect library

Now that I work in two different library settings I have a lot more opportunities to compare the ways different libraries do things, and to see what each does and does not do. It's solidified a lot of my ideas about what a good library is, and given me some new ones. But I'm curious to get other perspectives, so I would like to know:

If you use a library of any kind: What you use it for, what you like about it, and what you wish it had that it doesn't (or what it has that you wish it didn't!)

If you don't use a library: What would a library have to offer to make you use it?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another old refgrunt

A quiet hour or two on the YS desk. I pick up a call from adult reference about ESL classes. No, we don’t offer any classes at the library, but we do have a program on weekend afternoons where you can come practice your small talk.

Place a hold for a woman who doesn’t speak much English. You’ll get a telephone call when it comes in, ma’am.

You’re really not supposed to sit up there…

Teen girl: Do you have any books about fish? I mean, not books about fish. Like, story books. There were ones I used to read as a little kid.
Me: Were they Rainbow Fish books, by any chance? Those are the most famous ones I can think of.
Girl: Oh yeah!
I show her where they are so she can show them to her little brother. Super-cute.

A grandma (?) asks for books featuring a series of characters from cartoons, mostly educational ones, for her grandson. Can you believe that either Barney the Dinosaur books don’t exist or that they do and we don’t own them? We don’t have much in the way of Barney, Elmo, or Mickey Mouse but I find a couple of books featuring Sesame Street characters other than Elmo, plus a Dora the Explorer. Grandma wants Grandson to thank me for the books, but he’s sulking about the absence of Elmo so he won’t. I’m trapped for a minute or two as she repeatedly orders him to say ‘thank you’ and he stares at her in stony silence. She even hands the books back to me, but when I finally say that I’ll put the books at the information desk in case she wants them she takes them even though the grandson hasn’t caved.

Do I have to have a reservation to use a computer? (A common misconception)

I check on my pet display. There’s only one hole but I switch some of the other items out to give new titles a chance.

Do you have a pen I can borrow, ma’am?...This one doesn’t work.

I put more pens out in the tub. We have a huge bag that were donated but they don’t work right away. You have to pre-scribble with them before putting them out or half the patrons will come back and say they don’t work. (Not the case with the last lady—her pen was indeed broken.)

Excuse me,(all the patrons are so polite today!)  is it possible for me to use my own computer here? Yes, we have wifi. This is the username and password to use.

One of my favorite regulars turns in a lost card.

I can’t find the book I have on hold. I got a call this morning. (Also very polite, even though it was a Bill O’Reilly book.)

Guy wants to get on ‘an internet computer.’ I explain how but then he doesn’t know what phone number we have on file for him because he hasn’t used the card in a long time. I offer to check but neither his card number nor name is in the system at all! I send him to my poor, poor friend at customer service.

Same guy comes back. Customer service fixed his problem but he forgot to check his phone number with them.

A hold for Geronimo Stilton books.

NOW it’s busy in children’s.

How old are you? Do you love to read? Is that why you have a job at the library?...Do you always bring a sweater because you’re always cold?...Do you know the movie The Hunger Games? Did you know there’s a book? Where did you buy it, Walmart?...Do you wear tennis shoes?

Books on mermaids. With good pictures. I use Google in aid of this and the little girl says suspiciously, “you’re using the Google?”

Do you have any more books like this?

Books on pirates.

I don’t have my library card but I really want these books is there ANYTHING you can do? She’s a sweet kid and a regular and they’re not massively in demand books so I agree to hold them overnight at the desk for her.

Books on building stuff out of Legos for an adorable small boy. Then I update his family’s telephone number. Turns out they live in my same apartment complex.

Coworker: I sent those boys over here because I was on the phone.
Me: What boys?
Coworker: [Big sigh] They didn’t come over here!?

A series called “The Genius Files.” The newest one is checked out, so I place a hold.

Move back over to the Adult desk.

I’m learning that “walk please!” is more effective when you reinforce it with “thank you!” if the kid stops running. Should have had more faith.

Restart a frozen catalog computer.

Show some kids how to release more than one print job at a time.

Older lady patron: Is your mom a reader?
Me: Yes she is!
Lady, proffering Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray: Tell her to read this book!
(Consider yourself told, Mom.)

The printer isn’t working! Oh wait, never mind, it did now.

Help one of our nicest regulars with PowerPoint.

Needs help with the printer, but won’t ask. Had to be intrusive that time as a line was forming behind him.

Are there any computers available?

Do you work here? (I HATE being asked this. No, I just sit behind this desk with a badge around my neck to try to trick people.) Where are the legal aid people?

GED study guides in Spanish.

Help with the printer.

May I borrow a pen? (Seriously, is there something in the water today? SO polite!)

Is there a way I can save something so I can refer to it later? You can email it to yourself! How do I do that? Let me show you.

Chat briefly with one of our chattiest regulars about antibiotics.

Someone RETURNS a pen. This is starting to creep me out.

Step back over to YS to cover for a coworker on break.

A patron on the phone who wants to know if the library has tutors. I tell her about what we DO have. Many follow-up questions.

Warn loud, running kids in the children’s area.

Accept returned crayons.

Questions about the bookmark contest.

Do you have any crayons?

How do I get what I’m printing off the printer?

More printer trouble.

Check to see how long the hold list for the new Avengers movie is.

Do you have any new books?
Yes, we have a lot of new books! Are you interested in a particular kind?
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” (Not new)

I just have a small question. I was walking in in the lobby and I passed a sign that said, we can help you prepare for college. I mean, is that true? How do you do that?

Did someone turn in a wallet? Not here, maybe at customer service? Oh, thank goodness. Coworker: She didn’t even open it to see if her money was still there. She must be more trusting than I am.