Friday, December 27, 2013

Tax information in Spanish

I was going to write a follow-up post to last year's discovery that most tax forms, including the 1040s, are not available in Spanish, but that wasn't producing anything except frustration and anger, so instead I present to you a list of resources that CAN help a Spanish-speaker do his or her taxes. Please feel free to share this with anyone who might find it useful, and to add comments if I am missing any good resources:

-The major 1040 forms are NOT available in Spanish. 1040-PR, which is in Spanish, applies to Puerto Rico only.

-The IRS maintains a separate Spanish-language version of its website, (or

-The toll-free IRS cusstomer service phone line offers service from Spanish-speaking IRS representatives. It is 800-829-1040, then press 8 for Spanish.

-A longer list of Spanish-language resources is available at

-The list of IRS forms in Spanish with Spanish-language descriptions can be found at and the list of publications in Spanish at The (SP) or (ENG/SP) designation indicates the language of the document.

-Despite the fact that the IRS hasn't found time to translate Form 1040, it has found the time to create an English/Spanish glossary of tax terms, which it calls "Publication 850." This document can  be found at
-Pub 17, the overview of American taxation (English title: "Your Federal Taxes") is available in Spanish:

Ereader season

Today all the questions are basic. How do I get on a computer, how do I print, this thing keeps spitting out all my money, why did my copy not work--mostly text-to-speech things as usual. One of our patrons with some mental disorders, a very nice man just quite slow, doesn't actually want help, just to say hello and shake my hand. The guy sitting next to him who needed 45 seconds to think of whether he had an email address says "He's my neighbor!" but I don't know if he means that they live next door to each other or just that they are sitting at adjacent computers. Either way it looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I dread the weeks after Christmas at the library because they are the beginning of tax season and got-this-ereader-for-Christmas season. Tax season should be more under control than it was last year despite my anger at the lack of Spanish-language tax forms but I can never keep up with all the different e-readers. We have a vendor called Overdrive that supplies our ebooks, and this is the basic process to read an e-book:

1. Look in our catalog for e-books and realize that that doesn't work.
2. Go to the library website and use that to link to our library's overdrive site
3. Search for the book you want. FInd that we don't have it because our collection is pretty small.
4. Select a different book. Check it out in the incorrect format.
5. Be confused that the book hasn't automatically appeared on your ereader. Realize that you have to download the book as an extra step even though it is already checked out to you.
5. Realize the format doesn't work with your e-reader and repeat step 5 with a different format.
6. Realize that you don't want the book you have finally managed to download, then call the library to ask how you can return it.

Normally old men are my favorite patrons but for some reason middle-aged people all seem to think that it's a GREAT idea to buy ereaders for their elderly parents, so now I am watching all approaching old men warily for signs that they are carrying Nooks, Kindles, or something even worse.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Library writing

Title of an email I sent to a coworker yesterday: "Incident with rude man in hat on computer 4"

Misleading sign on a public computer: "No printing is available from this computer at this time. Please see the reference desk for assistance." (The reference desk can't actually make this problem go away)

Found written on a little slip of paper next to one of the compters in the compter lab: "cease & desist."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has been appropriately atypical here at the library home of Don't Mess with TX-LIS. I.e. the patrons have been phenomenally low-maintenance. Pleasantness of the day includes
1) A patron who knows what a masters' in library science is,
2) A patron who starts to talk about her medical and financial problems and then stops of her own accord before it gets uncomfortable
3) A patron who is really, really excited about the oversize books

I also love getting to show people the awesomeness that is the KDL What'sNext Database (

The only bad weirdness was that I found a three-books-in-one anthology of Anne of Green Gables for one patron who had read the very first book but wanted to read the rest of the series. The first book included was Anne of Green Gables, but the other two were not numbers two and three as would be expected, but instead were three and four. Mysterious.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A first

A middle-aged guy as I am going over to shush him and the new friend he made a couple of computers over: I'm sorry, are we too loud?

Bad weather

Today I'm running the ref desk all by myself because the roads are iced over and the adult services librarian who lives one town over couldn't make it in. Before we opened the other staff people were saying oh geez, why are we even here, no one will come today, but the library is about 1/2 as busy as normal, maybe even a bit more, and we have some extra visitors because power and even heat are out in some places. Mostly though I have been fielding in-depth phone calls from people who are stuck at home, including of course some people who want *my opinion* on whether it is safe to drive to the library (It's very tempting to say "Well, I made it here alive, but then again I'm getting paid!").
 Other things people want today:
-Dysgraphia Guy, wants help with the copier and to chat
-Can you watch my ipad which I am charging here while I go look at books?
-What kind of e-reader should I buy?
-We are staying at the Motel 6 down the road but there's no power. Can we get a pass to use your computers to do our schoolwork?
-Can you help me print these emails? They are evidence in my divorce.
-From the director of libraries who is here today because her HQ branch has no power: Do you shelve large print new books with the regular new books? (I am living in fear of her because last year I complained about the Christmas decorations making non-Christians feel unwelcome and she called me personally to condescendingly dismiss my complaints, but as the day goes on I am getting more and more convinced she has no idea that I'm that person.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Leadership lessons from Star Trek: the Next Generation

I'm "shelf-reading" our adult nonfiction collection, which means checking that the books are in call number order and pulling anything that is in horrible condition or is simply horrible. The librarians are doing a big project to withdraw a lot of titles so I've been passing on the worst of my finds to my friend who has the Dewey 000s-500s under her power. The Dewey 300s (Social Sciences) are particularly fertile ground for horrors. Some of today's highlights (high in humor, high in professional embarrasment for our institution):

-Make it So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation, by "Wess Roberts, Ph.D. and Bill Ross" (1995)

-Focus on the Family's Boomers, Xers, and Other Strangers: Understanding the Generational Differences that Divide Us (1999). Features a list of icons of the "Net Generation" including Brandy, Macauley Culkin (of "Home Alone" fame), and Mary Kate and Ashley Olson.

-Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age by Bill McKibben. Opening sentence: "As this book goes to press in January 2003, the world is still waiting to find out if the Raelian UFO cult has produced Earth's first cloned child or if that prize will go to one of the other teams of rogue scientists racing toward the goal."

-Aftermath: A Guide to Preparing for and Surviving Apocalypse 2012

-A whole set of woefully-outdated "Opposing Viewpoints" books (Did you know there is an "Opposing Viewpoints: Africa"? I shudder to think what that table of contents looks like.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Today I checked on the catalog computers and one of them was two minutes into a soundless 20-minute montage of the best goals of Pele from Youtube.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

God at the library

Today I helped our objectively nicest patron, who is actually uncomfortably nice and always hugs you, print out a cake recipe. She isn't the brightest and maybe has a disability. She always comes in with her husband who is quicker on the uptake but not nearly as kind. When he saw the picture of the cake he said "That doesn't look very good" and his wife said, "Well Larry, God told me to make this cake."

Saturday before Thanksgiving

Everyone seems really wound up this weekend, especially the kids. I think it's because a break is coming up. Here's some various news and excitement from today's shift on the adult reference desk.

Dad of one of our clerks who is very slow and was at the computer class this morning: "Right now I'm at the pecking stage, but once I can type I'm gonna be unstoppable!"

A lady spends an hour on the public phone trying to cancel her cable service. We have to tell her twice to keep her voice down and eventually my rule-stickler colleague makes her end her call since the public phone is supposed to be for calls no more than three minutes. All her anger is concentrated at the cable company though so there is none to spare for us.

"My son has a science project about batteries. He's making something out of pennies. I'd like two references for that, please." Not how the library works exactly, lady...

A group needs my help SIX TIMES to print everything they want to print. A new record!

A regular hands me a videocassette that came off the Friends of the Library sales cart. "I found this in the bathroom" (lowering her voice to a whisper) "It was under the toilet!" Eew.

"I'm phobic about germs on your computers and I have an open cut, can I have a band-aid?"

Now the six times printing people are using the copier, which is our number one user-unfriendly machine! Nothing good can come of this.

Nice old couple wants the most recent Consumer Reports on washing machines. As he is looking through the index to figure out which isue it's in the old man says "We had a lady who worked at our home library, a smal town Carnegie library, in the children's section. Boy she was strict about shushing. You whispered in there."

Guy who shouted at me once and then later came back to apologize slides by the desk without making eye contact. I think he's embarrased to talk to me now.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

More ethical dilemmas

Tonight a woman called and asked about a zillion different hotels in our metro area. She seemed interested in one of the ones I checked into for her, but then paused and said, "I've heard that's a bad neighborhood. Is that a bad neighborhood?" I told her that I hadn't lived in the state long and had not heard anything about the area. "How could I find out?" she persisted. I took the path of least resistance and told her that I had better transfer her to a librarian, because that was a fairly complex research question.

But what if I had had to take that question myself? I have lived in at least one "bad" neighborhood. I liked living there and it really seemed like the label discouraged people from shopping, working, or moving there. Accordingly the label became kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm really reluctant to name anywhere as a bad or dangerous neighborhood, especially on the basis of a two-minute Google search. I don't feel any more qualified to determine what is a good or a bad neighborhood than I do to give tax or legal advice (other things library staff are often asked for that they cannot really provide).

But on the other hand, my job is to provide the best information possible to library patrons. If this area has higher crime statistics than neighborhoods nearby, shouldn't I find that out for her? By asking the question she has indicated that she is sensitive to crime rates, atmosphere, the 'badness' of a neighborhood, so if anything maybe I should err on the side of confirming her worries since she is likely to percieve a marginal neighborhood as 'bad.'

How would you handle this if you were in my place? Or how, as a member of the taxpaying and/or ethics-contemplating public, would you want me to handle it?

Things our patrons call the catalog computers

- The card catalog
- A library computer
-A non-internet computer
- "A little place where I can look up books"

Friday, November 15, 2013


Youngish man with little daughter: "Your glasses look so cute on you!...(I shudder inwardly)...They make you look like a librarian!"
Me: "Hey, thank you!"

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I assume that it used to be that if someone in the library appeared to be doing nothing but standing there, it was a good sign that he or she needed help. Now I just interrupt people checking their email on their phones about ten times a day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Solo reference excitement

I am 'running the floor' all by myself this hour because the adult services librarian is at lunch and the children's librarian is supervising a public transit program. It's an exciting time. A small number of reference interactions:

I need A Christmas Carol.
By Charles Dickens?
I don't know. My teacher just told me to get it.
There is a book and a play and a movie, do you need the book?
I think so.
Then I show him our 20 different copies in the childrens' chapter books and he says "No, it needs to be a novel." He won't accept the idea that the original version is a children's book and probably all our editions have pictures and our impasse is only broken by his mom, who specifies the required ISBN. We don't have that edition but I admit I am not as sorry as I am for some patrons who we can't help.

Max Translations Gentleman (he is always very polite to me so I call him a gentleman) wants to know if we have (suppressing a laugh) Killing Jesus, by Glen Beck. I ask if he means O'Reilly, and he says, eh, they're all the same--I know he shares most of my political sympathies and no one else is in earshot so I agree...then he wants to know, "In your opinion, what is the main myth now, that we teach our children?" He is talking about things that movies have been made of so I say, "Well I can't really say about now since I don't have any friends with kids, but for my generation I would say it was definitely the Lion King" so he goes to check that out.

A lovely old man who doesn't have a phone is trying to activate his card for SNAP benefits. Apparently he had trouble and the help line people told him to go to the website, but I think they gave bad advice or he misunderstood. Fortunately it turns out his main problem is that he doesn't have a phone so I offer him the chance to try again using our public phone and he is a lot happier with that. Unfortunately all you can reach on the weekend is the automatic phone system, which I doubt has ever helped anyone. But I tell him he can come back and use our phone any time on Monday.

Adorable brother and sister want help copying and pasting, finding the "Captain Underpants" series, and the sister even accepts my reader's advisory suggestion of The Spiderwick Chronicles!

Wish list

If I could choose five things all of our library patrons could magically know, they would be:
1. How to attach a document to an email
2. What their PIN to log on to the computers is
3. That the public library doesn't carry current textbooks
4. That our branch is NOT the other, bigger branch that starts with the same letter
5. Where to go to release a print job

But then, I guess, what would I do all day?


Old man who wants to know where the Louis l'Amour books on CD are: "Do you know the difference between in-laws and outlaws?"
Me: "No I don't, sir."
Old man: "Outlaws are wanted!"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Miscellaneous problems

Phone call:
Me: The East Side Library, this is Emma speaking. How can I help you?
Caller: Are y'all doin' votin' down at the liberry?
Me: Yes, ma'am, 'til 7 p.m.

I am trying to help a woman email something to herself but it keeps failing because she insists on typing the subject line in the 'to' field of her message and won't enter an email address at all.

I don't know how to describe the patrons who remain in the library at closing. I say things like, "Did the guy in the black shirt with the laptop leave?" and it would help if there were a politically-correct and non-ridiculous way to say "The guy of East-Asian ancestry with the laptop"--it's okay to say "the white woman" or "the black guy" but there is no good way to describe the skin color of people who are neither black nor white...

More Spanish-speaking

I helped the same lady who addressed me in Spanish previously (it turns out I do have a reputation for Spanish skills; I'm very excited) get into her email on her smart phone. I have a dumb phone that doesn't have a touch screen so I was really having trouble typing on the tiny virtual keyboard. It cracked her up. Anyway, we got into her email and she had a ton of messages. She opened the first one and then, laughing, asked me, "What does it say?" I told her it said a website had the grades of her son, but I didn't know anything about the website. She said that was okay, she didn't either, but she would ask him.

She is one of my new favorite patrons. Everything makes her laugh and she doesn't slow down her speech even a tiny bit although it's obvious I only understand about 50% of what she says.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How old are you, exactly?

Guy in his early 30s (?): Where can I get a library card?
Me: Over there, at the customer service desk.
Guy: Righteous!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Walk into work and there is a lovely thank-you note waiting for me from a patron--my first ever! Also her first language is Spanish so I know it must have been a big deal for her to write me something in English.

Patron asks: They don't tip at libraries, do they?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Refgrunt of the second weekend in a row

Librarian supervisor: Can you check and make sure the people I just let into the program room really have a reservation?

Old man in motorcycle gear wants a biography of Betty White.

Anxious phone call: I can’t get into the online catalog on my home computer! It starts working of its own accord as I am taking her information and she thinks I have somehow fixed it remotely: “Oh, this is so great! I’ve been trying to do this for an hour, thank you so much!” and hangs up.

You can’t check this Pete the Cat out on your card because it is on hold for someone else. Let’s find YOUR Pete the Cat.

Can’t find a hold—it is a science kit that has to be picked up at the branch from whence it came.

Confused, and fairly so, by the “string not found” problem.

Husband can’t find his wife’s hold on the shelf—it’s just been run through and is still in the back.

Phone call: Desperate mom from neighboring city has a daughter who is required to read Mara, Daughter of the Nile, first published in 1953 and last published in 1985. Unsurprisingly, if we ever had a copy it did not survive. I use Worldcat to find out who else supposedly has it and pass her on to them.

Loud kids: Has anyone seen my dadeeeee? Daddy is two ranges away and shushes his kids repeatedly but ineffectively.

Book of Elsewhere.

Questions about the bookmark contest. I’m really hoping someone from our branch will win this year.

Needs help because he is searching for ‘dinosour books’ in the catalog.

Roar of a Snore.

Please don’t climb on that extremely poorly-chosen piece of public art in the children’s area. You will fall and need stitches and your parents will sue us for a million dollars.

Where does this computer print to?

Looking for story collections: Just got a card and is trying to obey the 5-item limit for first use and still get enough for his kids to read for the whole week. Clever idea, I thought!
Unjam the printer, and then reassure it about paper size.

The printer refuses to believe that 8.5x11 paper is loaded into tray 3.

The new computers are causing more trouble than benefit—people are still confused about all the changes. This man is concerned because the logged-off screen doesn’t look the same as it used to.

Do you not have wifi anymore?
No, it’s just down, sorry.

A regular I fear working with (he just might be our laziest patron) needs help photocopying two pages out of a textbook and then wants information on “Mother Jones” by which he means “child labor” (this is of course revealed later. Then he wants to know if we have some nutty small-press book called The Gift of Community and when we don’t and it turns out only five Texas libraries have it according to Worldcat, he wants to know where he can buy it. A, the paper he gave me from which to look up the title was a printout of its Amazon page, and B) when I say that he can buy it on Amazon, he says how can I do that, can I give them a call or something? Then he wants to know how much it will cost—I read that it costs $8.75 new or from one cent up used, and he says, okay, so how much would it cost?

Mr. Copy and Paste hopes I can maybe enlarge some text on a website—I can for reading, but not for printing, which is what he wanted. Oh well. He accepts the answer with good grace as always.

Observe a patron actually put her hands up to defend herself against the belligerent and rude tone of our worst circ staffperson.

I just logged on and the computer just shut down!
There is no tactful way to say that by far the most likely explanation is that you just bumped the power button with your hand. Sorry.

The printer is still waaaay on the fritz. It’s going to be a long afternoon.

Can’t find The Queen of Versailles on the shelf.

Wifi is down, sorry.

“Where is the printing section?”

Can you please turn your headphones down?

Call for Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus. Then a call to another branch to make sure they really had it before the lady drove over there.

I heard you had a fax machine?

The fax doesn’t work for her.

A computer shut down while a hiccupping kid was in the middle of using it : (

There is 20 minutes of Saturday left but it’s usually a time of total craziness so I’d better stop here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cradle of democracy and "The Public's University"?

At the library in the last two days:

-The city put up a whiteboard in the library lobby for citizens to write their comments and suggestions. Someone wrote "This place is geto!!!" 

-Two simultaneous calls to the reference desk. My colleague and I each take one. On mine, a woman calls to complain that an online database is not working. As soon as I get off the phone with her, I realize my colleague is talking to someone with the same problem, who said to her "my sister couldn't get on either!"

-The guy who spends his days writing mysterious grids of numbers is apparently scanning and emailing them to an unknown second party every time he 'finishes' one.

-A kid wants five books about "how candy is bad for you and how many calories it has."

-A man shouting about how someone is "a lying, manipulative b****" into his cell phone gets mad when I tell him to "please take your conversation to the lobby" and nastily repeats my request word-for-word to whoever is on the other end of the phone.

-Mr. Can't Copy and Paste (Because He Can't Generally Select Text) successfully copies, but somehow his computer has lost awareness of the Microsoft Office suite that I am 110% sure is installed on it.

-Shelfreading, I pull a book on the publishing industry from 1988 and a 1999 book on webcams to ask my boss to withdraw.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Darth Vader

We are celebrating Star Wars Reads Day on October 5th and we have a display of Star Wars books to promote the event. Accompanying the table is a Darth Vader figure made from a costume stuffed with old plastic bags and packing material. When we get a chance we position him so that he is 'reading' a book, but he's kind of floppy and people are always coming and messing with him. The display is right in front of the reference desk and it's really funny to watch people interact with Vader. Some highlights:

-A small kid comes up, looks around, sees that no one is watching, and tentatively waves his hand in front of Vader's face, I think to see if he is A) motion-activated or B) alive.

-One of our regular adult patrons sees Vader and then shouts in a strange, scary-yet-not-Vader-y voice "I'm Darth Vader! I kill Storm Troopers!"

-A little boy would like to check out Darth Vader's book but he is too nervous to take it from his hands and needs my permission and grandma to get it for him (Books actually being 'read' by Darth Vader circulate substantially better than ones that are just on the table next to him.).

-A different little boy, alone as far as I can tell, sits on Darth Vader's lap.

Excitement of the day

A lady came and asked me a question in Spanish without asking if I spoke Spanish! It's probably because she speaks zero English but I'm holding out hope that it is because I have managed to develop a reputation among library users as a Spanish-speaker.

(The question was about diet books. She said, you are so thin! and I said, it's only because I am young, and she laughed.)

Ways in which my job is all about reading directions out loud

Question: "Why isn't the self-check machine working?"
Answer: "Because although it says on the screen to press the button corresponding to the number of items you've placed on the pad, you have either pressed nothing or arbitrarily pressed 'one.' "

Question: "Why isn't this website accepting my password?!"
Answer: "Because you haven't followed the guidelines about minimum length and character variation, which are listed immediately below the box where you type in the password."

Question: "How do I print?"
Answer: "You follow the prompts in a set of automatically-appearing dialogue boxes, each of which tells you what to do next, if you read them."

Question: "Where are the music CDs?"
Answer: "Straight in front of where you are looking, under the big sign that says 'Music CDs.'"

Question: "How do I send this email?"
Answer: "You press the big 'send email' button."

The next time someone asks if this is the Information desk (as the foot-high, all-caps sign hanging over it would indicate) I am going to answer, "No, sorry. This is the text-to-speech desk."

Role reversal

We got new public computers--hooray! But they have tons of problems--boo! The most ridiculous one is some communication error between the network they are on and the software that manages logging in. The software works, except that instead of labelling the fields the patron must fill out to log on to a computer, each field is instead filled with the text "String Not Found." So the login screen basically looks like the image below, which I found at

The layout is the same as it has always been, but the explanatory text is missing.This means that users who actually READ the instructions are confused, where as those who just make assumptions and never read anything are unaffected. Considering that 90% of my work is reading aloud directions to people who fail to read directions, I find that a little bit funny. Today I got to meet a lot of the patrons who I know by sight but have never needed help before.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What happened to the kids' computers?

Asks a regular, a good kid but super-loud voice. I tell him someone spilled pop on one and he cracks up laughing.

For a moment it made me kind of mad but after that it seemed funny to me too. It is a library classic, after all.

In other news, all my fans are in today, even my sole adult fan who is not mentally disturbed, just chatty. We exchange opinions about Louise Penny's books. It's a nice change from averting my eyes and trying to look invisible every time a member of my Old Man Fan Club walks by--today it's the Marx Translations guy and the man who always wears Hawaiian shirts and asks me about my library school classes.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Question of the day

Do you have a manuscript of Beowulf?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Did you drive here?

Today we had some patrons who caused concern about what might happen if they tried to go out and act on the help we gave them.

First a woman said we had something on hold for her and that it had been on hold for six days, but it wasn't on the shelf. There was a book for her on the shelf, in the right place, but she said it wasn't what she was expecting. I looked everywhere for the title she asked for--no luck. I was shelving at the time so I inflicted her on my coworker at the information desk. Later the coworker came by specifically to tell me, "That woman was so confused. She had never requested that book and kept denying that she had ever requested the one on the shelf, even though it was on the paper list she had with her and it was on the same topic as the book she claimed she had requested. She was really confused. At first she said she didn't want it, but eventually she came back and said she did. She was so confused. I wanted to say, 'lady, did you drive here?!""

Then, this evening a woman called and asked where she could buy raw goat's milk in the area. She was either somewhat deaf or had a terrible phone and I had to shout the names, numbers, and addresses of all our suggestions to her over and over.  As soon as I started to read her anything this would interrupt me with completely unintelligible speech. Not surprisingly, she seemed to really be struggling to write the places down. As you can imagine, there are not a ton of places to buy raw goat's milk, so some of these were going to be quite a drive for her. I didn't have a lot of confidence that she had managed to get the information correctly. I kind of wanted to make her read back the addresses to me because I was worried she'd use them to drive out in the middle of nowhere and then be completely lost. Oh well. If she does, I'm sure she will call the library.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Real highlights

1. Helping a kid with math homework, which I always LOVE
2. A different kid hugged me after I helped her save a Powerpoint presentation to a flash drive

Today's highlights

An unknown patron has four items on the hold shelf--all copies of Caddyshack.

Old man with Tourette's (?) who only comes in rarely, but always goes on and on forever, asks for an English-Italian dictionary and then "the same one, but for Spanish, because I'm a linguist!" Then he imitates teenagers for like ten minutes with our poor new reference assistant as a captive audience.

Refgrunt from The Day It All Was Broken

Can I have a code for my brother? (i.e. computer pass) Yes I am totally not checking library cards today. Take ‘em, take ‘em all!

Did you want to use a computer, ma’am? Let me give you a guest pass.
Did you see the sign about the computers, ma’am? Here’s a guest pass.
Guest passes.
Are the Ranger’s Apprentice books over in that section [YA]? Yes!
Another person who thinks that two hours after you place a hold request it will be there for you. Not the case, but the book is Gulliver’s Travels, so it’s easy enough to find a copy in the library.
To confused people looking at each and every self-check machine, all with “Under Service” signs. You’ll have to go to the customer service desk.
You’ll ALL need guest passes.
You can’t play the Wii because you are five.
Guest pass.
Sorry, I can’t check the status of your holds. I can look to see if any are here though.
Guest pass.
My USB isn’t working! Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about that because your USB is broken.
My card isn’t working to get on the computer! Guest paaaaaaaaaasssssssssssss!!!
Mohawk Kid (a regular)--you need a guest pass!
How do I print?
To Mowhawk Kid: You know you can’t eat sunflower seeds at the computer. Clean them up, okay?
Can I help you with anything? No, we are thinking about buying a house here so we are just checking out the neighborhood.
Go and print more guest passes.
Excuse me, it’s not letting me get on any computer. Ggggguest pass!
Not a Service we Provide: Calling your estranged daughter in Argentina and trying to convince her to talk to you.
Dysgraphia Guy can’t print—he used a guest pass to log on to the computer (correct) but then tried to use his library card to release his print jobs (less correct).
Everyone is so MAD that they have to use a little piece of paper to log into the computers instead of their library cards. You actually have to do less typing with the guest passes. Somehow I don’t think people will appreciate that if I point it out though.
Will this computer pass work tomorrow? No, but we’re hoping you won’t need it tomorrow.
Another nice regular. I am going to call her Audrey because she has a name of an old movie star and she is one of our classiest-looking patrons. Always very fashionable. She too wants to know, will the pass still work if I come back later today?
Um, this isn’t working. I thought she was confused about the guest pass but apparently she didn’t even know what it was—she had found it and was using it as scrap paper to write her library card number on, so at first she was really confused about what I was saying!
A book called Rush. We can ID it (It’s the YA novel by Eve Silver, with a blue cover), but it’s not on the shelf.
I’d like to sign my mom up for some computer classes. I would love to sign you up but first you need a library card.
Guest pass.
Cover the children’s desk for an hour while our YS person is at lunch and work waaaay harder over there than I did all morning at adult reference. That’s the life of a children’s person.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.

Can you hold these books for a minute?

What are all these books? Bluebonnets.

Walk, please.

Ariel (as in the Little Mermaid)--why oh why are these cataloged by author? It makes them SUPER hard to find without the catalog.

Walk, please!

Little girl, you need a pass to get onto the computer, typing your card number in isn't going to work.

Where can I check out books?

Can you help me find picture books about the senses and about community helpers? Sort of. It will be really hard and time-consuming since the catalog is down, but otherwise it would be really easy. Grr!

Biography of Helen Keller.


Pointing to Sports Illustrated Kids cover: Do you have any books about OSU?
About the school or about the football team?
The football team.
I don't think so, but I can show you the other football books and movies.
He sees them--not good enough.

Talk to some ladies at the copier who compliment me on my Spanish, even though I use it to tell them they have to go to the customer service desk to break their $10 bill.

Where can I get my son a library card?

Geronimo Stilton--thank goodness I don't have to try to look up that one.

Rainbow Magic--same thing

Reading list for 6th grade?

Mailbox somewhere?

Can I use your scissors? I’m trying to send this picture to my friend in jail and they don’t like things printed off the internet. This is the nicest guy trying to contact people in jail who I have ever worked with.
Guest passes 2x, but they are both good sports.
Book on blogging. We don’t have the one he had in mind but he’s satisfied with a different one on the same subject.
My card doesn’t work. GUEST PASSSSSSSSS!
Guest pass.
Books by Iceberg Slim. All checked out, if we own any.
Is there something like this [reference world atlas] that my son can check out?
Go and print more guest passes.
Thrusts card in my face—this isn’t working.

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew—not on shelf.

Texas Driver’s Handbook—I can NEVER find it, it is my white whale.

Can I print from any computer? Yes, IF you have a guest pass.

I can’t log in. GP.

Driver’s handbook guy comes in—will drive to the closest branch to see if they have a non-reference copy, because my colleague couldn’t find one either.

Directions to a restaurant. Easy!

Least favorite patrons: The ones who ask multiple staff members to do things that require the catalog, as though the first person who told them it was down system-wide might have been lying.

Woman is walking around looking lost.
Me: Can I help you?
Woman: Can you make change? (Holding up a five-dollar bill)
Me: No, sorry, but if you go to the customer service desk they will be happy to make change for you.
Woman: Okay, thanks.
Then she goes back to the printer and messes around a little, tries to put the $5 in the machine, looks over at me.
Woman: So it takes fives?
Me: No, sorry, only ones. That would be happy to make change for you at customer service.

 Much less clueless woman: Do you happen to sell headphones here?
My favorite phrase, “Sorry, not here, but if you go to customer service…”

Fascinated by the hundred ways to say, I can’t get into the computer with my library card and I need your help.

 Talk to a sweet kid—please enter the bookmark contest! I so want someone from our branch to win!

Legend by Marie Lu. Another book I KNOW we have but it’s checked out and I can’t. place. Any. D***. Holds on it. Aargh!

Is X-Men: First Class on hold?
Do you mean on hold for you, or on hold for someone else?
No, I just wanna know if it is here or over there? (Points at DVD area and hold shelves)
Well, did you check the regular shelf under XME for X-Men?
It’s not there. This is another Legend scenario.

 Wii controller.

 Wii controller is out of batteries.

 Legend girl: How much is a new library card? Because my friend punched holes in mine.

The 17 Day Diet. It’s actually there! Hooray!

Can you check if my hold is here?

A Kid with a Lot of Questions.
Kid: I want to pay my fines.
Me: Sorry, actually you can’t today, our system is down. But you can still check out books.
Kid: Will the fines keep growing?
Me: Not if you renew your books.
Kid: Okay. Is the catalog working? Can you like look up books?
Me: No, sorry, everything is down. But I can still show you where things are. I just can’t tell you what is checked in or not.
Kid: No, I mean can you look up my account?
Me: No, sorry.
Kid: Why is everything down?
Me: They are moving the computers that all our stuff is on to, uh, different computers.
Kid: Oh, okay.

Go to show a woman how to release more than one print job at a time but she is on her cell phone. No help for you then, lady!

Woman with a $20 bill pinned to her tank top: “I was trying to print this and it came out weird, can you help?” I take a look at her computer and get her document set up so that it will print the way she wants it to look. Then she says, I only have fifteen cents left, but I want to print two pages…”, hinting, so I say, “I see you have a twenty-dollar bill there, ma’am. They would be happy to make change for you at customer service.” “Oh, never mind.” She is disappointed that I won’t give her five cents’ of free printing even though she has 200 times that much money pinned to her shirt! The audacity.

I want to see what I have out. Sorry, you can’t.

And of course I can never go a whole day without asking, "Do you want me to show you how to print more than one thing at a time?"

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Flying blind

My supervisor says we are "flying blind" today because the city is doing a major server move and our catalog (public side, staff side, and computer reservation function), email, and shared drives are down. We open in five minutes and all I have up on my computer is Internet Explorer---three tabs with Major City's public library catalog open. We just have to guess where all the books are.

I'm going to be spending the day cutting out Yodas for Star Wars Reads Day, handing out temporary computer passes, and explaining to angry patrons why I can't place hold requests for them. It's gonna be exciting.

Refgrunt to come, if I'm not too exhausted.

Final note: Of the approximately ten staff members who have to be here on this dark day, two of them have birthdays today.

Friday, September 6, 2013

New Yorker( reader)s are jerks

My colleague who reshelves the magazines reports that The New Yorker is always the most mangled.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Top tens

Following Love the Liberry's Dewey's Top 10 Call #'s I've Memorized, and other great Top Tens:

Dewey's Top 10 (Non-Fiction) Call #'s I've Memorized

1. 373 GED
2. 346 Do-it-yourself legal guides
3. 332 Crackpot get rich quick books
4. 741 Drawing and comics
5. 220 Bible and Biblical interpretation
6. 796 WWE/wrestling
7. 422 English dictionaries
9. 567 Dinosaurs
8. 746 Knitting
10. 597 Sharks

Top 10 reasons why people hate the library staff:

1. The computer logged me out and I hadn't saved my work
2. You have to be 8 years old to play the Wii
3. No eating in the library
4. The library internet is slow
5. We won't look up your library card number for you
6. No open-topped pop containers in the library
7. We will have to get that title sent over from another branch
8. The copier only copies one page at a time
9. We will not give you an infinite number and variety of free office supplies
10. An interlibrary loan costs $2.50

The top 10 types of items most likely to be "missing":
1. Antowne Fisher
2. Anything to do with the WWE
3. Junior DVDs of all kinds
4. Horror movies
5. Country CDs
6. SAT/ACT prep books
7. Any TV series popular with educated 20-somethings
8. Manga graphic novels
9. Paperback 'historical' romance novels
10. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Supply and demands

Within the first half-hour:

A woman came up to the desk to ask for scratch paper. I started to point out that around the other side of the desk (about 20 feet away) there is a bin with scatch paper and pens, but she said it was empty, so I fished around in the drawer and ended up ripping out some pages of a donated notebook for her (there is no such things as a scratch paper budget). As soon as she left I went over to refill the 'empty' bin--and it had about 20 sheets in it!

This was balanced out later by one of my favorite tween patrons coming up and asking if we had any headphones to give out. We don't have a budget for headphones either, but if someone gets a free airline pair or something we stash them in a drawer and give them out to desperate kids like them. I was excited to report that, even though we only have them once in a blue moon, we had them today, and a waaaay nicer pair than usual. I commented on this as I handed them to him and he pumped his fists and whisper-shouted "Yesss!"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am one of the many things in this library that is Unavailable

I got asked out at the reference desk AGAIN this evening. A fake wedding ring is starting to look like a better and better investment. These both represent about 4-5 hours' salary. Which do you think would be more effective at repelling creepy patrons, the more understated, non-jarring Option A:

or the gaudier, but perhaps more highly visible, Option B?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A refgrunt in which many people are anxious

We need to print some tickets and we sent them from out computer but then it says there are no jobs! I want to help but my bored coworker leaps up from her desk before I can respond. It’s been a slow morning, I guess.

Where do I get some change? (Stares uncomfortably at me for five seconds after I give him the answer, but does go off in the right direction)

I can’t connect to the wireless!

Different person: I talked to the gal who was here this morning about this, I don’t think it’s me because I have three different devices…
Me: Are you having trouble with the wireless? We can submit a request to IT but we don’t know what’s wrong, sorry.
Coworker, as soon as he leaves: He called from within the library to complain this morning!

I’m doing voter registration at the Civic Center. Can I have some of your voter registration forms? Long political ramble about how evil President Obama is.  Democrat coworker listens courteously without ever actually expressing agreement.

Bruno Mars CD “Doo-Wops and Hooligans.” Not on shelf where it’s supposed to be, and can neither find it nor convince the patron to put in a request.

A million questions about the “Library Legos” program, which is saturating the children’s area with sound. Where is it, are we too late, what is that noise…

Where exactly are your biographies for kids?

“Which way is to the Lego room!? My brother is in there!”

Where are the action movies? And also Stuart Little for my little sister.

Do you have any Scooby Doo?

Spy Kids.

Old Lady: “Do you get excited about every Lego program?”
Me: “Actually this is the first one we’ve had this summer. But it does seem to be going over well.”
Lady: “So no one’s been ejected yet?”
Me, laughing a little: “Not yet!”
Lady: “Good luck!”

Dora the Explorer books in Spanish, for a little girl who speaks only Spanish. All of them are at other, lily-white branches. Grr!

Oh no, I left books on this table to check out and now they are gone! I thought they were abandoned so I put them on the returns cart…no worries.

Walk PLEASE! Oh my goodness you are going to hurt yourselves.

Curious kid: What’s wrong with this computer? Don’t worry, kids, I fixed it.

Can I have some of this scratch paper?

Do you have a public phone?

Man in a “Warning: You can go Blind from my Extreme Awesomeness” shirt: Do you have a pencil or something I can borrow?
Me: Sure, just bring it back when you’re done.
Man: Indubitably!

Phone call from a man trying to use one of our online databases. He doesn’t understand that he has to register the first time he uses it. Then he gets it, but the database says the email address he gave them is already in use. I explain that he can sign up for a new account without giving them an email address at all. He asks for my name at the end of the call—never a good sign.

The guy calls back about 30 seconds later—it says my username is already in use too! What do I do? Um, you can pick a different username, sir. I’d suggest something other than “Bill.”

Where would your phonebooks be?

Information about our ESL conversation program.

Can you print things in color here? (No, so sorry!)

The printer is asking for the ‘staff password.’ Also we put our money in the copy machine instead of the printer. Sorry.

Accidentally scan the UPC on my water bottle with the barcode scanner.

Coworker: “Here’s your new Consumer Reports!”

Supervisor’s son: “Is [supervisor] here? I’m her son.”

Do you have any bookmarks?

Where can I find these books? Presents two-page school reading list.

Star Wars. “I got this book for my birthday a while ago. It was like one book that had the whole story, and I kind of wanted that book again.” He can describe the cover in detail but I can’t find ANYTHING that looks like it on Google image searches.

One of our computers has been destroyed by a massive pop (coke, they call it down here) spill. It has obviously been there for a while and even seeped inside the casing of the CPU. Aargh! My coworker and I perform triage and save the mouse and keyboard, but IT will have to come take a look at the computer itself.

Go to try to tell my boss about the damaged computer. She’s not at the desk, but a waiting patron is—show her how to print (she can’t find the command in the menus in Word or Adobe) and how to release her jobs from the library printer. Takes forever.

The rest of the hour is so busy that I don’t have time to write anything down, and then we close!