Thursday, January 31, 2013

Seen better days (a refgrunt)

Can I help you? I looked up the book Hero by Mike Lupica and it said it was here with the Bluebonnets (*Bluebonnets are a Texas book award). It just came back. Let me get it from the back for you.

Phone request for Peter Pan, ending with “I don’t have a library card yet. Is there a fee for one?” No ma’am, it’s free!

I know that the author of The Doorbell Rang is Pete Hutchins, but what section would it be in? (It’s a picture book.) His daughter knocks down something on the desk and says “Uh oh.” Adorable. Later, I observe the same dad and daughter in the puppet area. The dad is having the dragon sing the daughter a song. She listens happily for a little while but then starts to insist “Emmy have now, Emmy have now.”

Books about Batman. But only the BEST.

Books for a seventh grader, side-by-side bilingual English/Spanish. I had to get help on this one.

I didn’t see that these were due, so am I going to have to pay? Well, yes, but only six dollars. So I will have to pay? Um, you can talk to customer service I guess. I don’t have power over these things.

Where can I find a level one reading book? (He wants what we call “early readers” at our branch.)

Can I have the magnetic letters to play with?

DVDs with Eric Carle stories on them. Also DVDs that teach babies Spanish.

Bad Kitty books.

Excuse me, is this the only section that has computers? Heck no, sir!

Books in Spanish for a Kindergartener.

How many items can I check out at a time?

Can you give me an extension?
Sorry, what?
I need an extension.
An extension for what?
I need more time on the computer.
Oh, sure, I can do that.

I’m trying to do this application and it’s not letting me in. Every time I put in my password it rejects me. That’s because you didn’t read the instructions about your password having to include a number, sir. Or the error message you got repeatedly, which also contains that information.

No, the tax forms still aren’t here. But since you also said you don’t know which forms you need, here is information about tax help at the library, starting next week! It wasn’t a total loss to come here, see? This conversation is with an old man and begins:
Hello, sir, how can I help you?
Hi, how are you?
Just fine, thanks. How are you?
I’m all right. Seen better days…well, I’m sure I’ve seen worse days, too.
That’s a great way to think about it, sir!

A family came in a little while ago with helium birthday balloons. Inevitably, someone lets go of one, but our ceiling is low enough that the dad stands on a stepstool and can reach the end of its string.

More questions about tax forms. People just cannot believe it.

Ma’am, did she give you the information about tax help at the library? I thought you might want it. Also yes, I can help you find E,F, and V of the Sue Grafton alphabet mystery series.

Books on President Garfield and the Gilded Age. Also how many books can you check out when you first get your card?

The lady monopolizing the public phone is wearing only slippers on her feet, no real shoes.

Books on Reconstruction, for the Garfield girl.

A patron stops by the desk just to tell me how neat our new hand dryers are. But then he launches into waaay too much information about his personal life. The job search doesn’t stop just because it’s the weekend, you know…I saw Godsmack live once, they were great…I’m a metalhead, that’s part of why I can’t get a girlfriend and don’t really want one right now…

Put all five Godsmack CDs on hold for the TMI guy.

I can’t get onto my college mathlab website. Are you from Our Local Community College? Yes. I have some bad news….

I need books on child development. I get worried that this means textbooks but she actually wants parenting books.

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

Can you tell me where Fifty Shades of Grey would be? Yes, but I can also tell you that we don’t have it in.

Where is [name of library that is not in our system]? I’m sorry, can you tell me more about that? It’s one of yours. Well, here is a map of all the ones we have…

Lost wallet guy: Can I please have my library card number?

What computer is my reservation for?

Can you help me email these powerpoints to my friend?

Can you show me how to see the files on my flash drive? And do you close at 6:00 today?

Is this all the movies you have?

Coworker calls from the back: Where is other coworker?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I was a history major in college

The highlight of my day today was becoming inapproriately enthusiastic about a high-school (?) student's project comparing printed media and the internet. I found him a ton of information but I think I also made him kind of uncomfortable.

I give myself a 'B' for this reference interaction.


I kept a refgrunt log yesterday but it overwhelmingly consisted of me saying "no" to people. So I reorganized it to emphazise the theme. These are only the 'bad' nos. Sometimes people ask things like "do you have to pay for a library card?" and then I like to say no.
The Golden Calf by Helen Tursten—NO, not out in English yet (it’s a translation of Guldkalven, which came out in its original Swedish in 2004) but I can put in a request for the library to buy it once it does come out.

Can you check out books here? NO!

Big sister and little sister come up to the desk.
Big sister: “Come on, ask her.”
Little sister: [Looks at the ground]
Big sister: Do you want me to ask her?
Mom, intervening: NO!
Little sister: (whispering something to her mom)
Mom: Okay, just this one time. (To me) Do you have any Little Bill books?”
Do you have the movie Avatar?
The one with the blue people, right, not The Last Airbender?
Yeah, with the blue people.
NO! It's checked out.
The Nicest Man in the World calls to ask if the tax form instructions have come in yet. NO, they haven’t, and NO, I can’t tell him when they’ll get here, but he acts like it’s been great talking to me. “Well, let me say that you are just the best possible help I could have gotten.”

To an old man: NO, the tax forms still aren’t here.

To an old woman: NO, the tax forms still aren't here.
Hello! Is there a study area or a study room? I mean, I know it’s the library…NO! No study rooms!
Did anyone turn in a wallet? NO, sorry.
Do you have the movie The Lady Sings the Blues? NO, sorry, our only copy is lost.
Do you carry college textbooks? For the hundredth time, NO!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why a library degree could never prepare you for this

Evidence from my library suggests that degrees more useful to public librarianship than an MLS include:
1. Social work
2. Psychology
3. Any sort of B.S. class in assertiveness or dealing with difficult people
4. A long conversation with a group of slacker high school students

Consider the following examples from just today.

A friend of mine told me they are contemplating cutting off the Shopping Lady. This is a woman who started calling the library within the last couple of weeks. She wants locations and other information about different businesses, and it is never just one--always at least three. We think she lives in the major city of which our suburb is an appendage. Whenever you refuse to keep helping her (for example if an actual city resident is actually standing there in the actual library waiting for help) she demands to speak to a supervisor, and if you put her on hold she hangs up and calls back. The boss of our library, who I don't think knows my name, is on first-name terms with this woman. Also, apparently someone made an agreement with her that she could have up to three questions per incident. My boss was later observed arguing with her about how many she had used up.

Someone vomited in the program room. Someone else then let the first someone use the taped-off public bathroom, which is taped off because it is under construction.

Two high school students need "creative nonfiction." When I ask them, can you tell me anything more about that, they say, no. Their only criteria is that there be two copies at our branch, because they need the books for school tomorrow. The secondary criteria is that the chosen piece of creative nonfiction be "kinda short." I got them Teacher Man by Frank McCreary. Too bad I will never know whether it was the kind of thing the teacher wanted.

A woman called from inside the library to complain that another man was disturbing her by talking too loudly on his cell phone. She did not identify herself, and when I went over to the teen area, where she said they were, it was silent.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No I'm not a notary, and no you CAN'T bring your lunch!

A typical afternoon:

Are you having trouble with the catalog? I am just trying to get back to it!

Is math tutoring full? Yes, sorry.

Consult with a coworker about a display we are working on together.

Do you have a notary? No, sorry. But I (i.e. my librarian coworker) can give you some suggestions about where to go.

Help with the printer.

More help with the printer.

Can you actually bring a lunch to the lunchtime book club?

Dysgraphia Guy: Can you give me one cent? I have nine but it costs ten to print.
Me: YES I will override the printer for you. But more importantly, I need to talk to you about speech and language pathology.

Coworker calls: The person with the bag of books is on hold, she wants to know if we can keep them for her until tomorrow morning. The person who originally dealt with her has left for the day so I make an arbitrary decision that we can.

Make a list for Dysgraphia guy of speech therapists in the area. (Thanks, Molly! You are the best.)

Gang of boys approach with grandpa. Oldest brother: “We need books appropriate to our lexile score.” Yikes. Fortunately they ‘can find them themselves’ if I can just tell them how to get on to a computer. Grandpa confides that he doesn’t know what a lexile score is either.

It turns out Lexile Grandpa’s card is from the pre-public computer era so he doesn’t have computer access. I get on that whole lexile score thing on my own computer and find Bunnicla for one of the boys. LG makes them shake my hand to say thank you.

Someone has every single Franklin book checked out. Every. Single. One.

Books about Egypt.

Accost a teenager who is standing in an empty patch of floor looking around in immense confusion.
Me: Can I help you?
Teenager: No, I’m just trying to print something from a computer here.
M: Oh, all right.
T: Am I supposed to be reserved or something?
M: Did you make a reservation?
T: No.
M: Well, do you have a library card?
T: Ohhhh…
M: Do you have some kind of ID with you?
T: Yeah, a driver’s license.
M: And do you live in [Our City]?
T: No….
M: Well then I’m sorry, but there’s not much I can do.
T: I went to [Local High School].
Me: Sorry.

Books on CD. Not exactly self-help. Just about LIFE.

If you had any DVDs for sale would they be up there? Yes.

What do computers do? (Homework assignment). Well, what do you use computers for, little girl? To play games…to look up words on Google…There you go, all set!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dewey Decimal merit badge

Today I was interviewed by a boy scout about the library! Some of his questions were:
-How has the library been affected by budget cuts, and how have you personally been affected?
-What can 'we' (boy scots, I guess) do to help the library with budget cuts?
-What are volunteer opportunites for young people at the library?

These are pretty easy questions. I tried to emphasize that the most important thing you can do to support the library is to use it--the more you visit the library, the more books and movies you check out, and the more classes and programs you come to, the more we can go to the people who control the purse strings and say 'hey, people are using this service, how about you fund it more fully?'

I thought this was an impressively 21st-century merit badge. I am not sure, but I suspect it was the Citizenship in the Community badge. If you think you can do better with a guess, check out for a full list of badges.

(I hope I don't get in trouble with the city PR people for giving an unauthorized 'interview.' Don't tell them what I told you.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today at the libray (Total craziness)

I have so far been on the desk for only two and a half hours. Here is a semi-random sampling of today. Total craziness.

Critique of Pure Reason. The edition currently in at our branch is part of a 'Great Books' series put out by my beloved Alma the 1950s. I say in an unjustified authoritative voice, "It's old, but it's put out by a very good university so you can be confident that the translation is pretty good."

Three copies of directions to the new location of the legal aid clinic that used to be here on Thursday nights, despite the fact that it stopped meeting here about four months ago and the TOTAL number of questions I have gotten about it in the intervening period is one.

On your wireless network I can get to every website except the library's.

Find me the book with the will form you found me months ago. I lost the photocopies of it I made. Then she leaves behind some other papers.

I absolutely cannot explain the concept of a 'temporary' drive on the computer that you can save to only for the duration of your computer session. Several approaches fail.

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King, you can't find it because it is in paperback, yes I know it is insane that paperbacks have a separate section (especially because this applies to fiction and to NOTHING ELSE), I am 100% with you on that.

How do I get on the internet? Twice. Not from people who meant, how do I get on a computer, but from people who were on desktops and didn't recognize the Internet Explorer icon.

The first incident since we got the scanner where Group A is taking full advantage of the 30 allowed minutes on the computer to which the scanner is attached and Group B came to the library exclusively to scan something. Fortunately all parties are good-humored and patient.

I can't get into this website, it is saying that I have the wrong password, can you help me? The answer to this question should be 'no,' except that 90% of the time you don't actually have to know the password to solve their problem because the problem is actually something else. In this case he was misreading the password the organization had assigned to him: That's a 'c,' sir, not an 'e.'

I am looking for Night but I don't know the author, and for Their Eyes Were Looking Up at God. They are "for tenth-graders"--that is, for school. I really hope she wanted Night by Elie Wiesel and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, because that's what she got.

I really, really can't log into the computer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Miscellaneous library craziness

Disclaimer: Don't read this post if you don't want to hear about things that are closely related to bodily functions.

1. As I was shifting some journals at the college library, I found two ancient used tissues wadded up and stuffed behind back issues of Nursing Magazine.
On a marginally related note: We put tattle tape (sets off detectors at the library doors if not desensitized at checkout) on the nursing and respiratory care journals only. Apparently they are the ones most likely to be stolen. This could make you think worse of nurses, but it is also worth considering the other alternative: journals from other genres are never stolen simply because they are never read at all.

2. Today one of the two computers at the main info desk at the public library was down. Since I didn't have anywhere else to be, I sat at the dead computer for half an hour and fielded about 6 questions. None of them required me to ask my computer-enabled colleague to look anything up.

3. The bathrooms at the public library are under construction so we have porta-potties outside by the entrance. Patrons have been coming in to complain that there is no toilet paper. Apparently kids have been stealing the paper and using it to, in the words of a coworker, 'TP city and private property.' Locks for the porta-potties have been ordered so we can lock them up at night. Well, I say 'we,' but this glamorous job actually falls to the Librarian in Charge at closing. Maybe I don't need an MLS after all.