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.