Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Do you have an occult section?"

This is something I get asked surprisingly often, more than once in those exact words. I'm surprised that's a thing the general public knows.

By the way,  the answer is yes. Of course we have an occult section.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Me: Why don't patrons come and ask for help sooner!? All of this confusion was so avoidable, if only they would talk to me!
Me: *spends twenty minutes at the grocery store looking for a nutritional supplement without asking anyone who works there a single question*

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Downtown patrons

"Hey lil' mama, can you tell me what website I would go to to see who a phone number belongs to?"


Grumpy librarians at the end of the work week, waiting for the library to be shut down so we can leave.

"I know I've been here all night and now it's two minutes before closing, but I want to check out all these books. And pay my fines. And renew my library card."

"It's 5:50 p.m., time for the lady who wants all the addresses to call. No, A as in AWFUL!"

"Why are the computers turned off? I need to print a thousand pages right now!"

"Katie, I can't get into Yahoo. Can't you tell me my password? Doesn't the library keep a list!?"

Friday, March 11, 2016

Things I will never get tired of at the public library

Big hulking dads with do-rags and tons of ear piercings who wear their sunglasses in the library reading picture books aloud to their kids and reminding them to use their "library voice."

Anyone showing anyone else how to use the 'card catalog.'

"You would not believe how long I have been looking for this book! Thank you so much!"

Correctly inferring the title of the book a mumbling kid is describing to me.

"I just wanted to tell you that I loved the book you recommended to me last week."

A security guard showing someone how to use the catalog or how to log on to the computer.

Someone with a Spanish-sounding accent having trouble asking me a question and being able to say, "Hablo un poco español, si es más fácil."

The expression on a patron's face when she is introduced to interlibrary loan for the first time.

"Oh wow, this library has everything!"

People asking "How much does it cost to borrow a book/DVD from the library?" and getting to reply, "It's free!"


Last night was a night of unusually good reference questions, prompted by the news media.

 Loud Background Noise Woman, who usually wants contact info for various organizations and famous people, described a U.S.A. Today article she had read that had included an unfamiliar word she meant to look up. Unfortunately, she lost the paper on which she had copied it down. However, from describing its context I could tell her that the word was "vitriol."

Another patron called asking for more information on a New York Times headline he read--was it true that evidence had come out suggesting that kidney transplants that were not a 'match' were still worthwhile? I looked into it and I think it is a Johns Hopkins study described here, which found that getting a mismatched kidney soon was better for patients in need than waiting a long period in the hopes of getting a matched kidney in the future. I was so excited that he brought the study to my attention that I said so, and we had a short, pleasant little exchange, which ended with me saying, "Thanks for calling, have a good night" and him replying "Hang on to your kidneys!" before he hung up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Library lending

A patron who I've seen around the guest computers before comes up to the desk.
Patron: 'Scuse me, I was wondering if I could use one of your scanners.
Me: Sure, do you have a library card?
Patron: No, I don't have one.
Me: That's fine, what about an ID?
Patron: No...
Me: Driver's license? Servicepoint? Nothing?
Patron: No. I'm waiting for it to come in the mail, but my temporary one is expired.
Me: Well, do you have the expired paper?
Patron: Nah, sorry.
Me: Sorry about this, it's just that if we can't check it out to you we're supposed to hold on to something important so you remember to bring it back.
Patron: What, like collateral?
Me (laughing a little): Well, yes, exactly.
Patron, proffering an Android smartphone: You can have my phone, will that work?

We got permission to make an exception for him and I got him set up on a computer with the scanner. We did not end up holding his phone hostage. (Add one more item to Rules I have Broken)...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bad news bear

A patron called to ask if I could check if Michael Moore's movie Where to Invade Next was showing this weekend at our local theater (Moore is a Flint native and has called for our governor's arrest over the water crisis there, so he's been getting a lot of media attention lately). I checked, and the movie was not showing, so I told the patron, "Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm afraid that according to the showings page on their website, they are not showing it this weekend." And, I am 95% confident, the patron replied: "That's okay, you're a good bear. Have a good night!"

Today's Other Duty As Assigned: Being a bear.

Emma the Rulebreaker

Big news, readers! I have been offered a job as a librarian at a medium-sized library in a nearby town. It is only part time, so I will be quitting my job at the college but keeping my job at the Downtown Library. During my interview, they asked: "Tell us about the last time you broke a rule for a patron." That was the moment I knew I was going to fit in.

Breaking rules is definitely good in some contexts, but sometimes rules are there for a reason. In celebration of my new job at what I'm just going to call the New Library, I present:

Some Patrons for whom I have Broken Rules
(Sometimes I regretted it, but sometimes I didn't)

There was a woman applying for subsidized housing who had been working on the online app with her boyfriend, using the boyfriend's card to log onto the computer. He left and took the card with him. When she was finished with the application, she couldn't get the confirmation from the printer, because the printer requires you to enter your library card number to release print jobs, and she couldn't get a hold of the boyfriend to get the number. Michigan law actually says it's illegal to use someone else's library card even with permission, so although I explained this for future reference, I used the staff print console to release her document. Worth it.

Any homeless person who brings his food into the library is safe around me, provided he doesn't eat by the computers.

When I first started working at the Downtown Library, I kept letting people borrow the historical directories of the city without holding their IDs for ransom, but more because I forgot to ask than as a principled violation of policy.

I answer more than three reference questions per phone call (our official limit) for Loud Background Noise Woman, because we all know she only gets the phone in her group home once a day. It's not like she can just call back half an hour later.

I let a group of blind patrons run their laptop cord across a walkway. Maybe not worth it because it turns out they were really rude to my colleague downstairs earlier.

Basically anyone who has even been in the middle of something related to a job application related, a court hearing, or a public assistance application when they start to run out of time on the 15-minute guest computers. One session a day? Sure, whatever, rules!

I let people sleep in the library all the time. See: homeless people eating in the library, above.

Lastly, I let a really angry woman who wasn't with children into the children's restroom, which is not only against our policy on its own, but also against our policy about exceptions, which goes something like, "If there are reasonable grounds to make an exception to a policy...blah blah blah...a patron being aggressive, upset, or angry is not reasonable grounds...". Pure spinelessness!

Overheard by the staff elevator...

... One security guard saying to another, "I think the incident report is just called 'Stinky'."

It's been quite the week at the library so far. Most, but not all, of the limited selection of tax forms the IRS has deigned to send us this year have come in, so every staff member has to have the conversation below roughly three times a day:
"Do you have tax forms?"
"Do you know which ones you need?"
"You know, the regular ones."
"Well, we have the federal 1040 forms, the state forms, and the city forms. We will also be getting a book of federal forms that you can photocopy."
"Okay, so are those the ones I need?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't tell you which forms you need. I am not a tax professional."

It's amazing how much people want you to tell them what to do. Today a man yelled at one of my nicest coworkers (who was already having a bad day) because she told him she couldn't tell him which brand of tires to buy.

Another patron stands way inside my personal space, asking me to look up pictures of famous religious buildings. When I tell him that I don't have time to look up the whole list but that I'd be happy to help him get logged on to a computer and teach him to do it himself, he said "Oh no, I don't do computers."

Where are your tax forms?

Three different people come up to tell me that they want to get on a computer. You can actually just get on one, you don't have to tell me anything.

Sir, can you please move your giant backpack away from the magazine rack? I think people might like to be able to see the magazines.

"If I want to print this file, do I just click 'open'? I need to copy some pages from the computer."

Three people all want change for the printer at the same time.

My coworker who had to deal with the rude tire guy sighs and says "My brain is officially mush." Both of us worked the closing shift yesterday and maybe didn't get as much sleep as would be ideal. It's hard to always provide service that is both friendly and effective. Sometimes I only have enough energy for one.

Patron of the week 3/3

I was helping this patron at a computer station, but I couldn't solve her problem quickly so I went back to the desk to do some research on my own computer. When I came back to tell her my findings, she asked, "And can I ask how you found that out?" I think I've never had someone ask me that. Good work, ma'am, you're patron of the week!