Thursday, April 28, 2016


So, I know these two things don't seem related at first glance, but bear with me:

1. I feel strongly that libraries should have gender-neutral bathrooms.
2. Today I found a 750 ml bottle of peppermint Schnapps in the women's bathroom.

Somewhat ironically, the Downtown Library, which has a very liberal staff, has traditional men's and women's bathrooms, while Small Town Library, which is located in a pretty conservative community, instead has four single-user gender neutral bathrooms. I suspect this is not a deliberately progressive choice on the part of Small Town Library but rather the result of having a user base of parents with children young enough that their parents still have to go into the bathroom stalls with them.

Back to the Schnapps: It was a useful reminder that 90% of Downtown Library's crazy problems and incidents take place in bathrooms--the drug deals, the overdoses, the prostitution. This is because the rest of the library has security cameras, but you can't put a security camera in a bathroom.

As far as I'm concerned, the ethical superiority of gender neutral bathrooms is pretty self-evident. It shouldn't be the job of public institutions to make you declare a gender identity. It's just not our business, especially for a privacy-oriented institution like a public library. Unfortunately, this argument is never going to convince Downtown Library to spend the money to renovate the bathrooms. But, another argument might: How would it affect Downtown's problem behaviors if all of our bathrooms were single-user? Every time two people went into the bathroom at the same time, it would be a clear red flag. Yes, occasionally someone would go in with a kid or with someone else who wasn't capable of using the bathroom alone, but all of the people who go in to take drugs together or drink alcohol together or have sex would look very suspicious all of a sudden.

It would really be nice to have our rather un-progressive security guards start monitoring the cameras outside the bathroom for pairs of people going in together instead of making a big deal of "a male dressed as a female entering the women's restroom."

(My favorite coworker was on desk with me when we heard the statement above come over the walkie-talkied. Normally she always politely asks if I mind if she leaves the desk, but this time she just looked at me and said, "Sorry, gotta go downstairs, I think they're about to try to kick a transwoman out of the library for using the women's bathroom." With Laura intervening in the issue, I'm at least confident that "try" was the key word.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Password pain

Things you can't do without logging into a website, but that you should be able to do without logging into a website:
  1. Check the status of your state tax refund
  2. Apply for a job at Walmart
  3. Sign up for the summer reading program at the Downtown Library, starting this year!
Dear Library Bosses,

This afternoon, I helped a woman reset her password for a website by following the steps to generate an email that would be sent to her address with information on changing her password via an included link. As soon as the email was sent, she said, "Okay, so now I can enter my new password and it will work?" I had to explain that she had to go to her email inbox and see the new email first.

Do you really think this online summer reading idea is going to work? You know I love the internet, but I think this whole thing is getting a little out of hand.


Your concerned employee

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Different ways I have been addressed while on the reference desk:
"Lil' mama"

For the record, any of these are preferable to "Do you work here?" and also to patrons who just raise their hands or wordlessly gesture me over as though I am a waiter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Small Town Library is so white...

...that is has only a single book about basketball, yet it has 8 books about hockey. The single title about basketball is from 1996. I'm ordering a book that mentions Kobe Bryant, stat. 

Don't even get me started on the fishing section. You would not believe it.

Friday, April 15, 2016


This week's patron of the week was a good-humored hard of hearing guy in a motorized chair who just found out he is part Odawa Anishinaabe and met his half-brother for the first time! He asked me to please see if he had some books he could use to learn about his newly-discovered cultural heritage.

I found him some histories of the Odawa people, but I forgot to also suggest Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, a book by Professor of Ojibwe Anton Treur that I personally thought was excellent for ignorant white people like me (and, I fear, like our patron of the week).

I don't believe you

Things patrons have told me at this library that are probably not true:

"I'm going to open a bakery for diabetics. It will use sugar alcohol. That has no calories."

"I returned that yesterday."

"The people at legal aid told me to come here, and that you could find me the form for contesting a will in Michigan."

"My son read his book to the police department and they decided to buy 250 copies to give away to the youths so they would know not to make the same mistakes."

"I'm not a drug addict anymore, I'm on methadone."

"A meat packing plant is like a toy store for men. They just love them."

"If your computer would just let me go to the website, I could collect my fifty thousand dollars!"

"It took my money but then didn't give me my printouts."

"The streets aren't built right. They should be generating electricity from the vibrations. That would make them safer, too."

Thursday, April 7, 2016


I was reading a diversity-themed issue of Public Libraries magazine today, and came to the conclusion that the single invention that would be the most helpful to my job is a gender-neutral equivalent of "sir" and "ma'am." Well, either that or some kind of x-ray vision device that would enable me to magically tell if someone who is slumped over is 1) asleep, 2) passed out, or 3) actually just texting under the table.


 At the Small Town Library, a family is leaving storytime.
Mom: We're not going to play with the trains.
Toddler: Why?
Mom: Because every time we do that, you cry.
Toddler: Why aren't we going to play with the trains?
Mom: I don't know; why do you cry every time?
Toddler: Because it's time to play with the trains!

Both Small Town Library and Downtown Library have train tables. They often make emotions run high, but this is the first I've heard of someone who is brought to tears at every interaction.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools

Why play jokes when this is a regular day at your job?

A man who has a selfie of just him alone as the desktop background of his computer.

A man who argues with me that a print directory of Michigan nonprofit organizations "must exist" because there are so many of them. Then he answers his phone at the desk "I'm at the liberry. I didn't know if you were going to call me back."

People shouting in Arabic on the stairs.

Patron asks for government information we don't have. Coworker says, "It looks like they have those documents at the County Library down the street." Patron: "What!? This isn't County Library!? Then what is this place!?"

Over the walkie-talkie, we hear Barney the security guard say "I'm going to get a mini-skirt to match Bill's."

While I am using the public restroom, a voice form the next stall over says, "I am so sorry to bother you in this situation, but does the library sell tampons!? Anywhere!?" (I end up getting her one out of my purse.)

Are there stairs I can take up to the next floor, or do I have to take the elevator only?

Spot patron who cried when the printer's coin box spit our her ten dollar bills as quarters. She still makes me nervous.

You know those computer viruses that are popups that tell you your computer is infected and that you need to dial 1-800-555-SCAM for 'tech support' to fix it? One of those messages popped up on a patron's computer and I had to go interrupt her phone call with the scammers and convince her that they couldn't fix the computer and that she should hang up.

Someone has stolen Schedule B out of our book of reproducible tax forms.

Our oddest phone patron, Ms. Opp for short, calls, but she just wants to know--"Science Friday isn't on our local npr on Friday afternoons anymore! What happened to it?"

Excuse me, could you pleas help me find this book? The catalog said it was on the shelf but I couldn't see it.

On my way back from this, I hear a quiet howling. I have to interrupt a man who is listening to something on his phone with his headphones in. When I politely suggested that he might not have his headphones plugged in all the way, he just stared at me, so I said "I heard howling." "Oh, yeah, that's my ringtone." "Well, if you could silence it while you are in the library I would appreciate it."

The closing elevator doors don't automatically stop closing for a last minute passenger, but he forces his way into the elevator anyway as the doors try to squash him. The other man already waiting to descend looks awkwardly on.

Phone call from someone who wants the phone number for a local Mary Kay representative (what?). It's hard to talk to her because she keeps pressing buttons on the phone the whole time we're talking and it beeps and beeps.

"I'll just leave my backpack right here by your desk." No, you won't.

The 30 minutes warning comes on over the loudspeaker, announcing we close at 6 today. From the computer, I can hear someone go "Aww, man! I forgot it was Friday!"

Patron: Did you ever figure out why the library website won't open in Chrome?