Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A bad sign

Here is what Google suggested when I went to search for Library Lost & Found, a blog about leadership and management in libraries that I occasionally read:

I don't feel too good about result #3 making it so high up on the list.

By the way, if any librarian readers can suggest good sources for being successful in your first library job, I'd love to see them in the comments.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Not a very intimidating gang

We got new tables on the second floor of Downtown Library recently, and they just acquired their first significant piece of graffiti. It says "PURPLE SQUID" in inch-high letters. I like the absurdity of that handle, but frankly, I think we could have done better.

Librarian/Flight Attendant

An unusually busy morning at Downtown Library. First a grateful and polite but very needy lady who has no computer confidence and needs to fill out a form, then one of my favorite ESL patrons, who says "I am so happy because everyone he is so helpful to me!", then an alarming call from a patron who wants the numbers for both www.shortdwarf.com and a local mental health helpline, then a call from Ms. Opp, who wants information about how to emigrate to Canada.

After that I go shush a woman who is talking too loudly on her cell phone. Actually, I don't even have to say anything, as soon as she sees me approach, she says to me "Oh, I'm sorry, honey, I'm too loud, aren't I?" and then says to her caller "Sorry, I gotta use my inside voice."

Patron who came up to the desk to ask a question, after I answered the question: Oh...also..is there a button I can press if I have a question, or do I have to come up here?
She wanted to know if she could press a button at her computer station indicating that she needed help, and the button would alert us and call us over, like a flight attendant call button. Sorry, that's, (say it with me now) not a service we provide!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Staff picks

At Downtown Library we have a large display stand featuring nonfiction titles selected by staff as favorites. It's one of my pet displays and I am always over there adjusting things for optimum aesthetics. Today I noticed:
  1. Someone who doesn't have a library card is clearly reading one of my staff picks (Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusade by Jonathan Phillips), because it keeps disappearing from the shelf and then reappearing, still with "Emma Recommends" bookmark in it (I wonder if the reader is using it as a literal bookmark).
  2. Someone has added a note saying "Good recommendation" to the "Ann Recommends" bookmark in one of my colleague's picks.
  3. A book I put out 10 minutes ago is already gone! Yesssss!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wacky Wednesday refgrunt

First patron in the door: Is the copier on?

There is one voicemail from while we were closed, but it is either a pocket dial or the worst-quality connection I have ever experienced.

Can I please use a computer?

Oh, but the printer server is down. Call upstairs to IT and beg them to reboot it.

Circ clerk approaches with picture of the assailant from last week's assault: Can you put this somewhere visible but not too obvious? He threatened to come back today. If you see him, call the police.

Patron who asked about the copier is copying the crossword puzzle from the New York Times, asks for help and if he has to go upstairs to do the same thing with The Wall Street Journal.

Woman at computer: Excuse me!...Never mind, I got it.

Eccentric older man and non-eccentric (or at least, not visibly) younger man come un and ask to use a meeting room. The older man fills out the application, but stops to answer his cell phone when it rings (so much for "please silence your ringer in the library") and then rudely stands in front of the desk and talks so that no other patrons can approach, until I make him leave. He leaves his stuff on the desk and when I indicate to him that he has to move it too, he rudely gestures to the younger guy and the younger guy sheepishly moves it.

Woman at computer: Excuse me! What's going on with this website?
Me: I'm sorry, it looks like the page has crashed.
Woman: Well, can you un-crash it!?

A few minutes later she comes over to me at the desk: Gimme the number for the Italian National Guard.
First she is mad when I tell her there is no such thing, then she is mad when we agree to substitute to Italian National Police because I tell her the person who answers the phone won't necessarily speak English. "Can't you give me the English one?"

Then she wants the Hawaii National Guard instead.

Man at copier (different from first copier guy): Paper clip?
5 seconds later: Staple remover?
5 seconds later: Stapler? Sorry, you must hate me.

Copier Man, like many of the patrons who come in just to use the copier, has come from the courthouse down the street (where they charge two dollars a page to make copies!) and starts telling me about all his crazy legal problems and family drama. I've made a game of deciding in each of these cases who I think should win, and for once I take the patron's side on my imaginary jury. He actually seems like a nice, pretty sane guy, just stressed out.

See a regularly unpleasant patron who was banned for a month for watching porn on library computers enter the lobby. His ban is over, though, so there's nothing I can do.

What do you gotta do to get on a computer?

Weed The Idiot's Guide to Cigars and Majestic Mule Deer from the nonfiction collection.

Read an article about security in libraries and cringe over a story of a guard telling a woman that she either had to take off her hijab or leave the building (up there with the gender policing that our security guards just can't seem to stop) but turn a little green with envy over another story of a library which had such a close relationship wit the police that when the police were short of space, the library lend them an office, and in return they set up a small children's museum in the room next door.

Patron just walking in the door: Wow, it's peaceful in here.
Today, anyway, sir.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Patron of the week (maybe)

Today a man was assaulted and choked by one of the participants in Wednesday's almost-fight. After the police came and took his statement I thought he had left, but he and his friend came back to the desk to ask "Can you tell me how I'd find a book on pre-calculus?"

I'm not sure if this is really stupid or if this man is the patron of the week.

Also, about an hour after the cops left, and after my colleague and I had put back all the chairs and tables knocked over in the fight and reassured Janis that everything was okay, I got a phone reference call from a woman who had a lot of questions about a company that makes car wheels and its long history of mergers and name changes and everything (we get more of this than many libraries since this is Michigan). When I had told her most of what she wanted to know, she said "Thank you so much! You were sooo helpful! You really made my day! If I could give you a raise, I would!" Also, I soothed the computer-complaint woman without the other complainer getting mad about her noise level again! Maybe the fight gave him some perspective (he did not complain about the noise that the fight, or the police interviews in the aftermath, had made).

This job can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster some days.

Another level

Today, a patron called me over to complain...about the volume level of a different patron who was complaining to my coworker about the library computers. "I can't concentrate with her talking like that! Isn't this supposed to be a library!?" I really wanted to ask him if he thought she'd get quieter if I shushed her or asked her to calm down, but I refrained.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Can we take the alligator?"

An adorable small girl used this sentence to ask her mom for permission to ride the elevator up to the third floor of Small Town Library.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Two fights in one afternoon

This afternoon I'm on the desk at Downtown Library with a friend/coworker who is currently on crutches, so when we heard raised voices back in the 600s I went back to investigate while she called the security guard. I as relieved to see that everyone was sitting down, but as soon as I came in sight a short man said, "Ma'am, can you call security? This man won't leave me alone and keeps trying to touch my computer! I only said one thing to him!" A taller man was sitting in the chair next to him. I assured the first guy that the security guard was on his way and went to see if that was actually the case. I didn't see Seamus the boss of security, so I went back, figuring that I might be able to do something to keep the guys calm or at least be witness if anything happened. Unfortunately, when I came back, the tall guy was getting in the short guy's personal space and they'd started exchanging insults. The tall guy got up to walk away, but called the short guy a bitch as he did so, prompting the short guy to get up as though he were going to fight him, and they started doing the 'shadow shove' at each other, the way people often do before actually laying hands on one another in a fight.

At that point Seamus showed up and got the tall guy to leave relatively calmly. I went back to my desk, and Seamus went back to the 600s section, I assumed to talk to the man with the computer. Imagine my surprise when he came back with a different, even angrier man, who was shouting expletives and insults at him. Seamus put his hand on the guy's shoulder to steer him out, at which point the man got (somewhat justifiably, I think) way more upset, "Don't you lay your hands on me! You ain't got no right! You're just a rent-a-cop, not the police!" Then he splashed half a bottle of pop onto him and onto the floor of the library.

So, I witnessed two altercations within half an hour. The first one was less severe in outcome, but bothered me more because I was more involved in it. I realized I had no clue what I would do if the two men started fighting. Get between them? Shout at them to stop? Call 911? Stand there paralyzed with confusion because I have no plan for this situation? Probably the last one, which is sub-optimal. On the one hand, it's not in my job description to put myself at physical risk to stop fights in the library. My employer not only doesn't expect me to, their lawyer would probably be alarmed if I did. On the other hand, I still sort of feel like I should be getting actively involved, because violence isn't the answer, etc., and I don't think either of those men would have deliberately hurt a young woman who didn't do anything to offend them and was just trying to separate them.

Anyone else experience a fight at their workplace? How did you handle it, or wish you had handled it?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Small Town Library Refgrunt

Shift starts with 2 out of the public printer's 4 cartridges having to be changed, which I have never done before. The poor man's document is only in black and white, but the printer won't print until I replace the magenta cartridge. Although this is the first time I've changed the cartridges on this particular printer, that's not why my hands are covered in ink. Somehow that happens no matter how many times I practice. The man who wanted to print says. "I only came here because my home printer just broke!"

Realize the desk chair is covered in pet hair as usual. I've got to start keeping a lint roller here.

Can I pay you for printer paper? I mean, um...
Do you need to put money on your card so you can print?
I can't help you, but the ladies at the checkout desk can.

Liz at circ: We need to have a meeting. The man who requested How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time is coming in to pick it up this afternoon. You must not laugh. You must keep a straight face! Maybe we can cover it in brown paper? With just a window for the barcode?
Other circ staff member: The window should be translucent black lace.

Phone call: Can I put To Kill A Mockingbird on hold? My daughter needs it for school. I know you might not have time to pull it, but I'm sending my husband to come pick it up this evening and you know what men can be like. Oh, also, all the versions are the same, right?

Dawn at circ and I put the other two printer cartridges for the two colors about to run out on a shelf behind the desk so we can grab them right away when the printer makes us, but long-timer Ethel sees them and says, "You'd better take those back upstairs. They take inventory often and it will cause confusion." Dawn removes them from the shelf where several other spare cartridges for other printers are sitting, takes a deep breath and says to herself, "Just follow the rules. Don't ask questions, it's better for you."

The Friends of the Library are having their Spring book sale this weekend and one of the volunteers is carrying an endless succession of folding tables into the building. I feel bad seeing her go by 3 of 4 times while I sit chatting with Dawn about her dog.

Cool older lady: Can you see if by chance anyone has returned the movie War Room? I've been trying to get my hands on it forever but it's always checked out, and I just have a temporary card so I can't put it on hold. It wasn't like that last summer, I don't know what happened.
Me: I'm sorry, both copies are checked out right now! I think what happened is that last fall we joined a consortium, which has a lot of good sides but unfortunately means we have to follow some rules we might not have chosen on our own.
Cool older lady: Oh, I understand. I was a librarian for five years!
And she goes on to tell me about her experience driving the bookmobile and being a one-woman library staff! 

Cool older lady: I was just telling Liz how exciting that book was! Lisa Scottoline. Actually, is it 'scot-oh-line' or 'scot-oh-leeni'? I've always said scot-oh-line, but I'm thinking maybe I'm wrong."
The author's website's FAQ page says that her name rhymes with 'fettuccine,' so the patron is right! (I was also pronouncing it 'scot-oh-line' and I hope I am successfully able to internalize this new knowledge.)

How do I turn on the scanner?

Monday, May 9, 2016

A nice granduncle

This week's patron of the week is a man who approached the desk to say, "I have a question for you that you've probably never had before. My brother's daughter's step-daughter is graduating this year and I want to send her a card. How can I find out what my relationship is with her?" I.e., he wanted to sign the card "Love, Your [Relative] Bob," but didn't know what to fill in "[Relative]" with. A check of Merriam Webster for my hypothesis of "great uncle" led to the discovery that step-"granduncle" is technically correct.

Anyway, we had fun.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dog (or cat) lover?

Phone caller: Hey, honey, can you tell me if Small Town has a Humane Society or animal shelter? I messed up my computer.
Me: Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that! Let me check...Okay, it looks like we don't have our own, but there is a county Humane Society in Next Town Over."
Patron: Okay, I know about that one. Thank you so much for taking out the time to find that out for me!
Me: No trouble! I'm glad we could help, thank you for calling.
Patron: You sound like such a nice person! Have an excellent....life!
Me: Thank you, you too!

Monday, May 2, 2016


Best moment at Small Town Library so far: Seeing someone check out a book that I chose and ordered for the library's collection!

Unsurprisingly, the patron was a small elderly man in hat. Old Man Fan Club forever!