Friday, March 3, 2017

So personal

One of the many things that my library 'science' education didn't prepare me for was how intimate a window I would get into other people's personal lives as a public librarian. It really demonstrates how much privacy is a luxury good. If you have a stable life, a good education, and your own computer with internet access, you don't have to deal with this stuff. But if not, well, here's a sample:

I helped a man on a computer for a long time to access a form he needed. When we got the form and went to print it off, he got the standard popup message warning him that he would need to pay 15 cents for his printout. He looked at me and said "Where am I supposed to get 15 cents?"

I have helped several different people photocopy their divorce papers and other court documents (Downtown Library is a few blocks down the street from the county courthouse).

Patron accounts in our computer system have various notes in them--usually insignificant things like "Replaced lost card 4/2016" or "Patron returned X-Men II DVD case without the disc. Called and left message 3/8/14." Not anything embarrassing. Today I pulled up someone's account to check whether any holds had arrived for her and got a popup message "[Patron] has a caretaker, Sally. Phone number on account is Sally's."

A patron needed my help printing off a letter of recommendation for someone. The letter mainly focused on how long he'd been sober and how he was a different, more responsible man now.

A man who wasn't good with the keyboard and couldn't see too well wanted me to type his social security number into a website for him.

I wish our next staff day would have a priest and a doctor come talk to us about how to be a good recipient of people's most intimate information.


  1. I'm sure you are already an excellent recipient of people's private info. Signed, Oregon ref librarian.

  2. Do your patrons seem to care? I can't tell if most of ours do.

    1. They almost never seem to care! That's one of the things I find disturbing.

    2. I suppose they gave up on their privacy a long time ago

  3. Not to mention the countless USB drives left in the computer with SSNs, birth dates, addresses, and lots of other personal info. It's obvious that your patrons know you care about them, and trust you completely. Kudos for making them feel that comfortable in the library!