Friday, October 09, 2009

Perhaps a librarian could help

Today was re-entry after a blissful few days off on quilting retreat. After several days of uninterrupted creative time, lovely friends, lots of laughter, all punctuated by regular delicious meals which I did not have to cook, there's always a bit of a thud returning to the reality of home. (Not that home isn't lovely, but landing back amid piles of laundry and catalogs and Work To Be Done and miscellaneous Things to Be Put Away is always a bit of a shock. You know, "Who ARE these people and how to they manage to make such a mess?!")

So, naturally, I took myself out to run errands. I dropped by the fabric store (not having had enough fabric time despite 12 hours per day of it over the last several days), and picked up some groceries, and visited the library to pick up some of the books they'd found for me.

One of my favorite things about my local library system, by the way, is that I can look things up online in the library's county-wide catalog, "request" them with the click of a button, and they magically appear on the "hold" shelf sometime later. It's like but without the
less fun result when the credit card bill comes.

I'm in and out of the library frequently, and I have come to the conclusion that people who become librarians do so because they like books more than they like people. (Excuse me if you are among the rare breed known as Friendly Librarians -- I don't see them often in my bibliographic forest.) Gradually, my extreme charm and sparkling wit are winning these reserved folk over -- some days I get a timid smile and on a really good day I'll get a compliment about my just-for-library-books basket.

Today, as the librarian was sliding my books past the magic magnetic thingie, she looked up with a broad smile. "Oh, I never read books, but I read THAT one and it was really good."

You got that? "I never read books." I replied that I was very glad to hear the book was worth reading, and we resumed our exchange in silence while I pondered how it was she came to choose her career.

This reminded me of an incident some years back with my favorite front-desk librarian, a slim blond woman with perpetually wispy hair and bright pink lipstick smeared crookedly across her lips.

She sighed as she started in processing the stack of novels I'd placed on the counter. "You read so many books! I wish I could find a good novel to read."

What does one say to that, standing in the middle of a library? "Well, what sort of things do you like?" I asked.

"I don't know how to find books about the things I like," she replied with a shrug, and then went on to tell me that she preferred to read the astrology columns in newspapers. I suggested that she search the online catalog for books about astrology, and threw out the name of an author who writes mysteries featuring astrological topics. She looked astonished at my cleverness. "I never thought of that!"

Of course, this was the same woman who announced once as she took my library card, "we have the same name!"

"Oh, you're Diane too?" I replied (brilliant, yes?)

"No, my name is Cynthia." Said brightly, as if perfectly logical.

For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to reply. "We're both goddesses!" she exclaimed.

Note to self: don't try to engage the librarians in conversation. It will only cause more furrowed brow lines of confusion, of which I have plenty already.


  1. Funny :-)
    maybe I should go to our library more often...

  2. LOL, as an out-of-work librarian (a library technician before) I found your encounters with librarians hilarious. Please disturb them more. They get paid really big bucks to sit and read the internet or do a bit of reference. I have worked in special libraries (the ones in businesses) and we work a whole lot more and get paid a whole lot less than those that work in the public libraries. Times are tough now and I am a glorifed typist at a real estate office. It's only a maternity leave and once it's up, I am gone (I hope back to a library.)

  3. What a funny post. You crack me up! So, what was the good book?

    I have a new favorite librarian: Bonnie. I was looking for a book for Claire and I didn't know the title, but I knew it was a series about talking owls. That was all I had to say, and Bonnie took me directly to the books on the shelf!

  4. Most of the people who work at the circulation desk are para-professionals, not actual librarians. (Librarians have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences.) As such, the folks at the circ desk are more along the lines of clerical workers. And the "flavors" of libraries differ. I work in a university library and some of the most well-read, engaging people on campus work at the circulation desk.

  5. My librarian friend who is head of circulation services at a university library says:

    "This is just sad. I am at the local public library a few times each week it seems. All of the librarians are friendly and mostly helpful. It is more common for para-professionals to be at a circulation desk in a public library than in an academic library. I read all the time. I don't have nearly enough time to read all that I want to! Most of the librarians I know do read quite a bit. It sounds like a pretty unusual situation in a library. Tell her to have faith that not all librarians are like that!"

  6. That's a shame, though our librarians in my local library are often too busy scanning books in and out and shelving books to talk to much. They are always friendly, helpful and knowledgeable though.

    You need a degree in the UK to be called a librarian so as a children's librarian in a junior school I am a bit of a fraud. But I have to read plenty of books for my job and I am interested that apparently 'real' librarians don't.

  7. OMG! That's SO funny!!

  8. Many of the people you encounter as you check books out or who you may chat with as they are shelving books are not actually Librarians but clerical folks, students or volunteers. I certainly believe that most Librarians are avid readers and will enthusiastically recommend and discuss almost any sort of book.

    That having been said I am so sorry that you have encountered unhelpful people who might need some training and encouragement in how to give good customer service! They are working in the Library and Librarians are ultimately responsible for the impression customers get in their buildings!

  9. This is quite funny. I often find the clerks who check out at my library in a frazzle. I consider it my job when i go to the library to engage with them and cheer them up. They are swamped now that the economy is struggling.

    Yes they have a job to do, but I can go a long way to not be a complaining patron but one who both enjoys reading and appreciates their humanity.