Librarian Throwdown

January 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 6 Comments

Last night I went to the library with Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?.  I’m glad we were together because she was witness to a peculiar transaction with a new librarian.

It was a brief stop on the way to videotape ourselves doing a team review of the Twilight series, which should hopefully appear next week.  I mention this because I was slightly dressed up, wearing a fluffy pink sweater, and it seems possible that might have played a role in what happened.  Maybe I managed to look like a ditz, I dunno.

Anyway.  I went up to the counter to check out a few books for some of the challenges I’m in: Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates, The Mill on the Floss, and Bowling Alone.  This is fairly typical of my tastes.  The librarian looked at my patron record and asked if I had turned in my overdue book.

That was the first red flag.  I’ll turn in a book one day late maybe once every six weeks or so.  When I do, I pay my 30 cent fine without complaint.  In the four years I’ve used this branch library, never once has a librarian asked me about an overdue book.  It’s also strange that it hadn’t already been checked in, since we’d been there 10 or 15 minutes and I’d set it on the check-in counter when we’d walked in.

I pulled out a dollar bill and offered to pay the fine.  The librarian told me I couldn’t pay it until the book was checked in – which I understand, but I got the impression he didn’t believe me when I told him I had turned it in a few minutes earlier.  “Fine,” I thought, “don’t rub it in.”  Then he asked me in a rather sarcastic tone if I had anything I wanted to renew.  Um, no!  My next book isn’t due for two days and I’ve already started it.  Sheesh.  What, you don’t think I can read a 400-page novel in three evenings?

I’m starting to think this guy is getting a little pissy, and I have no real idea why.  I am exceptionally polite and I’m on a chatty basis with most of the librarians in three branches.  I visited the branch near my old job after about a year’s absence, and the librarian on duty told me “we miss you around here.”  One of the gals at the branch closer to my new job actually invited me to a party at her house!  I don’t think it’s me that’s setting this guy off here.

The next thing he does is make a huge fuss about printing out the entire list of books I have checked out.  This is optional, people.  I am well aware that I have exactly 19 books checked out, which ones they are, and on what days they are due.  The limit is 30.  This printing out of the six-inch receipt is a little passive aggressive trick I’ve encountered once or twice before.  Look, just print the day’s transaction and save some paper!

Now, I understand that many library patrons are pretty useless when it comes to keeping track of their books.  I’ve been witness to many a pitiful scene wherein someone tries to escape paying a fine, usually under a dollar but sometimes the replacement cost of several lost books and videos.  I know quite well that people bring things back torn, stained, water damaged, and scratched beyond usability.  So I can cut a tired librarian some slack, and up to this point it’s entirely possible that my perception this librarian is scoffing at me is purely in my imagination.

Then he stacks up my three books, literally slapping the thin Joyce Carol Oates volume onto the top.

As we walk out, Trish asks, “Did he just totally slap that book down?”  All I can do is laugh.  Gee, New Librarian Dude, thanks for taking me down a peg in front of my friend!  You’re clearly right.  I check out too many books, and since one came back a day late you’re also clearly right that I’m out of control and can’t keep track of them all.  So-rry.

On the other hand, perhaps this is a new era, and the library is bringing in former Navy SEALs to handle all the lowlifes who tend to hang out there.



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  1. that’s an outrageous experience!

    (btw, my library lets us check out 100 books at a time! i haven’t, of course, but seriously?)

  2. Holy cow, what a crabbypants that guy was! We had one like that at the library when I lived in Connecticut. She was eleventy billion years old, looked like Jabba the Hutt, and she only spoke to snap at me. Once she yelled at me for trying to take four cookbooks out (that library had two entire shelf-sets dedicated to cookbooks, they must’ve owned over a thousand of them), screeching that it was the RULE that we could only take three books of a kind out!

    I mentioned that to another librarian and she laughed and said, “There’s no rule like that!” So yeah, maybe you just stumbled upon a crazy. I feel for you and the people who have to work with him!

  3. Perhaps he’s missing something uh, vital in his life. What a [murmuring].

  4. Some of my librarians are really chatty, but there are others, who I have been seeing regularly for a good couple of years, who just give you a hard time. Usually they reserve the hard time for my son. Occasionally I send my son in with my card to pick up my holds and they always seem to give him a hard time about any number of things – and he always seems to come out with that long list. Hello people! He’s a 10 year old boy, not a 37 year old woman!

  5. That’s funny – my dad used to send me to the store for cigarettes when I was 7, and I never got any flack for it.

  6. Obviously it was the pink sweater …

    I think that librarians get a bad name because of people like this guy. It’s just bad customer service. I do not like my book choices to be questioned, my inability to return books on time to be a source of friction ($0.30?!), or for me to have to feel defensive just checking out a book.

    I watch the librarians at our branch rudely speak to young adults with similar “authority” and to “exasperating” elderly patrons with an apparent tinge of impatience.

    I say, lay the smack down on him. TELL someone you had a less than positive experience. Or, if you have the guts (I don’t), tell HIM yourself!

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