Librarian Friend OR Librarian Liability?

I have a lot of problems with things, rules, structures, hierarchies, authorities, etc. It’s not that I’m an anarchist or anything, there needs to be some sort of organizing factor to people, some baseline stuff so we don’t just rape plunder and pillage like the days of the pirates. But sometimes in libraries or more generally in life these rules/policies/structures don’t make sense to me, so I step around them. Why? Because I can, and because I think that helping people connect with the information they need to better themselves is my first priority here at the library. Connecting with people and helping them better themselves, in general, seems like an awfully sound purpose in life overall. The city government I work for may not think so, they have bigger interest in mind, themselves and their liabilities, etc. The eternal clashing of humanity vs. law suits vs. government vs. corporate interest, I feel this SO MUCH these days.

Today a very polite young man approached me rather shyly at the ref desk and asked if we give all kinds of information, not just about books. I said, sure, try me. He asked me if emancipated minors were able to get their Driver’s License. I said it was a good question, and we found the info on the DMV website on what he needed to have in order to get a license under 18 w/o the parental consent.

I dug a little deeper here to make sure everything was OK, like the stuff at home wasn’t getting too dark. He opened up a little bit, about his parents not allowing him certain freedoms, him paying them for things and not getting them, etc. Another case of teenage angst, so familiar.

Either way this boy was in a pickle. He needed to go online to search for and apply to jobs. Something that would be able to move him forward in life, problem is, he had a juvenile card that didn’t have internet access and the only way to add it would be through his parents, who he currently wasn’t getting along with. I thought for him, can you go to your schools library? YES, but its summer and he isn’t back until end of August. Sometimes academic libraries have free internet access, but he doesn’t have a car or a way to get around easily. Dang.

So, for today, I logged him into the computer using my card and let him search for jobs online. Was this against “policy”? Yes. Could I get fired for this? Um, maybe? (More likely a good write up, gee I hope my bosses don’t read this blog)  But do I stand by my choice? Yes. We make judgment calls every day here at the public, it’s all very situational to me. This kid had nobody to talk to about what he was going through and no way to access the tools he needed. I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be doing it, and that others would probably not let him, but he should try to make friends and see if they would too. I told him that life is all about having friends, and these friends will get you through the hard times when you feel like you are struggling and feel blocked in or trapped. I wanted to be a friend to him. I suppose I did give him some advice as well, about the fact that he was 16, so two years wasn’t too far away and that he was almost there anyways, and then some tips on where to look for jobs.

I was able to help him out today, at least in a very minor way. He left me a copy of his resume, and I’ll see if there is any place I could think of that may be good for him to apply. What really got me at the end was the note he left me. It reminded me why I stick my neck out to help people help themselves when they are in honest need of it, and why I will never stop doing so.

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Now, I do think that he has a lot to learn and some of that may come the hard way if he does go the emancipation route. I don’t think we will be roommates (that was adorbs), BUT sometimes it really can feel like you can’t find a friend, and man is that a feeling I know all too well. It’s a big world out there full of no and can’t and won’t and sorry I’d like to… but. It can make you feel really small.

How is this relevant to my life this week? Well, I ran into an instance where I asked my supervisor at the city for a reference for a job application. She denied it, saying she had to forward the request to HR and they would give a letter only stating that I was employed there and my dates of employment, nothing to the effect of my character. Basically, meaning that now my app would be incomplete, so I’ll have to explain myself on that one and find another reference. I’m very naive about these kind of things, I thought the point WAS to get references from your supervisors, but “city policy” won’t allow it? What if this were my only job, how else would I be able to get references to apply anywhere else? Well, it’s also up to the individual, she could have answered the email and nobody would have known, but I guess it just wasn’t worth it to her and I suppose. Which, again is fine, some people are policy followers and these kinds of things make sense to them.

I talk with my trusted friends here, and they tell me they have all been there before, it’s not news to them. I just wish we could change from a culture of being so afraid of one another and being so worried about covering our own behinds, to one that goes out of our way to help one another and not always assumes the worst. It just feels like butting up against a rock and a hard place in terms of change, but maybe slowly it will happen.

Sorry, not sorry…

I have had two co-workers in the last week tell me that they are thinking of going to grad school to get an MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) degree so they can pursue librarianship. Many people are surprised this degree even exists, but if you want to be a librarian pretty much anywhere in the United States you eventually will end up needing to get this degree. It’s one of the standard minimum requirements for a lot of places, but not all, especially the more private or special interest libraries or museums.

My two co-workers are very different people with very different interests, but the degree seems to fit well for both of them. One works at the public library, she focuses on children’s services, and the other works at the University mainly focusing on tech services. My advice to both of them… GO for it.

When I first decided to go to grad school about 7 years ago, it was a big decision. I didn’t know anybody who had been to grad school before; I had never even so much as volunteered in a library, so I wasn’t sure if it was a good investment. I didn’t get in my first year, since I applied late, but got in the next year for fall 2011. It seemed to start out well; I felt a bit underachiever-y compared to my classmates, some of which already had successful careers in libraries, with blogs and volunteer projects. All I had done up until then was work in a totally unrelated field of real estate investment and stone shipping. In 2012, after my first full year of the program Forbes magazine released their annual list of the worst master’s degrees. Guess what #1 was??  Yep, the MLIS. In fact, even last year in 2016 Forbes still thinks that it’s in the top 5, rounding out at #4. So, am I sorry I chose this route? Nope, not one bit, not at all. If I were to listen to Forbes I would be somewhere getting a degree in statistics and being miserable. It’s just not me even if it appears to be profitable.

2012 Forbes list here

2016 Forbes list here

It seems that the things that I love in life most won’t make me any money (according to these list and most people I talk to). The MLIS rounds out at 4 and creative writing at 12. But you know ,even though it can seem bleak at times; I wouldn’t trade pursuing my interests and the things I love for a bigger paycheck, or for something that seems more “secure”. Everybody is different, some people don’t find fulfillment through their careers, and they choose to just work to get money and support families, and find joy other places in life. Which also works, but when I hear that a student here is pursuing a particular degree just so they can make money, it just makes me a little sad.

So where am I going with all this? Well, number one; always follow your dreams people!  Two, as I’m having this conversation with my co-worker at the public I look up at the new bookshelf directly in front of me and find a book titled: This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries and Access to Information by Kyle Cassidy.

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It’s a collection of pictures of actual librarians from all walks of life across the United States talking about why they got into librarianship and why they love it. It also includes excerpts about libraries by authors such as Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin. Obviously, as somebody who shares a passion for libraries it was great to read what like-minded professionals like myself had to say in defense of our libraries and how they affect the communities that they serve, so I get it, but if you are one of those people who doesn’t understand why libraries exist then maybe it could shine some light on it for you.

A while back I applied with the California Department of Corrections with the thought that maybe I would like to be a librarian in a correctional facility. After talking with some people in my life and researching online I don’t know if it’s a path I am interested in any longer, but something about being a librarian makes you want to help out those that need it most. There’s a Correctional Facility Librarian from Colorado named Sam Leif that put it into words that really touched me the most, he said:

“Libraries can help stop a generational cycle of abuse, victimization, or anger. They can rehabilitate, help people grow and change in life.” (p. 112)

One thing that I’ve noticed in this profession is since we don’t generate revenue we are constantly keeping stats on how many questions we answer. We need to generate reports that remind people that we are still relevant and to fund us (pleeeassseeeee??). As much as we have proof on paper in the form of tick marks or computer generated data from online sheets I think that our biggest success stories can be in the form of the lives we change and opportunities that we can provide for people who otherwise might not have had a chance.

Can you think of any ways that a library has changed your life, influenced you positively, or just gave you a place to hang out for a little away from it all?

 

Cassidy, K. (2017). This is what a librarian looks like: a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information. New York:  Black Dog.

Re-branding or Evolution?

Like everybody else in the known universe right now I am watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I read the book (actually reviewed it here) about a year ago and thought it was great, so I was really excited to check out what they did with the series. I won’t laundry list the differences between the book and series, (most of which I don’t agree with but hey, that’s what Hollywood does) except one that really kind of got to me on a personal level.

I just watched the episode where Hannah joins the poetry group at the local library. How does she find out about this poetry group? Well, a young, hipster, male librarian wearing a scarf in her school’s gymnasium tells her about it. What? He wasn’t anywhere in the book? Anyhow, he gives this speech about how people stereotype librarians to be these small, gray haired old ladies and that it’s not really how it is anymore, that the profession was “re-branding” itself.

My first instinct was to get annoyed. Very annoyed, but only because it hit so close to home. Maybe it’s one of those things where you buy a blue car and start seeing blue cars everywhere but I have been seeing a lot more of librarians mentioned in the media. First of all that weird show where they time travel what the heck is that all about? Then there was some crack about librarians and the way they look when I was watching season 2 of crazy ex-girlfriend, and now this. The more I thought about it though, the less annoyed I actually got, realizing that I did in fact fit quite well into this new “re-branded” type of librarian.

The use of the word “re-branding” is actually where I felt the rub, it’s such a big term used in business , and I don’t like the thought of being part of a brand or contributing to one. If you do a quick google of library AND re-branding you are going to get quite a bit of info, it appears to be a hot topic these days. The way I feel about it all is that libraries should be anti-corporate and independent of politics such as making money, or selling themselves. I know that patrons are the reason that we get funded, I get that we should be offering more technological services and provide the public (or students) with further reaching services but don’t call it re-branding, call it evolving. We aren’t selling ourselves, we are adapting and expanding to public needs in order to serve our communities and patron bases.

That’s only addressing the library, not the librarians themselves. Now it seems we have jumped from one stereotype of the library worker to another. One of a grey and aging woman behind the reference desk filing and shushing people to one where a hip young person dashes around the library brimming with poetic fervor while being tech savvy and fashion forward all at the same time. It’s not a bad thing, but again, I feel it’s more of a natural evolution in terms of what kind of personalities are drawn to working in libraries. What are the goals, aspirations and strengths of this new generation of librarians and how can they bring these skills to the table to help serve their patrons? Well, it’s just a natural transition if you think about it, old ways phasing out to be more in tune with the new. It’s not that one generation is better than the previous, it’s just that things have changed and change is constant, especially with technology being so heavily relied on as a part of our everyday lives. I work with many different generations of librarians at both jobs, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses in the field which allow us to learn from one another and grow together as a team towards a common goal. I love those white haired older ladies that were doing this before there was even the internet, and I love my 20 something’s in the makerspaces who I swear have brains that are half computer. We are diverse crowd serving a diverse crowd, and I like it that way, without grouping us all into a “brand”.

In my short searching around I found a movie that we have streaming through the U called: The Hollywood Librarian: A look at Librarians through film. I have a plan to watch it this week, and I’ll give my review sometime soon. It’s from 2009, a bit older than I’d like, but I’m sure still has some pretty interesting insight.

Back in the library saddle..

I’m back from vacation!!! YES. It was wonderful and relaxing and everything that I hoped it would be. 9 whole days away from, well, library patrons. I was thinking before I left about the fact that I spent probably 70% of my waking life in libraries these days, it was nice to get back to nature and get away.

I will mention that I only visited TWO libraries on this trip. Monterey Public and Berkeley Public (I would have went to UC Berkeley’s but it was Easter Sunday and it was closed). They were both pretty cool, but the highlight was definitely Berkeley’s 5th floor, the music and art floor, where they had a large and well-conditioned vinyl collection that you could check out. YES, that you could check out. I had never seen that before, so it was a cool sight. As a plus we missed the civil disturbance up there by a day, there were still some trouble makers in the park downtown wearing all black and hoods and waiting for somebody to start something, but nobody did. We got some sour beers, and Ike’s love and sandwiches and were on our way unscathed.

It’s my second day back to reality, and I started my week here at the public. Having a fresh start has made me ultimately less impatient with people and things, which is good. Right now I’m in the tech center, observing the two bodies that are in here while I type away. Uneventful is good, right? In the public sector, yes, I would have to say so.

There are a couple of things I promised myself I would do after I got back from this trip. One of them was that I need to spend more time out in nature. I spent a day in Yosemite and it was so amazing that it literally brought me to tears. I wept just looking at the rivers, falls, and mountains. I also got a breathtaking cottage out in the forest where I just got to sit and hang out with the trees and frogs and bears (the latter of which I never did actually see). Then as a last stop, Lake Tahoe. That blue green water, pine trees that stretch up to the sky, and 5 foot snowbanks left on the street where our cabin was. It was a rough winter up there, but they really needed it. In a promise to myself to stay more in tune with nature in the middle of a city, I bought an annual pass to the botanic gardens up the street from my house. It’s not quite the move to the remote log cabin in the forest I’ve been dreaming of, but it’s a start.

Here’s the best panorama I took at Emerald Bay:

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I did return from my trip with a minor disappointment today. Some poems I sent out to get published were, gratefully and kindly deemed “not fit” for the publication. The road of writing I’m sure is paved with all sorts of rejections and try agains, and thanks but no thanks. It’s a building process I know it, but today it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would (I can actually FEEL my skin getting thicker). This is such a good thing, as I didn’t really know what to expect as a first try. It feels good that one small no isn’t the end of my world. I get kind of caught up in the rejections I butt up against, you know, job searching, relationships, friendships, etc. The fact of the matter is that these happen to everybody, we all have these walls to climb over and well sometimes you just don’t make it and there really is nothing else to do but try. Especially when it’s for a good cause, AKA something you love to do. Maybe everybody already realized this and I’m just last to the party. Anyhow, glad to be back, and working again. Let’s see what kind of library craziness comes my way this month. Finals are coming up, and we always seem to get some stories around here with the crowded study tables and all-nighters at the U. As I type this a drunk patron (one of my regulars in the tech center) walked in and asked me how to spell Mormon, he is yelling as he doesn’t have good hearing, he types the spelling into a text on his flip phone, then leaves my desk to sit down and log into the computer in the front row. Now, we will have to do the 30 minute long song and dance where he can’t remember his yahoo password for the 1,243rd time. But, he means well bless his soul, and we’ve been here before. Wish me luck.

Study Room Blues

Today I’m left in tech for another hour, and I can’t do any more cataloging so… What left to do but blog really? I haven’t done a blog from the public sphere in while so here goes.

It’s been a zoo over here lately. A freaking zoo. I mean it always is, but even more so. It’s like one of those things where you ask yourself is there any way I could be any busier? Then somebody throws another ball into your juggling routine and you really are trying not to die, and still juggling and somehow not dying or dropping the balls but knowing it just a matter of time until you just can’t handle it anymore….

Who ever said libraries aren’t busy places? Two phone lines ringing constantly, a line of people wanting to make passport appointments, looking for books, etc. Trying to build new things and start new programs all being understaffed and stretching everybody so paper thin. It’s a lot, and mainly why I haven’t been blogging from here too often. Just no time, when I leave here I’m brain dead from constant question fielding.

One of the main questions we get often is about our study rooms. Like most libraries we have several quiet study rooms where people can come and reserve them for up to two hours per group per day. You can call and reserve them only a day in advance no sooner, and you can’t try to be cute and say you are just going to use another group member’s card and get more time. These freaking rooms book up like hotcakes. I work Monday morning right when we open and I literally answer about 4 messages and 10 calls only about study rooms, and that’s only in the first hour. There is never enough room or time and nobody can believe it when they just can’t get the reservation they want. It’s crazy. Some people get it, but some also don’t. I’ve had many a conversation that goes like this:

Them:

I would like to reserve a study room today please at 3:30-5:00 for 4 people

Me:

We don’t have anything open at that time, we have something from 2:30-3:30 if you want to come earlier, or openings again after 6.

Them:

Oh I’m looking for something from 3:30-5:00 for four people.

Me:

Yes I understand, we don’t have any room available at that time. Again, we do have some earlier and later as I mentioned but nothing from 3:30-5:00.

Them:

So you don’t have anything from 3:30 to 5:00.

Me:

We don’t have anything available at that time.

Them:

What about the Rowling room, is that open at 3:30?

Me:

We don’t have anything available at that time.

Them:

What about the big room, with the windows?

Me:

We don’t have anything available at that time.

Them:

(long pause) Oh, ok thank you then.

Me:

(Wanting to slam the phone down because I have to say the same thing over and over and we don’t have anything at that time! Stop wasting my time and your time and listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth, ahhhhhhhhhh)

You’re welcome have a nice day.

**Repeat multiple times a day**

Or you get those sneaky ones who think they can have extra time and that you can’t add numbers.

Them:

Ok give me the Rowling room from 5:30-8:00

Me:

It’s a two hour maximum, so I can do 5:30-7:30

Them:

Yes I want the whole time 5:30 to 8:00

Me:

Ok it’s a two hour max, so I can only book you until 7:30

Them:

I want the room until 8

Me:

It’s a two hour maximum so 7:30 is the latest

Them:

OH, sorry I was miscounting. Hahaha

Me:

(Smiles at them but knows that it’s not that hard to add 2 to 5 and get 7 and that this lady is up to no good)

Hahah it’s ok I have you in Rowling until 7:30.

I have tried thinking of things that could make this more efficient. Maybe an online reservation system? Charging for the rooms could deter people from wanting to use them? But I guess that’s not the point, we want people to come here, we want them to use resources, but we just don’t seem to have enough to go around staff wise or room wise these days. *insert long exasperated sigh*

 

I’m every woman..

I have had the same person in the tech center two days in a row working painstakingly on a fancy word document. Like the weird ones where he wants to add boxes and put in images and line things up, etc. I hate word. The only thing I ever use word for is to type words, and it works out just fine. Sometimes even with the whole header/footer thing or footnotes it can get a little weird. I have never appreciated it for complex things such a tables, or intricate forms, with designs and lines and other fancy things. I find that it’s often temperamental and annoying, that it can be tricky and basically doesn’t ever want to do what you tell it to do. Maybe it’s user error (a.k.a. me not knowing how to really use it very well) but I find that it is just easier to use excel for boxes and rows of tables, or Publisher for forms that require lines and images where you need to freely be able to move things around where you want them. But this guy keeps calling me over every 10 minutes to ask me why word won’t let him move his picture. My favorite from this series of interactions was:

I just want these two last lines to be on the page above.

OK Well they went down to a new page because there is no physical room on the page above.

Well I just want them on that page above it.

I understand that, but as you have it now there is no space for them. You can either make your font smaller, or you can mess with your spacing until it all fits.

Then he just looks at me blankly. Thankfully I got out of there like right when he was asking me something along these lines for like the fifth time. But today it’s more of the same. I didn’t really go to school to do marketing materials, nor am I going to sit and fiddle with your word document for an hour until it looks like you want it to. But I can direct you to some online word tutorials…

I had another user who wanted to apply for an EIN number through the IRS. OK great, I told him I could get him to the site, but he would have to complete all the information on his own, that I couldn’t help him with the process since I’m in no way qualified and don’t know anything about the tax implementations, etc. I said this because I knew he was going to be a needy one, but he seemed to understand. At least until he started calling me over every 3 minutes.

First he wanted to know if he qualified as a joint venture. I told him I would have no way of knowing that, and I couldn’t help him with this process. Calls me over again 2 minutes later wanting to know when the end of his fiscal year was, I told him that I would have no way of knowing this and this is information he needed to provide on his own behalf. I showed him how to click on the blue links that showed him the help screens that give explanations about what the questions are asking. Then he keeps calling me over for thing after thing. I feel bad because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But neither do I, and as a library worker I’m not responsible for providing this help to him, if anything I could really mess him up here. Finally he gets the darn EIN and there’s something on the letter he doesn’t understand about mailing in a payment, so he asks me what that was. I was like PLEASE for your sake call the IRS number listed for help.

People come through all the time and ask us to help them with various things. Federal tax information, real estate loans, FAFSAs, personal banking, really private stuff. I’ve had multiple people try to hand me their cell phones to talk to their bank, or other financial institution about something that they were trying to handle and just couldn’t figure out. It’s interesting how many people tell me that they don’t even know why libraries exist, and that they may be obsolete in the near future. But on the flip side I see patrons here using the library as their center for basically well, everything. Many patrons rely on us to know things that they don’t. Like anything and everything. Like we are their niece or nephew coming over to help them set up the computer, or email accounts, or to give directions. I mean who else is going to tell people the owners of 7 different specific baseball teams, or how to spell the word uhhhhhhhh. I used to feel bad that I couldn’t answer everything that was asked of me, but really we are just here to point in the direction of information for you. Not to do your things for you. Just had to get that off my chest after today. (Mic drop)

Projections and Reactions

Tuesday…

Today a couple notable things happened here at the public, within about 10 minutes of one another.

1) I go to wake up a man who is asleep snoring in the quiet reading room. I know he is snoring because people have politely and reasonably come to complain about it. I approach the reading room and find said man in front of the window with his feet up (shoes off) slumped down snoring in a chair with earphones in. I touch the chair next to his head slightly to try to rouse him without touching him. Nothing. I touch his shoulder just once, and he jumps out of sleep looking at me and yelling about how rude I am that I did that. That he wasn’t sleeping. I said well, we are getting complaints about the snoring. Well I WASN’T asleep, that’s rude you can’t just do that. I left promptly before I said something like…

OH so you must snore when you are awake and also just resting your eyes at the same time. How interesting. Also, put your GD shoes on, this isn’t your f*ing house you are in a public space and literally I’m rude? Go f* yourself. (Look at me I didn’t curse at all!)

At least 2 other people in the room smiled at me as I left. Smiles of condolences. Smiles of YES. I understand. Smiles that say, really? WTF. My people.

If I ever see him again, you can believe I’m not going to help him with anything. Crap I say that today, but I totally will. I’m such a pushover.

Makes me think of projection though, and everything I’m learning about it. I use it to try to understand the very strange reactions I get from people at times. Maybe he was feeling rude or embarrassed for being asleep like that in public? He’s probably sad and lonely and frustrated, which in and of itself sucks. He could feel that people are always being rude to him because of his attitude. Maybe his dog just died, or he has to take care of a sick relative, or nobody ever told him that they loved him, I have literally no freaking idea. I’ve had encounters with him before when he rambles on for 30 minutes about how horrible our fantasy selection is and why don’t we buy all the books that he thinks we should buy, etc. I can only guess, maybe he has everything he’s ever wanted in life and he’s just a jerk. That’s the thing about this whole game of being a human, appearances don’t mean much at all. The inner world and exterior package can be so different.

2) The tech air isn’t working again and its 80 degrees in here with about 20 people. I know usually it’s not a big deal in mid-November to not have your air work, but here in so Cal it’s still 90 degrees every day. So it smells in here, again. And it’s hot af in here, again. It’s hard to concentrate. I was supposed to help a lady email herself the resume she spent hours working on. After helping to save to the desktop and letting her know it had to be closed out in order to attach, I walked away, assuming that she was going to email it to herself (she seemed savvy enough). Then another patron who tends to be quite manic comes in, talking in a yell, leaning over people to grab paper and slamming her plastic bag on the keyboard so hard everybody turns to look at her. She manages to make the screen shift to vertical view, and I have no idea how so as she’s freaking out about it I had to reset the computer. Now she’s yelling about how she has to pee and swinging her bag about again. OK ok, I have to turn back to the lady I’m helping, and for some reason, I think that she’s already emailed to herself and now she wants to delete from the desktop. So what do I do? Delete it. Not even recycle bin delete, I Shift delete the darn thing because when I do something I just can’t do it halfway.

Then the realization hits. OH crap. She hasn’t emailed herself yet. AAAAAND I’m a humungous screw up. I had to look her in the eye and apologize and take full credit for being an absolute mess up here. At least we had printed it out so I offered to scan it and email it to her, which is usually something we don’t do but I would literally bend over backwards to make this up to her. She was so nice, and so gracious, and understood completely and didn’t freak out at all. I wanted to high five her, then go buy us both a very stiff drink, and give her a sash that says most awesome library patron with a small trophy. I wanted her to get all the good things in life such as kittens, ice cream cones, and a satisfying partnership.

I guess what I learned from today is… Try to be like person number two. The large range of people you can be and experiences that you can have in one day in the public sphere can be quite eye opening. We have every single one of these reactions within ourselves, and most reactions that are negative are due to underlying causes not the actual occurring event. We have all done something like this, we have all been person number one and person number two. Just remember, the more you are like person number two, the more likely you would be to receive a kitten or ice cream cone for just being a downright good reactor.

All work and no play..

Some days kids can just drive you crazy. Ok, most days working in children’s they DO drive you crazy. Other days they are literally the best source of entertainment you can find. One of the most fascinating things I’ve found about children is the unlike adults, they don’t have chips on their shoulders. They won’t go out of their way to be dicks, they just kind of are what they are. They just have this sense of honesty and wonder about the world around them. The connections that they make can be surprisingly wholesome and intuitive.

Here’s 5 solid child interactions that happened today that shone some light on a day otherwise filled with a string of barely tolerable events starring helpless, confused and agitated adults.

Interaction 1. We have a Harry Potter program at the public this weekend. As part of the display there are beakers behind the info desk filled with water and food coloring of all different colors. This girl passes and looks at me and asks “Are those real potions?” I gave my best creepy YES and lifted my eyebrows a bit to look like I was up to something. She shuffled away kind of freaked out, and the next time she passed on her way back just straight stared at me. I love to mess with them. What I really wanted to do was splash some on her and tell her it was some sort of good luck potion so she would feel all awesome, but something like that may have gotten me fired.

Interaction 2. Three young cousins gave us their art at the desk. One drew a camera that looked suspiciously like the Instagram app icon, and the other 2 gave us hearts. There was also stick figure a picture of them at the library in a pink cloud. Pink because they love the library. I taped them to the wall and ensured them they would be on display for the rest of the day in their own personal gallery. *Tears up from the freaking adorableness*

Interaction 3. I handed a young boy a storytime ticket. He paid me in turn with a cheese it from his bag, not leaving until I accepted said payment. (Thank god he didn’t ask me to eat it in front of him).

Interaction 4. Two rambunctious brothers come in with a baby sitter and a baby in the carriage. The baby starts crying as the sitter is trying to put together a bottle. One of them looks at me and asks quite seriously: “If the baby is going to cry in the library, do they have to do it quietly?” I let him know that yes, that would be ideal and we would all prefer that but that’s not always the way it works. He seemed satisfied enough with that answer and bounded off to read his book about football. (Before this interaction one of the boys was looking for sports books. He figured it would be best to literally run up to the information desk and shout loudly where are the books about sports repeatedly to my co-worker that was helping somebody in front of him. Then when she didn’t respond he shouted this at the actual person she was helping before I intercepted him).

Interaction 5. This one was not experienced by me, but by a co-worker. Two young boys were exchanging books at the checkout so they could read the one that the other had just finished. One boy handed the other a Superwoman book, and to that boys delight he realized aloud that: “Wow, Superwoman is in her underwear.” What an epiphany.

I’ve been trying for some time to get back to that state of childlike wonder and excitement. I don’t know when, how or where we lose it as we get into adulthood. I know it could never work if we were all like the obnoxious yelling sports kid, but I think we could all use a bit more questioning and curiosity in our adult lives. Maybe learn to not get so caught up in narratives and our perceptions of what’s possible and what’s not. Take more time to focus on things that we really want and what interests us instead of what will make us the most successful monetarily, or what paths we have been pushed down by others. We should all take more time to play and be happy and less time getting mad over trivial things like study rooms, then expressing your rage at the illogical workings of the universe on the poor woman behind the desk who has no control over any of it. That could be a good start, one adult at a time.

Librarians as Doormats

Yesterday I worked 9 hours on reference, 4 in tech and 5 at the information desk at the public lib. Honestly, today my brain and nerves are shot. It’s hard to be nice for so long. I mean I like to think that I’m naturally a nice person, but after this amount of time, it’s just hard. OH and I also made about 20 scripted phone calls to let kids know that they were a winner in our summer reading program raffle. Congrats you have won a ____. It gets hard to leave voicemail after voicemail and eventually I was saying come GAIN your prize instead of claim. I don’t know if gaining a prize is even a thing? There’s got to be a better way to do this, making 100 calls, probably about 85% of them being voicemail isn’t very time efficient at an already short staffed and super busy library…But I digress..

Today hasn’t been so swell either. My patience is at about 2% and I literally almost said some rude things to a patron who didn’t understand WHY I couldn’t just make her an appointment for a passport when I already explained our procedure to leave a message on the voicemail line and she would get a call back within 24 hours. WHY would she have to wait like everybody else?  WHY wasn’t a library staff assisting her immediately with her passport application process, since it was clearly the most important? WHY Couldn’t she just butt in right now since she was being rude enough, and bypass all the polite people that actually just waited their turn to get a call back?? I almost asked her WHY didn’t she know how to inquire about things politely? WHY had nobody taught her any manners or demonstrated for her know how to talk to people she was asking help from? I think my coworker picked up on my frustration and came over to save the day. I owe her some chocolate I really do. And, of course, back to about 20 more scripted phone calls while on desk in between helping people.

Sometimes I feel that I’m just at a point of complete deflation with my patience with people. I don’t know if any sort of long vacation, or tropical drink, or good amount of awesome patrons can wash this bad taste out of my mouth. I’m pretty sure I’m just not cut out for public librarianship. I’m sick of the people who don’t help themselves. I’m sick of entitlement, and lack of manners. I’m sick of the weird creepy dudes that know my name and come in the tech center. There’s one that just walked in now, like right now. He used to come all the time to the other branch, he’s an architect who sometimes prints stuff out. I have no idea how he has a job and deals with people in the real world. Half the time he’s on the computers he’s cursing to himself, and mumbling.  He knows all the women who work here by name, and for a long time when I saw him regularly, would deal with him cursing and being continually upset because the server on his weird Russian mail order bride website would not be working. He had some girlfriend in Russia that he was sending money to, Svetlana I think really that was her name. Then another time he went on a loud tirade to me once about how he lives with his brother and his brother’s wife is a you know what and won’t let him use their computers because she thinks these weird sites he goes to are pornographic. Then proceeded to tell me all about all the fat women he sees everywhere here and how it’s disgusting and fat women are disgusting, (mind you he was talking really loudly in a quiet room and I was hoping somebody would get up and kick his ass, but it didn’t happen) then asks about my husband and if he lets me go out on my own. I just tell him my husband is large, and likes firearms. NO really, I did tell him this. Even though my husband is imaginary and if I WAS married to anybody they certainly wouldn’t like guns.

There are so many ways to live. I get that. We all have bad days. I get that. There are a billion people with a billion different upbringings, reasons why, stories, lessons, social and mental impediments, etc. But I just don’t know if I am tolerant enough or strong enough to take it much longer. I don’t like what it turns me into sometimes, and that is the scary part. I don’t get much respect from people in the public realm. It’s sad but true that most of the time I feel much like a doormat, a sad used up doormat.

On the plus side of things. Here is something I didn’t know existed. A nose aerobics basketball toy. I got to inform 5 very excited kids they will be the proud owner of these bad boys. I wish there was an extra one I could steal. I just want to watch somebody use one of these in real life.. Excuse the YES’s, this was from a snapchat..

aerobics

Needs..

I’m not supposed to catalog anymore today, so I’m sitting in a near empty tech center, with a swinging outdoor concert in the veranda. I just gave the two people in here an extra half hour over their allotted two hours, because they are nice, and there’s nobody in here, and who fucking cares about these rules really? There is 21 computers and nobody is using 19 of them.

I think I have a hard time enforcing rules, it’s one of the major problems I think I have with the public side as a librarian. Some of them are just silly. I know why we have them, but I also think they are meant to be bent at times, and can definitely be situational. I don’t argue with people about most things. And I really don’t care what they are doing or why they are here. I think they should be able to have all the access they need to the information and tools we have. WHY can’t we all just act like courteous people anyways? I overheard a man last week yelling at my co-worker because he wanted her to reserve the newspaper for him, like put it on hold for him when for he got in. He was upset because other people take the newspaper and then don’t read it or hold on to it too long, and we should save it especially for him so this wouldn’t happen. THIS seems like a problem of humanity and NOT the library workers who make peanuts at the desk. Is it our fault that people don’t know how to share like civilized human beings? Not really. And how is HIS reading of the paper is more important than anybody elses who wants to read it.

It’s one of those days when nothing is where it should be, people are impatient, the schedule is messed up and you find yourself swimming alone on desk through a sea of strangely needy library patrons flagging you down and expecting you to help them WHILE you are assisting somebody else, asking several part questions one after another until you feel the burn of the eyes of the next four people crowding (yes crowding, no lines here!) around the desk waiting for you to find them a book (which won’t be where it’s supposed to be anyways) without even attempting to first help themselves. Did I mention running into a swinging library gate and getting a massive bruise causing you to basically cry in front of a patron? Sigh.

This world is full of people and we all need something. Including me. I need some whiskey, and possibly some restorative yoga and perhaps a cookie.