Another Monday another tech center stint, cataloging the children’s books I came across one that made me smile with delight. It’s a board book, meaning that it would be appropriate for the TK and under crowd It’s called: Clive is a Librarian by Jessica Spanyol.
It’s brilliant, any book about being a librarian will hit us right in the heartstrings and we will buy it, I’m pretty sure it’s a fact. This book is part of a series called Clive. Some of the books in the series adhere to the Clive is a… format where the young boy goes on different adventures playing make believe that his is a certain occupation for the day. The series includes a nurse, a teacher, and a waiter.
Here’s a link to the series info on Goodreads.
Another thing about these books that hit me right in the feels is that Clive has a cat, a black cat, that he chills with constantly. Suddenly, it takes me away to a library full of cats, where instead of cranky patrons and social problems I can just have a cantankerous cat meow at me until I give it treats. What a life that would be.
This leads me to my thoughts on last week, where I had one of the hardest weeks in my entire existence at the public. In public libraries things tend to come in waves, where you may have a serious problem patron for a week or two, and maybe into months. This happens often because people move around, they show up, and many of them have no place to go for a bit, then they find one, or leave again.
This time we had a mother and her young son, who had just immigrated to this country. They understood English very basically and the child had extreme behavioral problems that the mother would not (could not) keep under wraps. Actually, none of us could. He would run around the library screaming and shrieking, he would grab other children and rile them up, he would take things out of random children’s hands, interrupt story times, set off the emergency exits, jump on and off tables, and finally, he started coming behind our desk and playing with the phones and computers. Parents of the children he was harassing, as well as every single member of the staff had it up to their eyeballs with this one. Look at mom, and all she did was say stop and he didn’t stop. I guess that is what we were all doing. Good cop, bad cop, he just wanted and needed the attention. When we all asked our management for backup they wanted to be “accommodating” and trust me, we all did, but they weren’t the ones in direct line of fire to this kid’s rage path. Have you ever tried to kick somebody out of somewhere and they just blankly stared at you? Said the same thing a million times to some brat kid who is a safety and sanity issue in a public building? I have, and it sucked.
Everybody on desk went through this for two weeks, even when it escalated and I grabbed a full timer they didn’t know what to do. At a certain point last week the kid grabbed me and shook me around and it took everything in me to not drag him back to his mother by the arm. I’m not a violent person, and as a city worker rule #1 is DON’T touch people, but people sure get to touch me. I guess the main problem was he was just a kid, who was bored because he was stuck here for 8 hours a day since they didn’t have anywhere else to go. I felt for them I really did, we all did, but mostly everybody on staff that had to be out on the floor was at our break point.
Which leads to Tuesday. I catch my boss on the phone with emergency folks as I’m grabbing my bag to head out for the night at closing. I think to myself well, this child has finally done it, he’s managed to fall off a table and break something or push a kid and now there’s just trouble. Turns out, it was something different altogether. When doing our closing rounds there was a patron slumped over in a chair, when my co-worker attempted to rouse her she found that the woman was unconscious, and barely breathing. They called the emergency workers, I watched my co-worker give this woman mouth to mouth and literally save her life, and then the EMTs came and took her away. There was an empty pill bottle around, and I really can’t speculate what the pills were or if this was an accident or what, but it shook me and everybody else that night. I do hope that person is OK today, but we have no way of knowing. I can tell you that I have a new found ultimate respect for first responders, because that is intense.
These things happen everywhere, every day and are in no way limited to a library. But it makes me realize that public problems and bigger social issues show up on a day to day basis in libraries (especially public) because are open to all, and we are often a space that people go to when there is no place else to go. Public health issues both mental and physical, addiction problems with drugs and alcohol, lack of resources for single mothers, immigrants, and the homeless population all bleed down into these systems because we don’t have solutions. I work in an area that is not a big city, and the library is in an affluent area, so I’m lucky. Librarians in more urban settings have even bigger fish to fry with the drug problem.
I found this article from CNN that talks about a teen-adult librarian in Philadelphia who has saved 6 patrons from opioid overdoses with the application of Narcan (the article is from June of last year so I can imagine that count has gone up). I am in complete awe and adoration of this woman. I can’t imagine the stress that administering Naloxone into people dying of overdose adds to her library duties. Other libraries in big cities such as San Francisco and Denver train library staff in the use of Naloxone for this purpose as well, it is both sad and scary at the same time.
Thankfully, they don’t point these issues out in the Clive is a Librarian book I mentioned earlier, or people might look at librarians in a different light. All the librarians I know are the most compassionate and caring people I have ever met, but we are not trained for a lot of the things we come across in our day to day interactions. I’ve had people tell me they were suicidal, ask for help with serious problems such as medical stuff, or legal advice. You see the struggle you know, and the best thing you can do is try to help in the best of your capacity without losing your own mind. As for that family from the last two weeks, I heard they moved to Texas. I don’t know if it’s the truth or not, but in my head I can see him running around another library in his new state, angered librarian in tow.