Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chicken Parents

Anyone who has worked at a library for a considerable amount of time is sure to have been the victim of Chicken Parents.

A young child is misbehaving in the library: running around, being noisy, damaging property. You know the scene. In this situation, the Responsible Parent knows the child is just testing them. If the Responsible Parent passes the test, the situation is not very likely to repeat itself.

The Chicken Parent, however, is not aware of this fact, or, if they are, have a greater fear than public embarrassment resulting from their child’s constant misbehavior. I’m not really sure what this fear is . . . Being the “bad guy” parent? Growing a spine? Abandoning their own childish behaviors and actually growing up?

Whatever the reason, the Chicken Parent responds to the above situation by saying something like: “If you don’t behave, the librarian will yell at you.” Or tonight’s Chicken Mom actually said, “If you run in the library, the librarian won’t let you check out books.”

Do you see anything inherently WRONG with this?

Yeah, you’re out of luck tonight, Chicken Mom. I save my yelling for my own kids. They deserve it. They are worth it. And people in public places don’t fear them. If you want your kids to behave, you’ll have to grow your own backbone, take the parental leap, and discipline them yourself! I should write a book.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Something for Nothing

I'm sure we've all noticed (how could you not) those particular individuals who EXPECT something for nothing. Don't we just adore these individuals?

So a mother calls up to renew her son's overdue material. He has previous fines. I tell her his new total of overdue fines: $16.50. I glance through his record. The "child" is high school age.

She is quiet for a moment and then says, "Is there anyway he can get that taken off?" I pause, waiting for her to enumerate the extenuating, life-or-death circumstance which has kept him from returning our property to us. But she says nothing.

No, shame at all. She thinks I should just remove her fines simply because she asked. I might have at least considered her request if she'd had the decency to fabricate a story. I might waive the fines based on creativity alone. (Which I have done before.) In my head I answer her: "Sure, I'll waive your son's fines, just because you asked, even though every other person has to pay them, and even though the library is LOSING money just to stay open. We don't need your $16, or anyone else's either."

Then, not 10 minutes later, I get a call from a man:

"Can you tell me if so-and-so with red hair is in the library?"

Let's stop here and consider this request for a moment. What this gentleman is asking me to do is to leave my post at the desk and venture into every corner of the library, asking every person with red hair if they are so-and-so, while patrons with ACTUAL reference questions wait at the desk and on the phone for my service.

"Is this an emergency?" Thank goodness for standard policy.

"No. I just wanted to know if he was there."

Yeah . . . NO.

No free handouts from the BITTERLIBRARIAN today.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rules Don't Apply to ME

I know everyone one will envy me when I tell you I had the privilege today of conversing with one of those rare individuals to whom the rules do not apply.

A woman asks me for help with the copier. We don’t own the copiers. They are owned and serviced by another company. And “a man” comes every so often to take all of the dimes accumulated in the machines, even though we, the librarians, are expected to provide the customer service for them. Like all customer service exploits, we are also expected to be “experts.”

I show the woman the complex method of placing the desired page face down on the glass between the two neon pink arrows. But, to complicate an already highly sophisticated procedure, the woman says that she wants to copy onto a brightly colored piece of paper. She holds up the paper.

I explain to her that she won’t be able to do that.

“Well, I do it all the time at home.”

Then why don’t you go home . . . “These machines are owned by another company. The company doesn’t want any other paper going through because of the possibility of it jamming.”

“Well, what would happen if you weren’t here?”

This is the part about the rules not applying.

“Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do about that.”

“Well, then.” But what her eyes say is: “Leave already.”

I start to walk away, and she says (and I quote): “Which tray should I put it in?”

I wish I was one of those lucky individuals to whom the rules didn’t apply.

Friday, June 23, 2006


The front door to the library opens and here he comes . . . Dum-da-da-dum . . . CrackMan! What, you may ask, has earned CrackMan such an ominous nick-name? CrackMan has been thus dubbed because of the view the library staff gets as he pines hours away at the computer.

Is your teenage daughter bored? Does she need someone to view her online profile and tell her how great the posted picture of her cleavage is? Never fear, CrackMan is here. He ties up public internet terminals for weeks at a time. He has fine tuned the clever art of online stalking. He proves once and for all that you don’t have to be a rocket science to find pathetic, lonely teenage girls who will tell you their “most embarrassing moment.”

CrackMan enters the scene, scopes the situation. Hmmmm . . . all terminals are in use. He turns to leave. Don’t be discouraged, CrackMan. There’ll be other days for you to exploit vulnerable teenage girls.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Title of My Autobiography

It is my absolute pleasure and purgatory assignment to conduct the selection rituals for adult non-fiction. With the hundreds of titles I go through each month, every once in a while I come upon one or two that really touch me in that right way that every librarian loves to be touched. And then there are those especially brilliant titles deserving of an even higher honor: the stolen title for my autobiography.

Formerly, the reigning champion title was Ruining it for Everyone.

But, ladies and gentleman, there is a new Queen in town. Now my (as yet unwritten) autobiography is entitled: Somebody's Gotta Say It.

(Maybe I should combine them and make it: Somebody's Gotta Say It: Ruining It for Everyone. But I've gotta work the phrase "book junkie" somewhere in there.)