Sunday, June 27, 2010

A day of crazy patrons

AKA, just an ordinary day at the library.

My day was off to a poor start since I only managed to get 2 1/2 hours of sleep since I was in DC the night before, hanging out at Apex for the ALA dance party (tip the bartender well there, dude hooked me up with serious drinks), eating pancakes at 2am, and trying to convince my friend to drive me to this carnival we saw near her place in Alexandria. So I was not my usual chipper self at 10 am Saturday morning as we opened the doors for the madness that is SUMMER READING PROGRAM!!!

Luckily, I am in adult services and our children's staff and volunteers were able to handle most of that business, though I did have a lost child or teen wondering by my desk at least once an hour looking for a reading log. One such boy was wearing some tattered looking blue footie pajamas, followed by his mother who was running after him, looking a bit like a hunched up crab as she picked up everything he was knocking on the floor pinballing from one shelf to another. The mother stopped at my desk to ask if I had some book on parenting that she saw "on some show on tv the other day, not last week, it was written by someone, no one famous, but someone you know, and the word parenting may have been in the title" but not sure. If you're guessing that we didn't find the book, you're correct, but what was more annoying than her vague description was that her little boy kept shouting things at me (and in general) the whole time we were talking and it made the transaction difficult. As I was searching in the catalog and a few websites he did a jig on the chair and frothed from the mouth as he pointed at my keyboard proclaiming it was a spaceship, that the whole library was his house, and he and his mother arrived at the library via pterodactyl. This was interspliced with him repeatedly shouting "bang" and making gun fingers at me whenever I made eye contact with him. Oh yes, call the orphanage - I'll take ten just like him!
Later, I had to deal with a woman who seemed to be this boy's distant relative as she had no patience for me to answer a single question she asked. For an elderly woman who confessed that she didn't like computers when I tried showing her NoveList to look up recommended authors, she certainly wanted her information at lightening speed. This was our conversation as best as I can recall it:
Impatient elderly woman: Yes, find me books and authors like David Baldacci -- I like him, he's great, do you read him? He's my favorite. What was the last book he wrote? Am I on hold for anything? What about James Patterson, what has he done lately? Did I read his latest? I'll have to call my husband and ask him. Who is like Robert Parker? He died recently, didn't he? What was the last book he wrote before he died? I just picked up this book by Harlen Coban as I walked in because I like the cover, what authors is he like? This cover reminded me of another book by another author, it was green like this with a woman on the front, do you know which one I'm talking about? I started reading Mary Jane Clark recently, but I don't think I like her, so can you recommend someone like her but better? I also don't want to read anyone who writes too much sex or violence. I don't like bad language either, but I don't mind it as much. You know who else I like? Stuart Woods - did he also die? Are you able to look up and see if he's still alive?
Me: My computer is slow, I'm still trying to look up David Baldacci.

A few minutes later she asked me to look up Sidney Sheldon because he was also one of her favorite authors but she forgot why she stopped reading his books. Then she wanted to know when he died.
Me: His author record lists his death as 2007.
Impatient elderly woman: What? Oh honey, you're wrong. No, he died in like the 1980's. I think you meant to say 1987, not 2007.
Me: Well, let me check on that. (looks up his bio on our author database). Author of The Other Side of Midnight?
Impatient elderly woman: Yes! That's him, that was a great one, did you read it?
Me: No...but this is the same Sidney Sheldon and it says he died in January of 2007. He was 89, it says he died of pneumonia.
Impatient elderly woman: No, you're wrong. He died a long time ago, I remember, I was really sad. I think you're probably thinking of someone else, honey. You're confused. (and she walks away!)

My favorite part is that she clearly saw me typing all this into the computer and reading the screen, but I'm the one who's wrong, I'm confused.

*End Scene!*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Updates and obligations

So my attending ALA dilemma has been solved because our director decided to get all full time employees exhibit passes for the conference and letting us have a day off to go downtown and check it out (this dilemma was already solved because I wasn't paying to go and I was scheduled to work this weekend, but let's just forget about those parts now)! The worst part is since I registered my work email is being spammed every 15 seconds by "Stop by our booth at ALA" garbage that is ruining my concentration on my minesweeper games, but I'm willing to overlook it since I am getting a day off from "real" work.
Some of the activities around ALA sound like they may actually be fun, but of course these are usually not conference sanctioned events (like spending the afternoon drunk by the pool at the Days Inn). One such event is the Brand Yourself a Librarian project going down at Jinx Proof where some librarians are going to get inked during the conference. I've had a literary tattoo in mind for awhile, but don't know if this will be the right weekend for it, plus I've been less than impressed with the work at Jinx Proof (tho to be fair, it's been awhile). If self mutilation is not your thing, how about shaking your hips with the nerd elite at Apex, aka: ALA 2010 Dance Party?
(Prince is asking you to join him!!!)

Which brings me to exciting news, as I've been asked join the folks over at another blog I follow, Closed Stacks, in writing about kickin' it library style. Closed Stacks got nominated for that same Library Blog Awards contest, but they got a gold star(!) so be sure to take a looksee over there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pron and defending your right to library boners

So yesterday I had a library first: my very own library public masturbator! Yes, I know what you're thinking (besides Ewww!), how can I have worked in various library jobs over the past six years and not yet encountered someone masturbating in public? Good luck, I guess? I've had at least one incident with indecent exposure (that, thankfully I only had to report and did not witness), and countless run-ins with internet porn, but so far those pervs have only been viewing it (or pretending not to view it while really playing chess online) or printing it out and showing it to me to ask how much their copies will cost, but so far no one had been caught in the act of working the rocket launcher. Until yesterday.

Shortly before lunchtime we received a complaint that a teen at one of the internet stations was viewing porn and the two attempts my branch manager made to catch him in the act failed as his spidey-sense must have alerted him that we were trying to peep over his shoulder. This prompted a discussion between me and my branch manager about the library's policy on porn. In library school, we would be forced to have these ridiculous debates on what we would do as a librarian if our library theoretically decided to stock Playboy as a magazine in our collection and a member of the public became outraged and complained. I found these arguments useless because a)what public library would want to walk into the firing squad that would be stocking Playboy? and b)it wasn't an argument that I really agreed with most of the time.
Now I realize that the buttress to the librarians defending porn argument is the "slippery slope theory," in that once you censor pornography, everything else is up for grabs so it's an "either you're with us or against us" mentality, very black and white. Yeah, I understand that theory, but I don't necessarily agree, and it's not even from the "oh, think of the children!" point of view -- it's more like "things that are better done in the privacy of your own home" point of view. Why should some guy (who smells like a brewery) have more of a right to watch YouPorn in public than my right not to see it or hear it as I use or work in the library? I'm certainly not going to come over to his house and regulate his personal life or get all Big Brother on his ass, but really, why is porn in public places a constitutional right?

This is why I'm glad that while ALA may stand behind your right to view teh interweb pron at the library, the second you decide to unzip those rights are quickly superseded by laws requiring you to keep it in your pants at the library. My boss was on the phone helping a patron when she suddenly exclaimed "Oh no!" and my head snapped around to the direction she was running where the teen internet porn suspect was fully engaged in the most urgent self love, almost to the point where it looked like his chair might lift off the floor into orbit. He was reminded of the library code of conduct policy and asked to leave, but I feel a little better about the world knowing that ALA welcomes him with open arms to come back today, just as long as he looks and doesn't touch.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reference question of the week

Teen: Is it true Elvis died on the toilet?

I'd heard this rumor before of course, but I wasn't sure if it was actually true or not. I doubted any of our classy database biography resources would go into that type of detail so I started searching the catalog for print biographies, hoping to come across a tabloid style one that might answer this question.

Teen: The Wikipedia entry said he was found on the bathroom floor, but I always heard heard he was on the toilet.

I looked up the Wikipedia page for Elvis. I don't usually use Wikipedia for an answer unless there's nothing else I can find, and even then I remind the patron what an unreliable source it is. One thing I think Wikipedia can be useful for is references if they are properly cited. The reference attributed to Elvis's death in the entry was from the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, which we actually happened to own. I thought it was interesting that our copy had only circulated once since it's purchase 10 years ago, but another branch's copy had circulated 43 times. I guess we don't serve a big Elvis fanbase here.
We went to the shelves and got the book, which smelled as if the one person who had checked it out had smoked directly into it. In the index, Death of Elvis, The started on page 650.
Me: According to Guralnick, the medical investigator reported that Elvis was found on the bathroom floor, slightly away from the toilet as if he had been crawling and it looked as if he had been using the toilet at the time.
Teen: Were his pants around his ankles?
Me: (reading) It doesn't say that specifically, but hold on...

I flipped a few pages back and started scanning until I found what appeared to be the first page of Elvis's death, p647.
Me: Here is says, "When there was no answer (at Elvis's bathroom door), she (Elvis's girlfriend at the time) pushed on it and discovered him lying on the floor, his gold pajama bottoms down around his ankles, his face burried in a pool of vomit on the thick shag carpet." So, yes, his pants were around his ankles, but he was probably going to the toilet beforehand. Does that answer your question?
Teen: Yeah, thanks! That was some messed up shit.
Me: You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Libraries: helping shut-ins who should stay shut-in

Like the set up for a bad joke, I was sitting at the reference desk when the phone rang. It was an elderly lady who wanted help in finding out if some old books she cleaned out of her parents house were worth anything (*cough*no*cough*). I tried directing her to some local appraisers who would be more knowledgeable about rare books, but she was more interested in coming in and speaking to me directly for some reason (Yes, if you haven't already guessed part of the outcome of this story, let me spoil it for you: she now thinks we're best friends!)
Anyway, so Ruth Gordon comes in a couple hours later and settles in for a nice long chat at the reference desk. Has she brought in any of the books she wants me to help her find the value of? No. Has she written down any of the titles, authors, publication dates, or anything relevant that could help us? No. Why, you ask? Oh, because batshit insane Ruth Gordon keeps looking over her shoulder and tells me that she thinks her enemy from the old folks home followed her here and is eavesdropping and will come into her apartment and steal her valuable books. So she scribbled down titles that she could remember on slips of scrap paper, folded them up, and passed them to me across the desk. And she talked in code. Oh hell yeah, it was one of those mornings.
Some of the books were Nancy Drews, but without the publication date of copies there's not much I could do, since I explained to her repeatedly that an original Nancy Drew from the 1930's or 40's would be different than a reprint, and still it may not be worth much since it was mass produced or may no longer be collectible. Seeing I was not impressed, Ruth Gordon decided to pull out her big gun: a KKK propaganda romance novel! As she started telling me what a fascinating read the book was I decided to pull the plug, giving her the book dealer's contact info and restating he would be a much better judge of her items worth.
As she got up from the desk, she pointed to a group of teen boys crowded around our internet stations wearing short-sleeved button up shirts and black ties and pants. "So nice to see your employees so formally dressed!" she beamed.
"Those are Mormons, not library employees," I informed her.
"Oh," she said. "Nevermind."