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."

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