Archive for April, 2010

Doth thou speaketh…Shakespeare?

It’s not surprising to interact with patrons who have never read Shakespeare, or even a few who haven’t heard of him. It’s also understandable when people dismiss the bard as “boring” or difficult to understand. Hey, we all have our preferences. This week’s Reference Desk Interaction made us smile because of the unique nature of one patron’s Shakespearean fluency…or lack there of.

This happened in the late 1990s, in the small-town Connecticut library I still work at, when I was first starting out as a library assistant. One afternoon a young woman came in very dressed up, wearing a fur coat and lots of expensive jewelry. (Most of our patrons show up in jeans or what they wore to work that day.) She came to the desk and asked where she could find the Shakespeare books.  I took her to the place in the stacks and pulled the ‘Complete Works’ and handed it to her.  She opened the book, looked at it for a few seconds, and then asked me if we had it in English.  I couldn’t say anything for a few beats, and finally told her gently that it was in English, and that we had Cliff notes and the film versions if she needed them. She ended up taking these things, and told me that her boyfriend was taking her to a dinner party and they would all be talking about the new Shakespeare movie that was out.  She felt she needed to prepare because she ‘didn’t know any Shakespeare’.

I am not a literature snob by any stretch. I read everything including cozy mysteries, graphic novels, SF, YA lit, etc. But for someone around my own age to not have any knowledge of literature taught in every high school was amazing to me!  It opened my eyes to the fact that social class has nothing to do with education.

~“Amber” Connecticut, USA

Things They Don’t Teach in Library School

This week’s story is definitely one of our all time favorites! We certainly applaud this brave librarian for keeping her cool in what was surely a stressful (and surreal) situation. (And bonus points for the name suggestion…)

Under the category of “Things that they don’t teach you in Library School” how to deliver a baby certainly must head the list. But when the 911 operator tells you to lay your patron flat on her back and stay on the phone because she is going to “talk you through the delivery and YOU MUST be the one to do it if the ambulance doesn’t arrive” the first thing that happens is your heart nearly stops beating! Yes, our patron was in the end stages of labor and said that she thought her water had broken about 1 or 2 a.m. when she came to the library about 5:30 yesterday evening. Why did she come to the library? Well where else do you go when you want information? You go ask a librarian!!

And she asked me four things: for a DVD about labor and delivery, was what happened to her early that morning really her water breaking, did I think that what was happening to her body right then could be contractions, and did that mean that her baby was coming now?

After a few questions (like we do in any good reference interview) it became VERY apparent that she was indeed in labor and that, as a matter of fact, those labor pains were coming every two minutes! That’s when the 911 call went out and I found out that delivering a baby just became part of my job description! Luckily for ALL concerned the Fire Department arrived just as I got the mother-to-be into my private office and they took over the timing. I could tell that they were sweating the arrival of the ambulance as much as I was, however, because by the time the ambulance actually arrived the contractions were coming every 30 seconds. The ambulance whisked her away with me telling her to be sure to name the baby after Melvil Dewey and to bring him in soon so we could get him his own library card!

~“Rachel” Fort Worth, TX

National Library Week

Happy National Library Week!

I wanted to take this opportunity to address my readers personally this week instead of posting our usual Story of the Week. I hope you won’t mind the slight shift in focus for one week!

To all of my librarian readers, I wish you a very joyful week, full of rewarding patron interactions, great literature, and encouraging moments. May you be reminded of the many wonderful reasons you chose to pursue a career in the library; and may you discover new reasons to celebrate all that you, as a librarian and champion of literature and education, stand for in your community and the world as a whole.

To my non-librarian readers, I encourage you to celebrate National Library Week by honoring those who bravely face daily life in a library in your own communities. I can assure you that librarians choose to do what they do because they have a passion for people just like you. Celebrate all that the library stands for: freedom, opportunity, education, imagination and community. May you, too, be surprised by new stories, new knowledge and new hope in a library near you.

National Library Week this year is, I think, more important than ever before. Let’s face it, the year has not been an easy one for libraries, or the people who love them. We’ve gotten a lot of bad news in the past twelve months–from location closures, to budget cuts, to jobs lost. The economy has taken its toll on us, as it has taken its toll on everyone. But with the recession has come a great resurgence in library usage. More people are using the library now than ever before, it seems, and librarians have worked tirelessly to meet this new demand. With limited resources, librarians have had to discover a new depth of creativity, and have served their populations with incredible resourcefulness and pride.

And so, for this National Library Week of 2010, I wanted to thank each and every one of you. Thank you for loving libraries, and for fearlessly serving each person who walks through your library’s doors. Thank you for choosing, every day, to make this world a better place through story, service, sacrifice and an unrelenting devotion to intellectual freedom. I admire you for your courage in these hard times and for your continuing passion and enthusiasm for the jobs you love. You are brave; you are necessary; you are celebrated!

It has been such a privilege for me to share in your stories of  library-life in the last year. I have laughed and cried, been hopeful and been disgusted, rolled my eyes and seen inspiration. The Merry Librarian started off as a place for librarians to share their stories, but it has become so much more in the last ten months. It has become a place where people from all over the world can come to witness the library in a new way–a more personal way. It is my continuing hope that The Merry Librarian will remind people of the incredible value of libraries in today’s society, and that the people who love libraries enough to dedicate their lives and careers to them will be celebrated by their communities for more than just this week.

A very happy National Library Week to you all!

With gratitude and hope,


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