Posts Tagged ‘conversations’
Patrons, no matter their economic, social, religious or educational standing can be a teensy bit demanding at times. They demand their fines be forgiven (“I swear I turned that book in! You people lost it, not me!”); they insist we deliver the goods (“My daughter’s report is due tomorrow…how can you not have a single book on her obscure topic available?”); and they expect us to know everything (“Can you show me how to fix my transmission so I don’t have to take my car to a mechanic?”). As it turns out, however, public and academic librarians just might have it easy when it comes to the demands of their patron population…
I am a correctional librarian in Virginia, and with this type of work come lots of funny and/or awkward moments. Most of the time though inmates forget that I am a librarian and not a lawyer …
Me: How can I help you?
Inmate: Well, I want my sentence reduced. (He is talking about a motion of reconsideration, which inmates can file to ask the judge to reconsider and/or modify the sentence … but you need good reasons to prove that you made progress and deserve a shorter sentence).
Me: Okay … do you have good reasons that could convince the judge to reconsider your sentence?
I/m: Well, I am not guilty.
Me: Well, did you plead guilty in court?
Me: Why did you do that if you are innocent?
I/m: My lawyer said to plead guilty so that other charges might be dropped. But I did not do anything, so I want the judge to take time off my sentence.
Me: Well, it is not that easy. Once you said you are guilty, you can’t just go back and say “Well, can you take a few months off my sentence because I am not guilty after all”.
I/m: So what do you advise?
Me: I don’t advise you to do anything, I am not your lawyer.
I/m: But you are the librarian.
Me: (Good observation). Yes, and that is why I can’t give legal advice.
I/m: But my lawyer sucks.
Me: Well, you can complain to the VA state bar and have the lawyer investigated.
I/m: That’s too much work. I just want you to write a letter to the judge saying I am innocent and want my sentence reduced.
Me: -.- I am sorry, I can’t do that.
I/m: Then this jail sucks. Give me a 1983 form so I can file a legal rights suit for you not helping me.
~“Arlene” Virginia, USA
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
After several months of pretty specific themes on The Merry Librarian, we’re going back to our roots for April! We’ve got a collection of wacky patron interactions, reference desk shockers, and some miscommunication moments worthy of a good, old-fashioned forehead-smack. Moments like these are what it’s all about! (We think…)
I was a young librarian, on the desk, still clueless enough for coworkers to be entertained by me getting the weirdos. My patron approached. “Do you have a phone book for Deerfield, Michigan?” No, I was sorry, we did not, (cue shock! and explanation that we paid for phone books, so didn’t get out-of-state books) but I was sure I could find the number for him if he would let me know what he was looking for. “Well, the Ford Museum.” Okay, so I found him the phone number and asked if he wanted to know their hours – was he planning a trip? “No,” but the hours would be great – he’d been there. Could he call them from the library phone? No, he could not, but perhaps he could email them? “Can you help me set up an email account?” Sure, I could, no problem. As we moved toward the computers he let me know what he REALLY wanted. “See, I was at that museum, and they had this video for sale about Henry Ford, and I thought I’d call them and see if they could loan me a copy of it.” Ah, well, I was sure we could interlibrary loan that for him. No email necessary! “You DO that?”
My favorite circumnavigation of the question ever.
Thanks to a fellow librarian in Munich, Germany for this next one!
I’m working at a museum library in Munich, Germany. Last month there was a retraining for the new RDA-system which should be presented to us. In the auditorium were over 150 librarians from all over Bavaria, the teacher talked for hours and after five hours one elderly librarian asked:
“And how to deploy RDA in card catalogues?”
The teacher looked very confused.
“This retraining concerns RDA. It’s a system for online cataloging. You’ve got STILL card catalogues???”
Greetings from Munich!
Security Guards at libraries get the wackos, drunks, vagabonds and vagrants…but apparently they don’t get to answer basic questions…
In most of our Branches our security personal are also trained to perform clerk duties, at the Circ desk. One of our Security/Monitor person at our branch will cover the Circ Desk while staff is at lunch or working on a project. I was staffing the Information desk, while he was staffing the Circ Desk. I was helping a patron and noticed that the line was getting longer while patron lined up at the Info desk. I looked over to the Circ Desk a noticed that no one was standing there, except for our security monitor asking patron if they needed help, and they would reply no thanks, then move quietly over to the Info Desk.
I then asked the next patron in line that the person at the Circ desk would be able to help her and she looked at our security person then looked at me and said, “He can’t help me. He is just Security!”
I looked over to him and he says, “All I wanted was a simple retirement job, where are those termination papers?”