Posts Tagged ‘Story of the Week’

Librarian…Lawyer…What’s the diff?

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?

I/m: Yes.

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

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

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