I spent half the day thinking it was Monday—not just because of the long weekend, but because the library was hopping.
Anyone who thinks that libraries are no longer relevant or necessary to the majority of the population should have tried to jump the line that formed at our doors an hour before we opened.
Between 9:30 and noon, my department, which was three staff down, located and pulled city directories, mortality indexes, assorted Federal Census volumes, alumni directories, government documents, and a map showing our area’s railroad system in 1860; worked out a bus schedule involving three towns and two bus companies for a patron whose car broke down just in time for her first day of work tomorrow; taught three people several times each how to load microfilm into the appropriate machines and make copies; and helped another patron update both his resume and his profile on match-dot-com, as man does not live by bread alone (R220.5203 Hol).
After lunch, we encountered the new contender for Special Patron of the Year, who in our* considered opinion, doesn’t appear to know what a research paper is for,** and is laboring—or not—under the mistaken assumption that librarians are there to write them for students who don’t like to touch books.
For any of you who are planning on doing research any time soon in an academic or public library environment, please allow me to offer a few helpful insights:
Library staff have all done their homework.***
We will gladly, happily, and inventively show you how to do your homework, even if we are simultaneously helping several other people while answering our Pavlovian phone that is conditioned to ring whenever we move more than ten feet away from the public desk.
We will not do it for you while you read Cosmo^ and talk on your cell in a quiet area, telling your friends that you’re stuck in the library doing that boring assignment that’s due tomorrow, but you should be out of there as soon as the librarian hurries up, because you’ve been waiting fifteen minutes for information that is supposed to fill up ten double-spaced pages.
Instead, we will
kill you with kindness bury you in books, files, indexes, bibliographies, and rolls of newspaper microfilm and wish you luck.
Fear not. We won’t abandon you entirely: we’ll help you load the microfilm machines, use the photocopiers, loan you a pencil and scrap paper, and even direct you to the restroom. We may even suggest that you go back to the university librarians who wouldn’t do your paper for you either, but who have the actual resources on your topic and will be open until midnight.
And we will enjoy it, because we’ve done our jobs to the letter and we (this one is the royal ‘we’) get a blog entry out of it.
Listen: librarians will cross the metaphorical desert to locate data on the migratory patterns of wild camels if you think you need it. All it takes to get us to ramp up from excellent service to superlative effort is three magic words.
No, not “I brought chocolate,” though that’s not a bad guess.
If you really don’t know, you might try asking a librarian. Very nicely.
*Not the royal ‘our’—she blessed the first floor with her presence before she graced us.
**To learn how to personally find data in a multitude of legitimate resources, none of which yet includes Wikipedia or YouTube.
***With the possible exception of the pages, who are all holding down jobs.
^I’m exaggerating. I don’t know the name of the magazine, but I’m assuming Khloe Kardashian’s possible pregnancy is not on the list of approved research topics.