The other day, I was hanging behind the reference desk waiting for a fax to go through when I overheard the following conversation between a patron and a one of my co-workers:
Patron: “Excuse me, but don’t you have a copy of [Specific Book by Specific Author]*?”
Librarian (consulting catalog): “Yes, we own one copy, but it’s checked out right now. May I put a reserve on it for you?”
Patron: “Checked out? But it’s my book!”
Patron: “I wrote it. I gave it to the library. It should be on the shelf.”
Librarian: “Well . . . I can flag the record and when it comes back, we could make it part of the local author collection so it can’t be checked out.”
Patron: “I want to check it out. If I’d known it wouldn’t be here when I wanted it, I would have kept it for myself!” (Stomps away)
It was surreal on several levels.
I mean, I know—boy, do I know—that that the majority of writers consider their stories to be their babies, their own precious offspring whom they’ve labored to bring forth, raised and molded, sworn at and cried over, and occasionally kicked out of the house.
But I’ve never before encountered a writer who demanded visiting rights. Or who wasn’t thrilled when someone wanted to set up a play date.
Several theories were offered by witnesses. A few of us starting looking around for the hidden cameras. One of us may have muttered that medications should only be tweaked under a doctor’s care. Another stated that while all writers were crazy, some were obviously crazier than others.** Most of us were wondering how the patron thought libraries worked and if it would be possible to explain it, supposing the patron was in the mood to listen.***
I can’t help thinking, though, that this particular writer might have hit on a pretty savvy marketing strategy—because at least three librarians and one eavesdropping patron now have that book on reserve.
Hmmm . . .
*This is all you get, as I’m not identifying the patron any further. I don’t even know if s/he actually wrote the book in question, though it was self-published.
***One of us was shamefully glad the patron hadn’t asked how the local author collection worked.