An hour before we closed today, I leaned over to a co-worker and said, “You know how I value your honesty. So I know I can count on you to tell me the truth—am I on Candid Camera?”
She didn’t look up. “No. But there’s a full moon Thursday. I checked.”
It was a relief to know what was shaking the dingbats out of the banana tree, as the saying probably shouldn’t go. But I should have figured it out on my own: most of our usual suspects showed up today, asking for strange things in strange ways—including the one who refuses to talk to anyone but me for a reason I prefer not to know and who was quite upset that I was forced by the government to take a lunch hour in the middle of the day.
In addition, however, we were graced with a few Special Snowflakes who appear to be laboring under some mistaken ideas about libraries and librarians. While I’m fairly certain that most of these Snowflakes won’t be able to find this post without some kind of intervention, I thought I’d still offer a few helpful insights into getting more out of one’s academic or public library experience:
If we say we don’t have a particular record or resource—especially if we tell you that the record or resource no longer exists or never existed at all—asking over and over again if we’re absolutely sure isn’t going to convince our resident library elves to spin that item out of dust, cobwebs and forgotten back issues of Consumer Reports.*
No, not even if you start every repetition with, “Okay, but let me ask you this . . .”
You aren’t fooling anybody.
Likewise, if we say we can’t answer your question with our available resources, but we do offer the contact information of a facility or organization that can, ignoring that contact info in favor of explaining for the fourth time why you need an answer right this very minute now because your time is too precious to waste is not going to make that answer magically appear in our resources, our brains, or in glowing letter six inches high overhead.
No, not even in Google.**
However, the librarian whom you’ve just robbed of forty minutes will be blogging about you later.
It is a fact universally acknowledged among library staff that the more talkative the patron, the more likely that patron will just have eaten a pound and a half of raw onions for lunch.***
This is minor, perhaps, but still one of those matters of manners and etiquette that people tend to forget in public buildings, like barging into an elevator before the previous passengers can leave. Just because we’re dedicated to public service doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a non-hostile work environment.
Some personal smells can’t be easily avoided. We undertstand that.
But onions are a choice. Please choose wisely.
Mints or gum—or laying off the alliums before you visit—are always appreciated by the staff and ensures better service, as even the most dedicated librarians are somewhat distracted by imminent asphyxiation.
We’ll even do the same for you—because the garlic dressing at the Italian place down the block can kill a buzzard at twenty paces. And we adore the stuff.
And now a few words about Internet porn.
However individual librarians feel about porn, most do not deny that for many people, porn softens—or not, as the case may be—the rough edges of life.^^ And most would agree, if begrudgingly, that there are times and places for enjoying “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures) intended to cause sexual excitement.”^
None of these involve your allotted computer time on a public or academic library workstation.
It’s illegal in our state to display obscene or graphically erotic materials where minors might see it. It is also against our computer use policy—and every other computer use policy I’ve seen—to view obscene or erotic images or videos, period. Our policy explains this in bright red, bold text which you must agree to follow each and every time you access our Network.
So please don’t try. We know what you’re doing. We see you watching us and we’re pretty sure no one can be as interested in our desktop as you are every time we look at you, unless they’re about to break our rules. This is another universal fact, and about as obvious as raw onion consumption.
If you do attempt to get your fix on our Network, we will wait until you’re paying so much attention to whatever delightful images are bouncing across your screen that you forget your compulsive monitoring of our whereabouts. We will walk up behind you on little librarian feet, look over your shoulder to make sure that video, photo still, or manga drawing is exactly what we thought is was,^^^ and say in your ear, “I’m sorry, but that’s not an acceptable website.”
And we will watch you leap a foot in the air while frantically try to close forty-three windows, at least four of which keep popping up to show friendly young ladies in various . . . situations, while babbling all kinds of excuses, none of which make any logical sense.°
We’ll listen, perhaps offer a counter argument or two, and then kick you off for the day. Or longer, if this isn’t your first attempt.
We don’t care much what you do in private. But this is our very public turf, and if we’re forced to be the Porn Police, we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.
Which is pretty good, if you haven’t noticed.
*That’s not what library elves are for. We’re not actually sure what they’re for, but we try not to tick them off, just in case.
**Although we’re sure they’re working on it.
***Seriously—I had a prolonged conversation with the sweetest elderly gentleman this afternoon from a respectable four or five feet away, and by the end, I had onion breath.
^ Webster. The original definition includes writing, but as long as the words can’t be seen by someone passing by, most libraries are more concerned with naked people. Go, literacy!
^^ Or roughs up the smooth edges. Or coats them in rubber. Or animates them. Or uses the whole chicken. Or so I’ve heard.
^^^And we truly hope it is, because some surprises are difficult to forget, even with hypnotherapy.
° The reigning favorite is, “I didn’t go to that site! It just popped up! Besides, I have a subscription!” Keep your blood in your brains, people.