Rant of the Wild Librarian: Puzzlements Three

Wild LibrarianI’ve been a professional librarian for going on 18 years, now, and before that, I worked college summers at the main branch of my hometown library.*  Before that, I visited the small, storefront branch in my neighborhood as often as Mom would let me.

There are still many things that puzzle me about the job and also about the mindsets and motivations of the patrons who visit the library.

Here are three of them:



Why would anyone steal from a public library?

I’m not talking about thefts of rare books for profit or those enterprising citizens who check out hundreds of DVDs and CDs and pawn them, then think telling the library that their card was stolen or they lost all seventy-five of those CDs—In a fire! In the flood! In the divorce! Locusts!—will get them out of a Grand Theft charge.

I’m talking about people who rip off RFID tagged back covers and walk out with a damaged book they could have easily checked out or do any of a number of things with a CD or DVD to baffle the security gates.

Or who check out an item and keep it forever and always—because that’s stealing, too.

I don’t get it.

Shelf Reading CatPeople . . . if you’re a taxpaying resident,** you and your fellow residents already own these items. The whole collection is yours. We’re just storing it here to spare your overcrowded shelves.

The reason you have to return the stuff you check out is that it’s community property. You aren’t sole owner and sharing is caring.

So if you love an item, return it, undamaged, so others will have a chance to see how fantastic it is. You two can have another sleepover as soon as your schedules match up—and if your Very Favorite Library Item is retired from our shelves, you might be able to find it in our Friends book store and take it home for your very own, like a paginated Velveteen Rabbit.

If you hate something you checked out, return it anyway—it’s not your job to protect people from whatever sinks your battleship. If you’re compelled to make sure everyone knows what a waste of time/danger to one’s immortal soul this evil/ill-plotted/morally re-pugnant/politically agenda-ed/badly edited thing is, write a review.

Just don’t write your opinion in the pages of the book. Even grammar or spelling corrections.

That’s not justifiable post-editing, it’s prosecutable vandalism.



Why do people complain about paying fines?

You agreed to the rules, Sparky. Twice: once when you signed up for the card and once when you checked out the item you returned late.

Fork it over  and quit telling us the game is rigged.

If it is, it’s in your favor.

We make every effort to tell you when the item is due when you check it out; we’ll even e-mail you a couple of days before you have to return it.

We have phone and online renewals for slow readers and those inevitable “Oh, crap!” moments.

If you return stuff after hours, don’t worry: we back date overnight returns.

If you tell us you’ve already returned the item, we’ll suspend our disbelief long enough to do a thorough search. If you claim the item is lost, we freeze the fines long enough for you to make a reasonable effort to locate it.

We aren’t being unreasonable, here.

We just want all taxpayer property back on time so that other taxpayers—including you—can borrow it.

If fining you a dime a day—a dime a day***—is so unreasonable, maybe should should stick to short books in the reference collections; you know, thing that can’t be checked out in the first place.


Apple Orange

Why would one stand in the Orangetown Public Library
and tell the staff that the Appletown Public Library
is superior in every possible way?

Is the Appletown Library closed today? Have the buses stopped running?

Do you really think that library systems have match pricing for printouts? Do you think Orangetown librarians will give you extra computer time because Appletown has a higher limit?

Do you think we’ll bend ourselves into pretzels to prove that our library is the best?

No two library systems are alike and our library policies aren’t arbitrary, they’re tailored to the community they primarily serve.

Here are two math problems to illustrate:

The Orangetown Public Library System has 70 public workstations from which patrons print 900 pages a day and the Appletown Public Library System has 20 Public workstations from which patrons print 400 pages a day.

If both library systems have the same budget, per capita, and both get the same discount on printer toner and paper, which library is statistically more likely to offer five free printouts to patrons who print from their workstations?


The Orangetown Public Library System has 70 public workstations. On average, each workstation is in use 95% of the hours the library is open.

The Appletown Public Library System has 50 Public workstations. On average, each workstation is in use 50% of the hours the library is open.

Which library is statistically more likely to offer higher computer time limits and still be able to accommodate the majority of patrons who wish to use the workstations?

If you need any help with these, I’m sure  the Appletown Public Library will be able to assist you.  They don’t look busy over there . . .


Ahhhh.  That’s better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spelunking under the kids’ beds for overdue library books. And yeah, I’m planning on complaining about that at great length.

But not to the library.


* Yes, ’twas fate.  Fate, and a sincere loathing of the local frozen yogurt place, where I worked the summer before college. But that’s a different rant.

** If you aren’t a taxpaying resident and you have a library card that we accept, you are our honored guest and our collection is also your collection. But that doesn’t exempt you from minding the House Rules. Guests that steal from their hosts aren’t invited back.

***Yeah, some items are a dollar a day, now. But those items are iPads, so . . .


Random Thursday: Dimples, Flash Mobs, and Ice Lobsters

It’s random!  It’s Thursday!  It’s random Thursday!

The temperatures have been well below zero and the wind is slicing down the plains like Hel’s ice machete, which is wreaking the other kind of hell with my Internet connection.

So this is what I could compile five minutes at a time, between random bouts of cursing.


Summer Has Mosquitos . . .

You know it’s cold when the ice lobsters come up to the house to get warm.

Ice Lobster

It’s not the crustacean that gets me, here, it’s the trap.


It’s Street Art, Charlie Brown

A friend sent me this in response to last Thursday’s graffitipalooza:

Snoopy Shadow

It’s a great piece . . . but I want to throw a blanket over him.

(thanks, Kev!)


Code to Joy

Phones these days aren’t just smarter than I am.

They’re better singers, too.


John Adams’ Dimpled Balls

Last week was the kids’ Academic Fair.

Sunny did a report on the second President of the United States, complete with “Bottle Buddy”:

John Adams Project

The cravat was her idea, but her father helped her with the lapels.

Her favorite fact was that he and Thomas Jefferson were “besties”.  I think that might be verbatim from her presentation.

Janie did a science project on the difference that the size and number of dimples on a golf ball can make make to the distance one can hit it.

Golf Project

Oddly enough, the hexagonal ones—which were the closest to “dimpleless” that we could get, since every store in the country who sells them has them on backorder and the manufacturer is not directly selling them at this time—did much better than expected, leading us to conclude that dimples do affect the distance one can hit a golf ball and also one’s chances of getting one’s father to spring for snacks from the bar of the indoor driving range.

Her other secondary conclusion was that pink golf balls with overlarge dimples were not only sexist in color, but a fear-based attempt on the part of the patriarchal establishment to keep women golfers from hitting the green.

Shame on you, [brand redacted].  Shame.

This year was relatively panic-free, since the school allowed most of the work to be done during class time.

But Jane still thinks she’s like to recreate this one for next year:

Science Project Project


Flashing Beethoven

On the 5th of February of this year, students of the Collegium Musicum of Heidelberg  surprised people eating lunch with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Kudos to the percussion section.  Awesome!

(I think I stole this from Dee’s Facebook page—thanks, Dee!)

The Karma Chill is in Negative Digits

Driving in Snow

I’ve survived three commutes, so far, since the big snowstorm on Sunday dropped eight inches of the deceptively gorgeous white stuff upon us.  Even more is predicted tomorrow and I’m seriously thinking of quitting my job so I can stay home until Spring.

Except if I do, I’ll quickly be living in my car, which kind of negates the sense of safety I was going for.

It isn’t a long drive—eleven miles or so, depending on the route and whether or not I’m dropping kids off at school—but it has hills and valleys and treacherous snowpack in most of the spots that require turning or breaking or playing chicken with gravity. Plus there’s that mile-long bridge, currently coated with ice, right in the middle of it.

I can drive in snow and with one exception,* I’m not bad at it. I’m one of those slow and steady drivers who give themselves plenty of time so they won’t have to rush—and who send all those other drivers who assume they’re the only ones who know how to handle winter conditions (e.g., floor it like it ain’t happening) literally around the bend and sometimes into one of the ditches or retaining walls we grow along the sides of the roads around here.**

Snow CommuteBut that kind of focused attention takes a lot out of me. I save up all the stress and horror and road rage and impatience and let it go all at once after I’ve arrived at my destination,*** leaving me in an odd state of twitching lethargy and strident vocabulary overshare.

I’ve been told it’s amusing to watch—primarily by those who purport to love me—but while I’ll do a lot to make people smile, I’d rather wear a clown nose and burp Yankee Doodle Dandy, which at least has the advantage of embarrassing the kids.^

I’m nearly to the point where I’m crossing my fingers that Janie’s cold will worsen juuuuust enough to keep her out of school tomorrow, so I can stay home and take care of her without blowing any vacation days.

I’m sure she won’t mind supporting me in this endeavor.


(Yes, you do. Lying is beneath you.)


I wouldn’t worry. I’d jump aboard and make ’em drive me to work.



PSST: To further fuel my state of nerves, my stats are jumping today for no discernible reason. Normally, I’d be thrilled, but as no specific post is being singled out and no referring sites are listed, I’m forced to assume that either someone’s mouse is stuck or I’m under investigation for something for which ignorance is no excuse.

So if you could please make sure your computer is working properly, check my financial records to prove it’s not worth paying a process-server to deliver the subpoena, and/or just leave a comment to tell me why you dropped by, I’d appreciate it.

You don’t have to STOP, by the way; just let me know, please. I have a writer’s imagination and I’m already chanting ATTICA! ATTICA! under my breath.

Thank you!



*Our driveway. It’s a short slope and not very steep, but I can’t manage it in snow or ice without slipping, sliding, or spinning my wheels to the point that I smell burning rubber.

**As long as I’m alive to rack up the negative karma points, I’ll continue to rack ‘em up, five miles below the speed limit.

***Or halfway up my driveway to my destination, like last night. After three tries, I gave up, parked, stomped into the house and confessed my inability to get my car into the garage. My MIL and daughters looked at me in disbelief and told me my husband never has any trouble. I KNOW THAT. And I was grateful that he brought my car in when he arrived home—and secretly vindicated when I could hear him spinning my tires the whole time.

^Or one of them. Sunny is a great musical burping tutor (That sentence is grammatically correct no matter how you parse it, by the way).

Let it Snow, my blue, frozen @$$


You know why this post is so short?

Because five inches of snow and a 20 minute commute that took and hour and twenty, that’s why.

Because EVERY WINTER, certain owners of big vehicles tell themselves that other people—presumably everyone in front of them—can’t drive in snow and then end up doing some asinine tailgating-passing-too-close-snow-isn’t-slippery-when-I’m-driving-on-it-engine-gunning-mine’s-bigger maneuver that ALWAYS ends up with their beloved behemoth and three or four other cars turned the wrong way at the end of a mile-long bridge, with bumpers and headlight pieces strewn all over the place, blocking the whole works.

That’s why.

At least the kids weren’t in the car with me when it happened and a Terry Pratchett audiobook was, so my tension levels were nearer Eye Twitch than Defcon.

I don’t like driving on snow. And I especially don’t like braking while driving on the packed stuff—which I did for three miles and forty minutes this morning.

There is hope that the roads will be clear of both snow and idiots—Karmic Darwin* to the rescue—because Jane’s birthday is tomorrow, and I would like to pick up a couple of things on the way home, in case her school closes due to “extreme cold”.**

And if you have it worse—and many people do or did or will, this winter—all I can say is that your pain and frustrations don’t negate my pain and frustration.

But if you’d like to share your Winter Wonderland horror stories below, I’m listening.


*Best superhero name ever!

**It’s supposed to be -30F with the wind chill, and many of the kids have to walk outside between classes.  It’s one of the hazards of having a school that outgrew its original historical landmark building.

Whine of the Wild Librarian: Owww

Wild LibrarianMy library branch is currently closed for recarpeting and renovation and will remain closed until the day after Christmas.

This is a good thing, as all the nonfiction from the second floor is now on rows and rows of tables in my department on the lower level, fiction is filling up the first floor elevator bay to the children’s department, Horror is in YA, and most of the furniture in the building had been gathered or stacked in great piles to be broken down or assembled, respectively.

Shifting the library

The visual answer to the question, “But why can’t YOUR department stay open?”

I spent my day helping to transfer books from ranges to carts, deliver the carts for unloading, and take the empty carts back to the ranges.  I also tagged shelves, which involved tearing pieces from two rolls of identically-numbered sticky tape and slapping matching numbers on the first book on a shelf and the shelf itself.

This is necessary and saves reshelving everything after someone realizes after finishing the Ms that we forgot a cart way back in the Bs.

But since the tape is ancient—so old I couldn’t even find an image of the rolls—and very sticky, I had to scrape and pinch the pieces off the roll, which meant I repeatedly jabbed my thumbnail into the tip of my forefinger, for two hours.  It also meant doing a series of very slow toe touches at each section of the ranges, for two hours.

It was difficult to move this morning.  I may have cried, just a little, when I passed my stationary bike and remembered that I owe it some time tonight.

They never mentioned this in Library School. I didn’t have to shift books for the final.

It was bad enough to learn that librarians don’t actually sit around and read books all day, if at all, and that math is required on a daily basis—but this is adding injury to insult.

And next week, we’re going to have to put  everything back.

But it does have to be done, and who better to do it than people who care about the books and about being able to find them again, once all this is over?

So this morning I put on my favorite tee-shirt,* comfortable jeans, and my old, broken-in Adidas, and packed myself a nice Advil sandwich for lunch.

Bring it.

. . . slowly . . .