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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not a Good Time to Lose One's Head

As I demonstrated in a previous post, the defacement of library books is a common occurrence. However, one patron took the concept of defacing to a fabulously literal level by removing (for reasons unknown) the protagonist's face from the cover of this romance novel:

As we all know, destroying a book cover is wrong. However, I think the real crime here is that we'll never know if this man was in fact "criminally" handsome.

Wait, what am I saying?? I'm a librarian. I know how to use Google!

Hmm. I'm going to let you judge for yourselves about the legality of his handsomeness. (Photo borrowed from Amazon.com.)

Now the fun part will be guessing what this purloining patron did with the poor guy's ripped-off visage. Did she tape his face over her ex-husband's in their wedding photo? Create a romance-novel-hero voodoo doll? Put on a puppet show? The possibilities are endless.

Godspeed, little criminal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If You Read Something, Say Something

I recently attended a lovely librarian preview at a well-renowned children’s publishing house. (Note: the preview itself was lovely; it wasn’t specifically for lovely librarians, although many of the librarians there were indeed lovely. But I digress.) I received the customary tote bag full of galleys, which I happily schlepped around with me for the rest of the day. After the morning preview, I had lunch with my fellow librarian and then helped him shop for new apartment stuff. After walking to Midtown from Greenwich Village, I met up with another friend at his office (which meant hanging out in the Fox News building – an interesting experience in itself) and we got some drinks after he finished work. Sufficed to say, I was completely exhausted by the time I headed home that evening. And, full disclosure, I had consumed two glasses of wine on a near-empty stomach. This is never a good idea, but hey, I’m not exactly known for my good ideas.

So, I sat on the subway, tired from the day, melancholy from the wine, and sharply aware of the soreness in my arms caused by my book-filled tote bag, which had gotten increasingly heavy with each passing hour. A few stops into the trip, a man boarded, pushing a stroller with one hand and leading his young (two years old? three?) son onto the subway car with the other hand. The child sat by himself on a seat while his dad stood next to him with the stroller. Watching this cute little kid - who was sitting quietly with his hands folded, looking around at everything with fascination - melted something in my cold librarian heart.

I rooted through the tote bag and searched for the most age-appropriate book I could find. After picking one out, I walked over to the boy and, without saying a word, handed him the book. He stared at me for a moment, wide-eyed, then smiled and opened the book to the first page. As I walked back to my seat, the dad thanked me. He leaned over, still gripping the stroller, to read the book to his son, using silly voices for the different characters. The kid was laughing and pointing to the pictures. The baby in the stroller was completely ignoring the two of them, yawning drowsily and beautifully. Me? I was a goner from the moment the kid smiled at me. I watched the family until my stop came up, stupidly smiling through tears, feeling like some eccentric book-giving weirdo. The dad thanked me again when I exited the subway. All I could manage to say was: “No problem.” Pure eloquence.

The moral of the story is: do not give away books to adorable children on the subway after a long day and two glasses of wine unless you have no problem crying in public. Because cry you will. (Full disclosure: in this case, I didn’t mind at all.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

All the Single Librarians (Put Your Hands Up!)

From time to time, and with various motivations, patrons question me about the status of my romantic life. Perhaps they are simply trying to make conversation. Perhaps they themselves are interested in dating me. Or perhaps they want to know which Hollywood librarian stereotype is more realistic: the lonely spinster librarian as perpetuated by Donna Reed in "It's a Wonderful Life," or the free-spirited, free-loving librarian as perpetuated by Parker Posey in "Party Girl." (I'm not sure where I fall on this spectrum, and quite frankly, I don't want to examine it).

As a general rule, I avoid discussing my personal life with library patrons. This is to maintain a sense of security, privacy, and professionalism. Also, it's nobody's daaaaaamn business. When I'm faced with questions related to romance, love, and boyfriends, I try to give vague, non-committal answers and move on to the next topic. (Incidentally, this tactic also applies to questions about politics, religion, or sports - that last one is because I know absolutely nothing about sports. Maybe that's why I'm not married?) Depending on how uncomfortable I am in a situation, I might just smile sadly and say: "I'm sorry, but I don't talk about this at work."

However, since I am a horrendous liar, there are times when I cave and answer honestly when I'm directly asked: "Are you married?" There's really no wiggle room with this question, so I am pretty much forced to reluctantly say that, no, I am NOT married. The reactions that I get are diverse - most comments are innocuous; many are inappropriate; some are downright offensive. For example, one older gentleman asked if I was "scared" to be unmarried at my age. He wondered aloud if my time was running out. The term "biological clock" was thrown around with gusto. (If memory serves, in order to get out of this particular conversation, I pretended that a co-worker was calling to me from another room).

A few misguided patrons have said that I'm "too nice" to not have a husband - because nice people are never mistreated by their spouses. Nice people are never unhappy in their marriages. I have even received a marriage proposal or two from overzealous patrons. (Sadly, I turned down these Reference Desk Romeos. I guess I'll always wonder about what could have been).

However, the most memorable marriage-oriented conversation I had at the library was with a sweet, well-meaning nine-year-old girl. She likes to hang out with me at the reference desk for extended periods of time when she comes in after school. One day, she grabbed my left hand and examined it, critically. Noticing how conspicuously bare my ring finger was, she gave me a puzzled look.

Her: "You're not married?"

Me (cheerfully): "Nope."

Her (skeptically): "Why not?"

Me (struggling to find the right response): "It...just hasn't happened yet."

Her (concerned): "I wish you were married."

Me (amused): "Why?"

Her (resolutely) : "So you can be happy. And have a baby."

Me: *headdesk*

Where is Gloria Steinem when you need her? (Oh, that's right - she got married. I guess I'm left to fend for myself).