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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Dumbass Civil Servants

Believe it or not, working with the public is one of the things I love most about being a librarian. Sure, I could have pursued a glamorous museum library job, or an ambitious academic library job, or a high-paying corporate library job. But then I would miss out on the satisfaction of: helping grandmotherly-types unabashedly order erotic literature at the reference desk; throwing out a kid’s used gum; pointing grown men in the direction of the bathroom as they try to explain WHY they need to use it. (Really, gents, you don't need to tell me. Even if it's just hand-washing, I'd prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of any matters pertaining to the public restrooms.)

In all seriousness, the job is usually very fulfilling, especially when patrons are expressively appreciative. However, dealing with the public is not always rainbows and sunshine and unicorn hugs. After all, as *Plato famously said, "People be crazy."

(*Citation pending.)

This brings me to the notes posted below. Apparently, a patron was unhappy with the service he received at the library and felt the need to express himself on scrap paper. I'd like to make clear that I was not present for the reference interaction that sparked these little slips of pain, so I cannot speak to how this sort of reaction may have been prevented. However, I WAS the person who actually found the notes when I started a shift on the adult reference desk last week. Naturally, I was curious about their origin.

I asked the librarian who had been at the desk before me if he knew the who/what/why of the notes. Unfortunately, he didn't see who left them. He could only speculate that they had been written by a man - one of our more "eccentric" visitors (catch my drift?) - who had been irrationally upset by the fact that his computer session could not be extended. Based only on this hearsay and the information provided in the notes, I'll try to give a brief analysis:

Note #1: Questioning the Intelligence of a Library Worker's Ass

While the syntax is a little confusing, I find this note to be otherwise straightforward. The language is clear, the adjectives are strong, the punctuation is poignant. The patron doesn't seem to grasp the nuances of civil service or working in a library, and I don't think the profanity was necessarily helpful in making his point, but whatever. He's mad as hell and he isn't going to take it anymore. Fair enough.

Note #2: Adding Insult to Injury

Well, I can't comment on whether or not there IS a test to work at McDonald's (and please note the misguided copyright symbol after "McDonalds." Brilliant.) Perhaps there is a drug test. I don't know, and it doesn't matter. It seems to me that this message was designed purely to hurt the librarian's feelings and diminish the hard work that it takes to become a librarian. I know some people think that anyone off the street can do our jobs, but...listen. Librarianin' ain't easy. We actually go to SCHOOL for this. We have to get a Master's Degree and do a thesis. There are, like, tests and stuff. Have a little respect, man! (Also, the subtext of this note indirectly insults people who work in the fast food industry. This is just unnecessary. Do you know the strength of character it takes to work around food all day? Do you have any idea how disgusting that is? It's almost as disgusting as dealing with public restrooms in the library.) Anyway, I don't mean to make light of this patron's frustrations or discourage anyone from speaking up if a true injustice has occurred at the reference desk. I merely want to make this point: librarians are here to help, but we're also human. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words, the very thing on which we base our careers, can hurt us. (Or at the very least, they give us something interesting to talk about during a two-hour reference desk shift. Thank you for that, sir.)


  1. Don't let the bastards get you down!

  2. I too wonder what heinous event precipitated these notes! Perhaps the librarian asked him/her not to use yellow highlighter in "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex...but were afraid to ask"

  3. gee, talk about biting the hand that feeds you. this guy's down on librarians, civil servants, and McDonald's employees, although he may very well rely upon that trio more than anyone else in his network. as a one-time employee of McD's, i resent the implication he levies against both librarians and grease merchants.

  4. Disclaimer: I didn't mean this post as a rant against the patron (who I didn't even encounter). Working with the public forces you to develop a thick skin in the face of situations like this. However, I did want to defend the library profession in general because the type of opinion expressed in these notes is, sadly, not just held by "wacky" patrons. I want people to know that most public librarians became public librarians for a reason - we love information, we love books, we love service, and yes, we love people - and not just because we happened to fall into the job.

    (Janet, in that specific scenario, we'd probably just prefer it if they stole the book outright.)

  5. Should it indeed turn out to be a patron "upset by the fact that his computer session could not be extended," the obvious solution for him is to get his own damn computer. It's not like such things are difficult to acquire in the City of New York.

  6. Let me explain: when I left the notes I was only trying to give some helpful nudges to improving your library's service. Thank you. (c)

  7. Sean, I've given your photo to the security guard. He's on full alert. You've been warned.

  8. Wow, I could only imagine what precipitated those notes. Don't let it get you down, keep on truckin' hot librarian!

  9. So someone wasn't too happy with the librarians. Bigger fool he/she! I think I would love to come out and hang out with you anytime. Sounds way more exciting than singing "The muffin Man" ad nauseam and trying to see how fast I can zip 18 squiggling little bodies into snow jackets as well put on hats, scarves, and mittens!Hang in there!

  10. I'm pretty sure the guy accidentally left those notes-to-self in the wrong library. Bear with me here, but I think your culprit is himself a librarian. He's done well for himself, and is overall happy, but he can't help blaming himself for his bad eyesight that kept him out of the Space Program. You see, despite all the glitz and fame, library work wasn't his first choice. He grew up in a lonely place in Montana where he was rocked to sleep by the praying of the stars. That's where he wanted to spend his life - in the stars. His mother encouraged him, but his father knew enough to keep him grounded. You see, dad had high hopes, too. So he minored in library studies - it was his back pocket. It was his simmer. Then before he knew it, his future boiled away as his eyes got worse and worse.

    It's not your fault. I'm sure you're a great librarian. Don't take it personally. He doesn't mean to hurt others. He just can't live with himself.

  11. For the LOVE OF GOD !!! Hasn't ANYONE noticed this vandal has all but dispensed with lower case letters?