Friday, January 27, 2006


Or in this case, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say *Head-Counter*. Although in actuality I waited until I was out to the car before expressing myself so let's go with *Head-SteeringWheel*.

I went to the library this afternoon to get a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. William wanted to read it. I have to add, I was a very good parent/teacher when I didn't remind William that we had the entire set of The Chronicles of Narnia but he had insisted several years ago he didn't want them and I'd given them to the library. So, I know they had at least ONE copy. I looked for it. I checked Children's, Young Adult, Sci-Fi, and regular Fiction sections. Couldn't find it.

I walked up to the counter. A woman approached me, about my age maybe, or maybe ten years younger, but certainly no youngster, and asked if she could be of any help. I'd never seen her working there before, so perhaps she was new, although I still don't think that explains what happened next.

"Yes, would you mind looking up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and see if it's in?"

"Sure." She put her hand on the mouse of the library computer, glanced at the monitor and then back at me. "What was the name of the book again?"

I was surprised, but perhaps she hadn't really been paying attention to me. "Uhm, The Lion... the Witch... and the Wardrobe." I said it slowly.

She started typing. "The Lion, the Witch and.... what was that last part again?"

I tried hard not to smile. I repeated the title. She looked, she moved the mouse, she typed again, moved the mouse again. Then she turned to me. "I'm sorry. You wouldn't happen to know the author's name?"

Now I tried really hard not to laugh, although my smile was now way too wide for the circumstances and she looked a bit nervous. "Lewis"


"Lewis - L. E. W. I. S."

She typed some more. Moved the mouse some more. Looked a bit flustered, apologized and said "A first name?" She said this like she thought she was really pushing her luck that I'd know it.

"C. S."

More typing, more scanning, more searching the monitor, and finally, aha! She'd found it.

"I'm sorry. That's checked out. Due back in 18 days. Would you like to reserve it?"

"No thanks. I think I'll just go buy a copy."

I left quickly before I could do anything as rude as roll my eyes or burst into giggles.

I'm sorry, but wouldn't you think that most people would have at least HEARD of this book? Especially someone who would want to work at a library? Someone who would be HIRED to work at a library?

I shouldn't have been surprised, not really. A few years ago almost the entire staff, a wonderful, literary-loving staff, quit en masse when the library board decided that paying for benefits on top of salaries were luxuries they couldn't afford. They didn't even have a librarian to run things for years after that, and therefore had no one to work on grant money, which mean that they couldn't pay for those benefits then, so good thing that everyone quit, huh! The library hours were reduced to something like Mondays from 12pm to 1pm and Thursdays from 6pm to 6:15pm. Wait, I have to stop for a minute while I roll my eyes.....

.....okay, I'm back.

After that they had a bunch of new staff, most of them complete...... okay, maybe they weren't idiots. Maybe they just weren't "into" books and computers and obscure stuff like that. Maybe their interests lay more in band lyrics and nail polish colors. Maybe they should have been working at Macy's instead. Wait. We don't have a Macy's in Susanville. Anyway, I still remember the time Jeff asked one of the new staff, a young woman, 19-ish, a simple question. A really simple question. She couldn't answer it and frustrated, he remarked cattily "I guess you've never worked in a library before."

"True" she answered him, completely unaware he'd just been rude to her. "In fact, before I got this job, I've never even been IN a library before!"

And for THIS we pay taxes for public education!?!

Anyway, the story continues...

This was the beginning of a time when I did a LOT of "unofficial" volunteer work for the library. Basically, every time I went there, within a few minutes, I'd overhear a frustrated library patron trying to get an equally frustrated employee to help them - find a book, open a computer program, make a photocopy, look for audio material..... and I'd end up, completely nosy person that I was, offering to help. After awhile, I didn't even have to eavesdrop, the employees started LOOKING for me to ask how to do tasks. The woman in temporary charge (a very competent woman herself, but completely swamped since what she really did was run the adult literacy program, a more then full time job in and of itself) made sure to seek me out to thank me and pat me on the back as often as possible.

It was fun for awhile, but eventually I simply got frustrated - incompetency is only cute temporarily, or in very young children - after that it gets old. So our family stopped using the library for a long while and started spending a lot more money at bookstores just to avoid going there.

Now, a few years later, some of the older staff are back part time and things are usually running pretty smoothly. This morning wasn't typical anymore, thank goodness. But just to be a smart ass, next time I go in, I'm gonna look for this same woman and ask her if they have a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. We'll see if she recognizes that one.

"Harry.... I'm sorry...Patter? Would you happen to know the author?"


Blogger Jan said...

Ewwwh! Kinda snarky! Sometimes people amaze me too, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in an unbelivable way. I wonder if that one has heard of Tolkien?

10:37 PM  

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