February 15th, 2014 Brian Herzog
I would say right off the bat that this post is NSFW, but it happened to me at work so it must be okay. Just, be warned(ish).
One slow afternoon, after school, a girl who was probably about fourteen came up to the desk and asked for books on learning to draw. Specifically, she said, she wanted to draw people.
No problem - in fact, the 740s are right near the Reference Desk. I walked her over, skimmed the titles, and pulled one down called Step-by-step guide to drawing the figure. Sounds promising, right? The cover shows artistic-looking sketches, no problem there, and just what we're looking for.
No, the problem came when I flipped open the book to see if the inside was what she was looking for. Hover your mouse over the image below to see the first page I flipped to*.
The patron didn't seem phased, but it's not often I show naked pictures to fourteen year old girls. Not just an image, mind you, but an actual photograph of a naked woman. I know this is perfectly normal in the life of a librarian, but, I don't know, it just took me by surprise and felt weird.
But it did turn out to be what she wanted, so the patron took that book and another one we found, and she seemed happy.
*I have two theories on why I was able to flip right to this page:
- Either I have an uncanny ability to find naked women, or (and more likely),
- This is the most popular page in the book and the spine has been broken by previous readers (perhaps fourteen year old boys)
Tags: art, awkward, drawing, figure, human, libraries, Library, naked, people, public, Reference Question, woman
February 8th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Late one morning, a male patron in his twenties comes up to the desk with what looks like a college course syllabus. He points to one of the assignments, which is listed as a 400-1000 word essay, and asks me if the computer can count the words for him.
Okay, that's easy. I walk back over to his computer with him, have him open Word, and show him the counter in the bottom-left corner.
The patron thanks me, and says that he's nervous because the essay is due that night.
After walking back to the Reference Desk, I glance over at him as I sit down, and his computer screen is visible to me. In just the time it took me to walk across the room, he'd already opened YouTube and was watching some clearly-non-homework-related video.
Study breaks are part of the learning process (it was Minesweeper that got me through library school), but it's funny to take them right at the beginning.
February 6th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's a sentiment that has bothered me ever since I started working in libraries: the idea that an accountable portion of everyone's tax bill goes into the library budget, and that anyone could dictate exactly how "their" portion is spent.
It bothers me because it is the exact opposite of how community-funded resources work, and it's difficult to convince someone of this who is dead-set on it.
Recently one of our patrons requested we purchase a specific book. However, it didn't fit our collection development policy*, and was kind of expensive anyway ($55), so I had to tell the patron that the library wouldn't be purchasing it.
There were copies in libraries not too far away, but they were all reference copies, so I couldn't even request it for her. It's unfortunately when a library can't fill a patron's request, but it does happen.
However, this patron was upset with my decision, and came back with the argument that she was a tax payer, and she wants her tax money to be used to purchase this book.
This got me wondering just what an average resident does "contribute" to the library's budget, so I did some rough calculations:
- Library budget is roughly $1,500,000
- Chelmsford population is roughly 33,000
- So, $1,500,000 / 33,000 = $45
These numbers are very rough, but I was surprised the contribution was even this high - and that it happened to be so close to the price of the book in question.
But if we did allow this sort of earmarking, it would mean that this patron's entire year's library privileges, plus part of next year, would be tied up in this one book. If this system was used, she couldn't use any other library resource: no other books, DVDs, etc, she couldn't come into the library and use our electricity or heat, and she wouldn't be entitled to any assistance from staff. For more than a year.
This is why this kind of micromanaging is impossible in community-funded resources. Taxes stop being "my taxes" as soon as they're paid to the Town, and then become "our resources." That money is then spent by responsible stewards - librarians, Town Clerk, DPW workers, etc - in a way that best benefits the town overall. Everyone in town, who are all treated equally, regardless of how much their tax bill is.
I apologize for the rant - I know this is all basic Library 101 stuff, but maybe only to librarians.
*It was a genealogy book about early settlers of Jamestown, VA, and no sources I consulted drew any connection to Chelmsford, MA. We only collect local and regional resources, and this just didn't fit. Plus, since we have a limited budget, purchasing it could mean that two other items more relevant to Chelmsford don't get purchased. This is why collection development policies are so important.
February 2nd, 2014 Brian Herzog
Working with the public every day allows lots of opportunity for just weird interactions.
Our federal instruction booklets finally arrived, and I was wheeling boxes of them upstairs to put out for the public. Both the 1040 A and 1040 EZ instructions were delivered on the same day, so I had quite a few trips up the elevator with boxes stacked on a two-wheel dolly.
On one of the trips, when the elevator door opened upstairs to let me off, there was a woman standing smack in front of the elevator, waiting to get on. Obviously I had to get off first to make room for her, so she had to step back to let me pass. I didn't think twice about it or look back, but I presume she then got on the elevator.
I didn't have far to go to drop the boxes off, and since I had to go back downstairs for more, I was back at the elevator in just a minute or two. When I pressed the button to call the elevator, the door open immediately, and that same woman stepped out.
She looked around, looked at me with the dolly, and said,
Don't bother, this elevator doesn't work.
I really couldn't tell if she didn't remember that I had just gotten off of a successful elevator ride not two minutes ago.
I said something like, "Oh really? That's strange." and proceeded to get in anyway. She followed me in, and said,
Yeah, I wanted to go down, but when I press the "door close" button, nothing happens.
And of course, she pressed the door close button - and the door closed. So, trying to be both helpful and tactful, I said,
Oh - in this elevator, you need to press the "downstairs" button to go down.
I did, and the elevator descended. We rode down in absolute silence. When the door opened, she walked off, I went to get more tax form boxes, and I never saw her again.
January 30th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's something fun: the recent post on iLibrarian (one of my favorite blogs) covers "6 Terms that Instantly Reveal You as a Librarian."
I'm as much a fan of stereotypes as the next guy - especially in the "your language is your identity" theme - and some of these really made me laugh for how spot-on they were:
- Primary Sources
The only people I've heard use "primary sources" are academics, or students of academics who were told to find primary sources but have no idea what they are.
I would submit a few more, too: serials, definitely (and even periodicals for that matter); databases; pathfinder; bibliography.
What kind of librarian jargon do you think makes us stand out?
January 25th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's something nice about librarians: we know that one of the best ways to self-medicate is with information. One of my co-workers told me this story - it could have happened to anyone, but since she approached it in a librarian way, I figured other people would enjoy it too.
My coworker was talking to her sister recently, who had hurt her arm and was required to sleep with her arm propped up. Which sounds normal enough, but this idea struck terror into the heart of my coworker.
One of her childhood fears, that has stuck with her all her life, is sleeping with her arms propped up. It stemmed from reading a book of Christian stories in her dentist's waiting room - the story was about how Jesus knew you were dead and ready to be taken to Heaven if you were in bed with your arms propped up.
She decided to search to see if she could re-locate whatever story this was - because no one else remembered reading it. She searched for various combinations of keywords (jesus dead holding up hand childrens story), and eventually she found it!
It's called Jesus Understood, and I agree with her that the whole thing comes across now as pretty creepy. I had never heard of this propped hand = Heaven idea, but I can see why the last sentence might stay with a child:
It's a short story (just three pages), so read it and see what you think.
Anyway, I thought this was a very librarian way to face a childhood terror - go back and find the source, and see how it reads as an adult. Hopefully my coworker can now sleep peacefully.