or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library (Bad) Day in the Life

   August 25th, 2009 Brian Herzog

I feel bad when I complain, but here's a version of the Librarian Day in the Life for A Bad Day.

7:00 am, Monday

  • Wake up before alarm, feel pretty good
  • Play on internet, read, mess around house because I have lots of time before work

8:12 am

  • Remember I'm supposed to meet printer repairman from Conway at library at 8:15 am
  • Call library to let someone know I'll be late and to pass word to Conway guy; no one answers the phone
  • Shower, shave, dress, pack lunch
  • Spend five minutes looking for my keys - I never lose my keys - give up and use spare

8:45 am

  • Arrive at library, find out two people have called in sick
  • Talk to Conway guy, who is installing latest version of Envisionware LPT:One to fix all the bugs with current version
  • Find out catalog is slow-to-stopped; call catalog tech support to report it

9:00 am

    Library dome inside

  • Maintenance guy tells me this: he noticed water streaks on the inside of the library's dome, so he and the sprinkler repair man were up on ladders this morning looking for leak. It turns out it's a hole in the copper roof, not a sprinkler leak. But while moving around up there, one of them bumps a light fixture, which tips and water spills out (apparently, this light was right under the leak). Both guys go to grab it: our maintenance guy grabs the outside of the fixture, but the sprinkler guy grabs the edge, and when his fingers touch the water inside the fixture, he gets a (thankfully mild) electric shock. Neither guy falls off ladder, which is good
  • Reference coworker arrives, and she tells me I asked both her and another person to work the same shift this past Saturday - I have no memory of this, but it makes me feel bad I made both of them get up early on a Saturday
  • Catalog seems fixed, which is very good
  • Find out two more people have called in sick; start scrambling to find desk coverage
  • Circ staff says someone threw a full cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in the book return box (two weeks ago it was an egg) - don't know how many books were damaged

9:30 am - Library opens to public

  • Conway guy finishes up, everything seems to be working properly (for the first time in 10 months)
  • Childrens room reports that a patron peed on the floor

10:00 am - 1:30 pm

  • Many patrons calling in for museum passes, since this is the last week before school starts - almost all passes are already taken, and no patrons are happy to hear this
  • Try to continue with updating policy manual (we revised all of our policies this year, and they were approved by Trustees in April. Ever since have been trying to get new policies consolidated into a single Word file and on website) - tedious but necessary, but don't get very far because of a lot of patron questions and calls
  • Talk to Director about "changes due to budget cuts" announcements - changes include cut to hours at both branches, cut to materials budget, and change in how items can be requested from branch. During the conversation, I find out that no one actually understands the technicalities behind the change to how requests are handled, so even though patrons have been noticing it and calling about it, this section is cut because we don't know what the system is doing
  • A computer support volunteer is updating our Amazon API (which broke last weekend) behind the reference desk. While I'm on the phone, I hear him offering to help patrons with their reference questions - does this bother other people as much as it bothered me?

1:30 pm - 2:00 pm

  • Lunch break - or so I would think. Computer volunteer comes to find me about 1:40 to talk about update; spend ten minutes testing to make sure the update worked (it seemed to, which is a good thing). Hurry to finish lunch of very unexciting salad
  • On my way back to the desk, I find a woman wandering in the back room looking for the Director. She's out of the building, so I talk to the woman. This woman has been in the library every day for the last eight months asking for a job. She will not get a job because: 1) we had to lay people off due to budget cuts, so, obviously, we're not hiring; 2) she can barely speak English (excellent communication skills is a requirement for a public service position); 3) she has actually yelled at library staff when we repeatedly, every day, tell her we are not hiring. Today was my turn again

2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

  • Group in meeting room needs projector - go get projector, bring it to them. Two minutes later they ask for Mac adapter dongle for projector - spend ten minutes looking for it, but it is nowhere to be found. Go to meeting room to let the group know, and they're using one they brought (so why'd they ask for ours? And where has ours gotten to?)
  • Find out that the email announcement about the change in hours listed the wrong hours. Sigh
  • Work on updating the schedule for coverage at the Reference Desk. Anytime I try to change the schedule, everyone gets upset with me, and this time is no exception - this has been a tense topic for the last week and a half
  • Patron looking for summer reading books is upset that none of the books her child wants are checked in - one week before school starts, this should not be a surprise

3:30 pm

  • Notice one of the YA computers is missing. Which is odd, since it was there this morning, and no other tech person is in the building. Check logs, and the last activity was that it was a session ended by user at 1:39 pm. Ask around, no one knows anything about it, so can only conclude that it must have been stolen. Monitor is still there, and so are all the cables - it looks like someone just unplugged the CPU and walked away. Look in all corners and bathroom of library, but it is nowhere to be found.

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

  • Patron question: "I have a tenant who wants to open a day care in her apartment - can I get the legal form for that?" Look in all our landlord and legal forms books, but patron doesn't see what she's after. Look online, can't find anything. The closest thing I can find is a commercial lease rental form, which covers running a business from a rental property, but patron (inexplicably) says that's not what she wants. Request books of rental agreements from other libraries for patron, but patron is clearly unhappy she might have to contact a lawyer. Patron also is not interested in referral to Lowell Law Library or BPL's business branch
  • A different patron wanted the transcript from Obama's recent interfaith conference call - couldn't find that, but could find a site with a video. But all the computers were in use so the patron couldn't watch it right then, and she didn't want to wait for a computer, so she left (annoyed)
  • 5:00 pm - evening desk staff comes in. Have you ever noticed that when you're in a bad mood, everyone else seems to be in a really good mood?

After Work

  • Go to grocery store (which I do not enjoy). The Hannaford by me recently remodeled, so in addition to not knowing where anything is anymore, when I do find the right section, it seems they no longer carry a lot of the brands or sizes I used to buy. And then the cashier acts put-out that I bring my own cloth bag and don't want plastic bags
  • Get home, unpack groceries, find keys (way down between couch cushions), eat popsicles and watch Danger Mouse (which is great, but I can't find any Bananaman - oh well)

Tomorrow can only be better, right? But I still wonder what happened to that computer.

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