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

Reference Question of the Week – 6/19/11

   June 25th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Universal Male-Female bathroom signThis question made me laugh - especially coming so close to Oxford University Press' recent release of librarian statistics.

I was sitting at the desk with a female coworker, talking about a request a patron had just made. During our discussion, a female patrons begins to approach the desk, and we both turn to greet her.

The patron is slowly walking up to the desk directly between both of us, and keeps swiveling her head back and forth, as if deciding which of us she is going to address with her question. This always prompts me to say, "Hi, can I help you?" immediately, because delay and indecision is another of my pet peeves.

As soon as I say this, the patron moves closer to my female colleague, but turns her head towards me and says,

Hello. I don't mean any offense, I'm just more comfortable asking a woman my question.

Oh, okay, one of those questions - that's no problem at all. This is actually one of the advantages of having both male and female reference staff - sometimes, people are more comfortable asking medical or really personal questions to someone of their same gender. It happens, and that's fine.

I say something like, "no problem," and turn away from them in my chair to go back to work on the computer. But being only four feet away, I can still overhear the patron's question:

Can you help me find a good cherry cheesecake recipe?

Sigh. Do you see the kind of discrimination all 41 miles of us male librarians put up with in this woman's world? Its true I'm not a great cook, but could have helped her with that. But instead, I'll just go back to my raw meat and football. Oh, and tell the geisha to bring me more whiskey and cigars.

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How Sexy Is Your Bible?

   March 11th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Princess Bible book coverHere's another one of those coincidences with the same topic popping up in different contexts throughout the day.

On my way in to work one day last week, I heard a story on the radio (via the BBC) talking about how children are becoming more sexualized. I wouldn't have thought this was possible, but the report described how, for decades, society has told little girls that they need to be thin and pretty. But recently, society has ramped up this message, telling them they need to be thin and pretty and sexually-attractive to boys. It seemed to say that now it's not just about looks, but that sex appeal is also required.

Later at work, our Teen Librarian asked me if I'd heard of a "princess bible." I hadn't, so I looked it up, and sure enough they are for sale. Our reactions were the same, and echoed the point of the radio show earlier: isn't this an odd mixture of religion and sassy sexy self-image?

Not necessarily, of course, because I know my niece likes Disney princesses, and that is totally innocent. Perhaps I'm just being over-sensitive on the little girl sex angle. Maybe it's just the marketing gimmicky feel of it I don't like - it seems akin to using a cartoon camel to peddle cigarette to children. I guess I just question what this princess message is trying to appeal to in young girls - and whether that should be necessary to sell Bibles. It seems a bit at odds with the pious modesty of Christianity.

Interestingly, this book appears in WorldCat.

And just for a counter-point, BoingBoing reports that Campus atheists offer free porn in exchange for Bibles. I guess there's more than one way to connect religion and sex.

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Flashing in the Stacks

   August 15th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Just a warning - this was posted on a "sex blog," but it's still worth a read.

It has a nice picture, too, and I think "A library isn’t a petting zoo" should be on a t-shirt.

flashing, libraries, library, masturbating, perverts, public libraries, public library, sex, stacks

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Sex…@ your library

   January 25th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Oversize books corner So, I'm making my rounds just before we close last night, and what do I find? A condom and wrapper. Hooray.

I know it's a fetish of sorts, and I've heard of libraries having trouble with patron fornication. Even another library I worked in had incidents (before I was there). But this is the first time I've come face to face with it, so to speak.

I talked to some of the other staff about it today, and we all agreed that yes, the place where the condom was found is a very secluded, blind corner, and yes, we need to address this. One of the other librarians asked if I could show her exactly where I found it, and when I took her back there - guess what we found? Another condom.

Luckily, thankfully, although both were opened, neither were used (although we didn't look too close). It could possibly be just kids getting excited about playing with something taboo, even if they're not using them for their intended purpose.

But it's pretty clear this is completely inappropriate library behavior, and so we're looking into how to stop it. Here's what we've come up with so far:

  1. Put up a security camera (which is costly, and would also have to be monitored to be effective)
  2. Put up a fake security camera (and hope the presence of it is intimidating enough)
  3. Make desk staff get up at least every thirty minutes and "patrol" (which is something we should really be doing anyway)
  4. Redesign the layout of the stacks in this area, to improve sightlines (which actually isn't feasible, considering all our shelving is bolted into the concrete floor, and aligned with the ceiling lighting)
  5. Remove the shelves from this area that make it so secluded (although, my first thought on that is that this would just give more space down there for who knows what)
  6. Wall off this corner entirely, and make it into a storage closet

I think the final solution will be a combination of a few of these. Definitely #3, probably #5, and maybe either #1 or #6. Sigh. Never a dull moment.

(And don't even get me started on oversize books in general - they seem to be problematic in every public library)

book, books, condoms, inappropriate behavior, libraries, library, oversize, oversize books, oversized, oversized books, public libraries, public library, sex

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