Friday, February 5, 2010

An Observation (and a simple defense for librarianship)

People rarely say exactly what they mean. They'll often say some part or variation of it, but leave the pith of their meaning un-spoken. At work, this happens all the time. Someone will ask where the books about animals are, and leave it at that. Animal non-fiction spans the 590s of the Dewey. Kids love animal books, and publishers know this; there are a million of them.

Thus, as I librarian, I have to be logical: These people aren't going to want to go through every book about animals until they get to what they're looking for. Preposterous. So, I have to ask leading--even prying--questions. Questions like, "What grade is your child in? What project is she doing? What kind of animal(s) is she looking for? Your name, your quest, your favorite color?..." Et cetera. Questions that essentially ask, "Now, what are you really looking for?"

Even after that, if the book we've found is unsatisfactory, some of the follow up questions can be pretty vague, like, "Well, can you just find books about Utah in general?" This requires me to flex my librarian's muscle again: "But weren't you specifically looking for books on animals in Utah?" Yes... "So why don't I try a different search, like 'desert animals' or 'animals of the southwest'?" Utah books in general would have just given her a bunch of crap about Jim Bridger and the Great Salt Lake. Maybe seagulls.

If there is one thing I've learned about patrons during my eight and a half months as a pseudo-librarian, it's that many people have no idea what they're looking for. And even if they do know, they still don't know, because they have no idea how or where to find it.

I wonder if all of this, everything I've written, is analogous to human nature in general?

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Story, and it's Mine.

I just spent the last half-hour free-writing something I only half-intended to post. And now that I've re-read it, I am fully convinced I will never post it. At least not in full. It's like brain vomit. But you know what? I got it out of my head. And that's what's important.

For those still curious, I will give a brief but comprehensive update on my life. The biggest news is T. (And I'm not referring to him as T to bug him, because I know he dislikes it, but because this is a public blog, and I think SOME privacy is in order.) I've never mentioned him by name (or initial) on this blog. I'm not even sure I have referred to him in the abstract either. But it is neither my intention to be oblique or abstract tonight, so here it goes: T and I were friends. And now we are dating. In the meantime, we are STILL friends, or at least we still were an hour ago, and will probably be friends ad infinitum, as the ancient Italians would say.

So here goes. Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it:

Once upon a time there was a very judgmental girl who, never admitting this to herself, thought that all the boys of her acquaintance were either totally creepy or immature. And then one day, one of these people, who, in her mind, fell into one of these categories, swaggered into a church activity and caught her eye--all of this according to that most unpredictable of sciences, physical attraction.

But they hardly knew each other, and each, regarding each other with due uninterest (or outright suspicion) simply gave the other a wide berth.

In the meantime, the girl both liked and disliked what she saw in the boy, and battled within herself about it. But mostly, she didn't think about him. Loneliness had fostered within her a kind of defensiveness. And, wishing at all costs to not repeat certain mistakes and heartaches and vulnerabilities she had undergone in the none-too-distant past, she guarded her affection jealously, and resented the attraction she felt for the boy. What would a boy like that have to do with a girl like her? She thought, nothing, and went on her merry way.

Then one day--the day the boy discovered that he and the girl shared a birthday--they spoke again. The day was hot. The girl was coming home from work, and so was he. She saw him drive in, and disregarded it. Then the unthinkable happened. He spoke to her again--he shouted her name across the parking lot--and he spoke to her as easily as if no silence had ever passed between them.

Later that day, to compound the unthinkable, the boy asked the girl for a date. She couldn't go. But that didn't matter in the long run. Not really. The seed of a long series of (hopefully not unfortunate but definitely) unexplainable events had been planted.

Over the course of time, friendship began to grow little by little. Girl and boy began a lively, if somewhat frivolous--though occasionally serious--Gchat correspondence. The girl felt comfortable behind the semi-anonymity of the written word, and began to peel down some of her defenses, one by one. The boy intrigued her. She caught glimpses of certain sides of him she never suspected existed. And naturally, the lively, if somewhat frivolous, and occasionally serious, conversations began to occur--by degrees--face to face.

By late October, the girl's heart was well on its way to being lost. Confused, a little exhilarated, but mostly terrified, she hid these feelings. She did not dare let the boy know, because of a kind of certainty that her confusing, exhilarating, but mostly terrifying feelings were not returned, and would be met unfavorably upon revelation.

So she buried her suffering poet's heart for a month a half, and continued to let friendship grow on its own. November was a black and white month filled with some highs...and some interesting, disappointing lows. But no matter how low it got, the girl felt completely calm, which was the biggest surprise of all. Some days she felt like SCREAMING, "Why?!"...but she didn't. And she inevitably felt better.

By December, she'd had it. The girl had been in this situation before and had learned from it. Seeing that her suffering heart was on the fast track to sure disappointment, she resolved to distance herself from the boy. It wasn't his fault, but his was a door that needed closing, and soon. So she gathered herself together, bolstering her resolve with thoughts of how nice and simple life was going to be again, and with these comforting, if somewhat optimistic thoughts, she started...closing...the door.

But then, for the second or third time during the course of their acquaintance, the unthinkable happened, and this boy--this dear friend, who, unbeknownst to him, was about to be purged from her circle of daily contacts--put his foot between the door and the jam, and said, "Don't go."

So she didn't--but with enormous (and, I think, pardonable) skepticism. Skepticism which, by degrees, melted away into something like trust. And then something that was trust. And then...

Well...let's just say goodnight for tonight. There is more story to tell, but it bears waiting and watching. Obviously, from the story I've told, I have simplified and foreshortened and eliminated almost every concrete detail in the interest of being concise. And I realize that by doing so I broke my promise to be neither abstract or oblique. But oh well. Sometimes a metaphor says more. So I guess if I had to tell this story in one sentence, it would go something like this: The seed that was planted many months ago was a good one--simply because it grew.