Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dream Journal: Chocolate Cake Batter Ice-Cream

I dreamt that I was out late one night and my friends Shanelle and Mike, Julie, Whitney and Daniel all pulled up in a car. They were going somewhere without having called me. I thought, “Since when do my friends start doing things without telling me? Is this what happens when you get married?” Anyway, I told them I really wanted to go to Cold Stone and get chocolate cake batter ice cream, so they all agreed. I also casually dropped into the conversation the fact that it was August 5. “Oh my gosh, it’s Pear’s birthday!” They all said. I said it to make them feel obliged to go to Cold Stone. (Heh.) So we all went and we ordered from the girls behind the counter, and we got the little pagers that tell you when your order is ready ('cause it takes SO LONG to get ice cream ready.) Anyway, we all went outside to wait, and it was suddenly late afternoon and not evening. Travis and I decided to go for a bike ride up to the church building just up the road to check it out for some reason. When we got there, people from our old ward were playing broom hockey in the cultural hall. We said hi to a few of them. I was anxious to get back to Cold Stone because I was pretty sure the pager wouldn’t work from this distance, but Travis told me to relax. I also had to go to the bathroom, but since there were several wards’ activities going on, I couldn’t find an empty bathroom. Finally, after walking across at least two cultural halls, I found the other side of the immense church building, and an empty bathroom. When I came back, I was really insistent that we go back to the creamery. So Julie (whom Travis had mysteriously transmutated into) and I rode back down the hill to Cold Stone in the late afternoon. By the time we got there, it was dark again. Which was weird. My pager had never gone off, but I was quite sure it was because I’d been too far away. So I went into the creamery, which was about to close, and lied and said my pager had never gone off and could I please get my order. I was as nice about it as I could be. They were nice, too, but they handed me two free cookies instead of my ice cream because I guess they had really closed up shop. I said, “This is really nice, but can I please just get a SCOOP of chocolate cake batter ice cream? It’s all I want.” One of the girls went into the back room. I think she didn’t know how to handle the situation because a manager came out and said to his staff, “Now girls, what do we do in a crisis?” And he pointed to a poster on the wall that told them how to react in a crisis. Then he asked how he could help me. I told him I just wanted some chocolate cake batter ice cream. It took him about ten minutes, but he finally was able to fish a tiny ben and jerry’s type container of chocolate cake batter ice cream out of some freezer. The freezer was a tiny hole behind the counter that was way up close to the ceiling. It was bizarre how hard it was to get my ice cream. Maybe the girl who had complained had a legit reason. I finally got my tiny container of ice cream and I rejoined my friends who had long finished theirs.

And then I woke up.

Friday, October 15, 2010

10 Things this Public Librarian Hates About You: True Confessions of a Fledgling Reference Assistant.

It’s not easy working with the public. Any flight attendant, receptionist or customer service rep can tell you that. So I present for your consideration 10 things that make my work harder than it needs to be. And this is going to come off as really negative. But level with me: Sometimes it’s fun to be snarky and my snark-o-meter is off the charts today. So get ready for some good-hearted—and perfectly legitimate—reasons why I hate (certain) patrons:

1. Lunch.

Does this look like a cafeteria? Is there a big yellow M rotating slowly outside our building? No. So eat your food elsewhere. “But I’ll just eat at home around the library books, so what’s the big deal about eating in the library?” We don’t really care what, where and how you eat at home just as long as you don’t ruin the books. But we can control what, where, and whether you can eat in the library.

2. Apologizing.

I can’t tell you how many patrons apologize for “interrupting” my work at the desk with a question. Your questions are my work! And believe it or not, I’m not going to think you’re stupid. I really don’t take for granted that you know your way around or how to read a Dewey call number. So when I’m sitting at my desk “deeply absorbed” in my work, 19 times out of 20 I’m playing around with different search techniques, or reading work-related emails, or even just reading the New York Times online!

3. Overly chummy patrons.

Like I said: we love answering questions. It’s why we do our job. But please don’t talk about your uncle’s best friend’s cousin or your crazy political conspiracy theories or anything else completely unrelated to your reference question. We’re not your best friend, so don’t draw us into pointless conversations when other people might really need our help. No, actually…just don’t do it because it’s annoying and we have to pretend to care.

4. Impatience.

No…let’s call a spade a spade: Rudeness. In what universe is it okay to be impatient, nay, rude to someone who is sincerely trying to help? A patron who is already in a bad mood will often find any way to misconstrue a librarian’s genuine mistake into a deliberate attempt to sabotage them. You may be having a crappy day but please don’t project your hostility on to me. And if you threaten to talk to my supervisors? Be my guest. They don’t tolerate a bully either.

5. Waiters.

Not food servers. People who wait at the desk without ringing the bell. I try to stay at the desk as much as I can. I really do. My job is to be available to answer questions when they come. But sometimes something pulls me out into the stacks and I may not notice you standing there, pursing your lips and tapping your fingers impatiently until I’m on my way back again. Ring the damn bell.

6. Babysitting.

I am not responsible for providing your child with pens and an unlimited supply of paper while you play on the computer. If you bring your kids to the library, take them out of the kids section and expect them to be patient while you do your thing, you better provide your own distractions. My job description does not include making paper airplanes, cutting snowflakes or making sure your kid is not disrupting everyone else who’s trying to study. Believe it or not, I don’t think your kids are as cute as you think they are. And if I catch them pulling books off the shelves with reckless abandon, I will hunt you down and kill you. (I should just note here that children are some of the best public library patrons, usually polite, and delightful in almost every way.)

7. Pornography.

There’s a little thing called the Child Internet Protection Act that not only makes it a bad idea to look at porn in a public library, but illegal. Are you so pathetic that you can’t wait to look at this at home? Or on your own computer? You don’t have one? Not my problem.

8. “Is it clean?”

Here in Happy Valley we get this question a lot, especially down in the movie section. Probably this question shouldn’t bother me, but it does. Who am I to be the arbiter between you and what media may or may not be “clean?” And how am I to even know what your standards are? Don’t assume that I know what you mean. Moral standards may be important to you—and to me too! But don’t assume that I too consider a movie with one or two swears in it to be “unclean.” I don't let the MPAA dictate what I do or don't watch.

9. Complaining.

Bad and annoying things happen in libraries. They do. Sometimes other patrons are inconsiderate. Sometimes things are too hard to find. Offer a suggestion. Fill out a form if you must. But I, the person at the desk, am but a peon in the library hierarchy. All I have the power to do is to pass along your suggestions to the Powers that Be. But if you offer them in the spirit of complaint—or entitlement--I may be less inclined to do so.

10. Indecisive reader.

One of my duties is to advise people in the choice of a novel, and while this is often challenging, you can have some fun with it as a librarian. But for some patrons, nothing I suggest is good enough. The one book they’ve read in their entire life is Twilight by Stephenie Meier and they want to read something exactly like that. Exactly. Newsflash: (Do I even need to say this?) NO TWO BOOKS ARE EXACTLY ALIKE. All I can do is offer suggestions based on a brief discussion with you about your tastes and some books you’ve read that you liked. It’s hard enough recommending books to people you’ve known your whole life. I can only do so much for a total stranger. And another thing. Do yourself a favor and branch out a little.

I love my job. I really, really enjoy helping people. There is pretty awesome satisfaction in helping someone achieve something, whether that be finding a book or creating a document or leaving with an armful of fantastic movies. But don’t be a bad patron, because then I will have to hate you. And that would be sad.