Here’s a little sample of what I do:
- Assist library patrons with tax forms, computer issues, and downloading e-books
- Suggest book and film titles to patrons for both research and leisure
- Catalog new materials for the library by using the Dewey Decimal System, our automated system and my vast knowledge and years of experience
What I don’t do:
- Read books all day
- Shush people (I do yell at people, though.)
- Try to scare children (I don’t try but sometimes my size freaks them out. They either love a giant or run away from them. You get used to it.)
What you didn’t realize I do:
- Plunge toilets
- Clean up scary unidentifiable messes with rubber gloves
- Put up with LOADS OF CRAP from many people ALL DAY LONG
I’ve said before how much I love what I do. I’m not disputing that fact. I feel privileged to be in a profession that I am not only well suited for, but one that I’m really good at. I work with and for so many wonderful people that make me laugh and bring me joy and I am so grateful for them.
But then there are days like today. Days when I wonder why I do what I do.
As a librarian, I have had my fair share of scary or disgusting people to deal with. Like the Masturbator–the teenager who sat on the beanbag chair and who apparently didn’t realize that I could see what he was doing. A laptop on your lap really doesn’t cover up much when you have a sweaty face and glazed eyes…and I can see your hand move, you idiot. (As a side note, the beanbag chair was removed by me wearing rubber gloves and was stuffed in a closet. I haven’t stepped into that closet since.)
Or the Greasy-Haired Dude who always talks to the computer and pounds on the keyboard calling it a piece of junk. I have to continuously threaten to kick the guy out (and ban every so often). He at least doesn’t look at as much porn as he used to…although he may be stalking young women on Facebook. I’m not sure.
Or the Smelly Ones. The folks that don’t do anything “bad,” but you have to keep your mouth open and try not to breathe in too much when they’re at the desk.
And then there are just the people that are rude for whatever reason or the ones that hit on you or just the folks that are lonely and linger a little too long. You expect these types of folks when you work with the public. It’s just how it is.
But today, I experienced something new. And something vastly unpleasant. Something that made me angry and hurt and honestly, I wanted to hit this person. Today, I was accused of stealing.
Here’s the situation: A patron called to say she got her overdue notice in the mail and would be returning her books. Great! I knew the patron and when I sent her this “final notice,” I was never worried if she would return her books or not. She’s often late and pays her fines and it’s no big deal. It may take a while, but she’d be back.
Apparently she had never read any of her “final notices” before and was astounded that we mention prosecution in the letter. I assured her that this was a form letter that every single person gets when items are a month overdue, but yes, it would be stolen property if you don’t return the books so I think the language in the letter is appropriate. I do want the items returned, but in her case, since she was returning them, she had nothing to worry about. She then went on to say that she found it interesting that our maximum fine is $2 per item, when she had to pay nearly $50 in fines last year and there was no way she had checked out 25 books.
Ok. Here’s the point where I kind of lost it. She kept repeating that “someone” at the library charged her this amount and “there’s something wrong there.” I asked her point blank if she thought we maliciously charged her more than what she owed or “padded” her overdue fines. And then she repeated that “someone at the library” business and I thought I was going to bitch slap her through the phone.
Here’s the thing. We have 4 employees at the library. F-O-U-R. I have worked with two of them for nearly 10 years. NO ONE PADDED ANYTHING. I’m quite certain that *I* was the one who collected her fines last year. And you know how much money and for how many books? $42 for 21 LATE BOOKS. Not 25 books mind you, but 21. (“I never check out that many!”)
I’ve said before that I don’t make much money doing what I do. But would I pad someone’s fines to pocket a little cash? Would I steal from my job, from my library? Absolutely fucking not!! I, in fact, have some friggin’ integrity. (Probably not for everything, but most definitely in the workplace.) To be accused of something I find loathsome….it just burns my butt.
And yet when this patron did come in to pay her fines with her two young children in tow, do you know what I did? I pasted that smile on my face, thanked her graciously for her books and her money, asked her young son about coloring Easter eggs and if he wanted to find more books to read. I was downright delightful.
I didn’t shove her fine history in her face and tell her horribly wrong she was. I didn’t tell her what a rotten person I think she is for accusing me of stealing from her and from the library. I really wanted to tell her that she was so fucking wrong. Wrong about everything.
Did she forget that I was the one who forgave her fines after she had a baby? (Seriously, that was the least I could do.) Or how much her son enjoys story time at our library? Or that we help pack her book bags and make sure she’s all set before she leaves the building with her little ones? Did she really forget all of those kindnesses and instead just thought horrible things about the library and our staff?
I think I’m heartbroken.
I shouldn’t be, right? This person doesn’t really matter. She’s going to think what she thinks and maybe there’s nothing I can do about it. I probably need to teach myself that little lesson I tried to teach my son a few weeks ago, about not trusting everyone. Not every person can be your friend and not everyone will like you. I’m just coming to terms that not everyone likes me. I think I’m ok with that.
But accusing me of ripping off a library patron? It’s not only inconceivable, but unforgivable.