Monday, May 10, 2010

Embarrassing Story #23 Cranky Librarian

One Sunday I went down to our local library to get some books. I brought my son's library card instead of my own. Between us, we have several library cards. I just grab whichever one I thought had the least fines on it: in this instance it was my son Jerome's.

I admit, I am bad with the library fines thing. Bringing library books back is really hard for me. When I say hard, I guess I mean boring and tedious. First I have to find all the books I left around the house, then I have to put them in the car, then I have to go out of my way to drive to the library, then I have to find a parking spot.

If they had a drive-through library drop chute, that would be VERY handy. But no, you have to get out of your car and walk ALL the way into the library to return the books. Every one of these steps is boring. Believe it or not, the very thought of it makes me want to cry tears of frustration.

If a librarian was reading this, she (or he) might argue, "When you wanted to get the books, it was no trouble for you drive to the library, park the car, go into the library, borrow them, bring them home, and scatter them all around your house. Now, you can just do the same thing, but in reverse. What's the big deal?"

My answer is, "Dear Imaginary Librarian, you are right. That is a very logical argument. However, when I borrowed the books I was excited and enthusiastic about reading them all. When it came to returning them, I was the opposite of excited. I was bored to tears. The only way I can get motivated to return the old books is to remind myself that then I can get new ones."

At least I pay my library fines, and I do so gaily because I know the library will use the money to buy more books for me to enjoy.

Now on this particular Sunday, I strolled around the library like a shop-a-holic on a shopping spree, my armful of books getting heavier by degrees as I loaded it up with books. I started out in Junior Fiction. Praise Jesus! The first book I saw was "Little House on the Prairie", which I had been meaning to read to Jerome. It had been missing for ages, but here it was. I got "Farmer Boy" as well. Then I grabbed some titles for Harry, anything with large pictures of guns and fighter planes usually goes down well with him.

I helped myself to some books on quilts, architecture, and horse-riding trails. Then a title jumped out at me:
"10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life"

I was a single mom at the time (did I ever mention that I was a single mom for 8 years?) and I did not have a sex life at all. I did have the occasional boyfriend during that era, but being a mom was the most important priority for me, and it took a long time to find a man who would make a great husband and stepfather, and thank God I found him eventually.

I flipped through the book and I thought it looked okay, nothing really surprising in there, but...
"No harm in being well-informed!" I thought. Honestly, those were my thoughts at the time.

When I swiped Jerome's card at the self-serve book check-out, it went "MURP!" and a sad face came up :-( along with a sign that said, "Please go to Library Desk". I know that sad face rather well.

The librarian was a tall, heavy-set lady with steely grey hair and an aura that says "Bite me!". I hadn't seen her before.
"You've got fines," she said.
"Yes, I know. I'd like to pay them please."
"That's $5.20."
I handed over the right money.
Then she swiped the card again and this time it made a "BIP!" noise, which makes me happy because I am about to get my books.

The lady started to scan my books. I had inserted "10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life" between Farmer Boy and Quilts. "At least I am not so brazen as to put it right on the top of the pile," I thought.

When the lady came to "10 Ways...", she stopped and glared at me.
"These books are being borrowed on the card of Jerome."
"Yes? He is my son," I replied. She glanced at her computer screen again.
"And how old would Jerome be?"
"Eight," I replied, guessing she probably had his date of birth right there.
"I can believe Jerome is going to be interested in some of these books, but Quilts?And, this?"
She held up the "10 Ways..." book between finger and thumb.
"Well, that is for me," I shrugged.

Some people would no doubt find this embarrassing, or even humiliating. I admit I did blush, but my main feeling was confusion.
"What is the problem?" I wondered, "I am an adult; I can borrow a book on sex. But this lady is looking at me like I'm some kind of criminal."

I went ahead and borrowed the books anyway. The librarian was seething. She could not cite any rule that dictated what kind of books should be borrowed on a child's card. But I got the feeling she would have loved for there to be a rule about that. (Goodness, some people take their jobs SO seriously!)

I went home mystified as to what motivated the woman. Sometimes I invent explanations to help myself feel better. For example, "The librarian is grumpy because she is constipated. Very badly. She got called in to work on a Sunday because somebody else called in sick. Her husband recently left her for a woman that had read a book on how to have a better sex life. She decided to take it all out on me."

What motivated that woman to be so grumpy was a mystery for many years.

And then I made friends with a lady who was a librarian (a nice one). She told me that people borrow things on children's cards because children can borrow things for as long as they like, and their fines are forgiven. Furthermore, she told me that some naughty people take books home and NEVER bring them back!

Okay, that makes more sense. But still! Do I look like a lying, thieving, rule-breaking, sex maniac & husband-stealer to you?


  1. yes.

    kidding!!! you really don't... just a library freak! ha ha ha kidding again!

    don't know why i am in this mood!

    and i don't go to the library, i really should, but i just buy the books on and then put them downstairs in our little condo library. it's a "take a book, leave a book" kind of thing. anyway now the ipad has changed me forever. i read ebooks! i love that i can change the print to larger too. it keeps my page for me and looks up words for me that i don't know, all kinds of things!

    did i mention i love my ipad? ha ha ha

    smiles, bee

  2. i love this - we don't get fines here for late books [amazingly enough and THANK GOD! i would be broke - i am the same way about returning them as you]

    but honestly - i don't know if i would really want the sex life book on my littlest's card - i would hate for it to come back to haunt her.

    Then again i hate the grocery store bonus cards because i always feel like they are tracking my purchases, as in "But Skippy why do you need a 3 bottles of champagne, a loofa and a tub of mayonaise?" heehee - i hate being tracked.

  3. What is it with librarians?? They always act like a fine of $0.30 is the equivalent of a DUI charge. I just paid $25 in fines,and gettingthose books back to the library was extremely hard and boring to begin with,let alone having a whopping fine. I can relate to this story! But heck with the joys of self-scanning at our local library,nobody minds what you borrow,or whose card it goes on.
    Love your work Kay.keep it coming.

  4. Of course, the best response to such impertinent questions is "Shove off. Next Question." [Choice of imperative in first sentence predicated upon your mood at the time.]


  5. Funny story! And when your son has an extensive background check done on him and they break into his library files, they'll think he's an early learner :)