Can we try a little more personal?
Ok, so I admit it. If I am having small talk with a patron, sometimes I err on the side of truthiness rather than straight up facts in order to expedite the chitchat and avoid giving out personal information. So, if someone guesses my ethnicity, and it's kind of close (whatever that means), I'll just say "yeah, that's right," just to get on with things. Or if someone happens to know my first name, but they totally butcher it to shredded parmesan, I just say "yeah, that's me." Stuff like that. No harm in that, right? The point is to be friendly and get on with the research at hand. So, today, here's what happened.
This lady comes up to the desk and I like her immediately because she looks kind of like Anne Ramsey. She asks me a kind of complicated tax form question, and so I start to work on it. As she waits, she casually says: "this is associated with filing my taxes with the [x] form. You know what I mean when I say that?" and I nod yes, I know what she means. "So you file with that form?"
Why did I say no? I do in fact file with [x] form. It's just that I could sense an oncoming threat that she was going to want to ask me something kind of personal about it and possibly get all up in my kool-aid. It's just part of the library-customer-service thing: some people be getting too familiar. So the reason I said no was to indicate that although I know what form [x] is, I have never before seen it, filled it out, whiffed it, touched it, nothing. This message, I was hoping, would get me out of any more personal questions about why I use [x] form. But boy, was I wrong!
Her: You don't? And how much do you make a year?
Me: (typing ever so much faster) Umm. I can't really tell you that, I'm sorry.
Her: But you're a librarian, right?
Her: And that requires a Master's Degree?
Her: So you must make [some arbitrary amount that would make you librarians out there snort milk through your nose].
Me: (silence, typing, silence)
Her: How old are you anyway?
Me: (concentrated typing with furrowed brow)
Her: You hardly look old enough to have a Master's Degree.
Me: (typing but now liking her a bit more)
Her: Are you married? Do you file jointly?
Me: (typetty type type-- is this lady going to carry on an entire conversation by herself?)
Her: I just can't understand why you don't use that form. Do you do your own taxes?
Me: mmmmm (some sound that could alternately sound like yes, no, or yummy yummy)
Her: Do you own your own home? Just how much do you make?
Me: I'm sorry ma'am, I'm not really allowed to answer personal questions (allowed by ME, that is).
Her: (overly indignant) Well, they're not really THAT personal.
Me: I'm sorry (and I'm apologizing because...?)
Her: I just don't understand why you wouldn't use that form!
Me: Here's the print out of that information you wanted.
Her: (kind of pissed off) You should print out another copy to take home for yourself, you know.
Me: (pause, pause)
Her: If that's not too personal of a statement.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Can we try a little more personal?
One of the things that I do when I think you are cool is celebrate your birthday. Yes, I am going to get all up in your bidness and ask you when your birthday is, and then when it comes around I will do something celebratory in honor of your you-ness. I can’t help it, it’s how I was raised. I love my birthday. And if I love you, I love your birthday. There’s nothing like being loved and honored by your homies on your DOB, and admit it, it feels kind of rotted to have a birthday when your friends/family forget it, like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles.
I know there are those of you that don’t want to celebrate your birthday, and I respect that, but it’s hard. It’s easier for me to respect differences like if you’re a different religion than me, or have different political affiliations, or you think that baseball is better than kickball. But not letting people who love you celebrate your birthday? Huh? To be honest, you people that are like that are... weird. Flat out. I’m an understanding person, but I don’t get that. Don’t. Get. It. What is going on with you that you don’t want a present? A PRESENT. Are you kidding me? Or a cake, or ice cream, or an effin’ card? Receive the love, people; it’s ok. It makes me worry for your self-esteem when you don’t want the love. Who refuses expressions of love? Not giving your peeps an opportunity to love the shit out of you is just harsh. It seems like the older I get, the more people are doing this. Like we’re all too old and crusty for birthdays, bah humbug, and fun like that is only for the wee ones.
So in my small way, I am combatting this anti-birthday-ism, which, in my opinion, is merely an indicator of the larger problem of people losing their desire to party and deciding to curl into a dried up musty pruneball. Just think of me as Viagara for birthdays. Stop being a grumpy curmudgeon and have some fun. Claim a whole day as yours, ALL YOURS, and graciously accept some lovin’. If you feel like you don't deserve it, then I'm going to give it to you straight: THAT'S DUMB. Everyone deserves You-Appreciation-Day. You don’t want a party, fine. No presents, no sweet treats, ok. Tell you what I’m going to do. When it’s your birthday, my friends out there, I will give you some love on this blog. If you’re on my birthday calendar, you are getting a Librarian Girl shout-out.
Today’s birthday shout-out is for my Bay Area Brother, who’s birthday is on Wednesday. He taught me my perfect frisbee throw, and read me Animal Farm when I was 8. He watched Grizzly Adams with me, was the only person in my family to come see me in my first college play, and brought bilingual poop jokes to a high art form when we were little. He had a crazy looking wallpaper mural of a waterfall plastered onto his bedroom wall, is the only person to this day that can beat me at foozball, and has the flattest pancake ass on the planet. We used to make comedy skits in which he would star and I would videotape/direct, including a Kung Fu style movie called “Kung Fool” that ended with him and my other brother salsa dancing in a giant sombrero and a Carmen-Miranda fruit-hat, respectively. Much of my crazy sense of humor comes straight from this dude. Happy birthday, brother. xx oo.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
My sister is math-y. How math-y is she? My sister is sooooo math-y, she's a regular Mathy McConaughey. I'm not a math-illiterate or anything. I could take a seat among your garden-variety mathletes, but I'm talking about crazy-math. What choo talking about Willis type math. She did her graduate work in stuff that I can't even begin to explain to you, and that's probably ok because chances are you wouldn't understand it anyway. She can think about all that Fermat doughnut stuff and it actually makes sense to her. I watched that documentary about it, and all I could think were Homer-thoughts: Mmmm. Doughnuts. Anyhoo. When my sister talks to her colleagues, and they're getting into it about who solved what which way, they sometimes use the word "elegant." You probably have heard that on tv or in A Beautiful Mind or something. Or maybe you run with a mathy crowd and when you split the bill at Big Boy you talk about elegant bill-splitting. Anyway, if you haven't heard of this, it doesn't just mean that you solved something. It means that you've done something creative, perhaps something unexpected. You've solved it in a way that adds a new dimension to the way this problem is thought about.
Yesterday a patron came in to chat. She comes in a couple of times a week, and she stops to tell me about whatever movie she's watched lately. This lady watches so many movies I am in awe of her. I don't know what she does for a living or if she does anything other than watch movies, but if she does I don't know how. Today, for a change, she was telling me about something she had read about in passing: the Desert Camel Experiment. If you're sitting there reading this thinking: "how the hay-ell does a random stranger come up to you and start chit-chatting about the Desert Camel Experiment," then you aren't a librarian, my friend. This is the random landscape upon which we thrive. As she mentioned it, I quickly drummed up a couple of sources for her in case she wanted to read more about it. She thanked me, but said she wasn't really interested in getting facts about it. She just thought it was entertaining. Hmmm. Not interested in facts? Just want to be entertained? Oh yes, I can do that. "Have you ever heard of the movie 'Hawmps'?" I asked. She perked up. I continued: "I seem to recall Slim Pickens was in that. It's a comedy set during the time of the Desert Camel Experiment. Not really historically accurate or anything, but...." "I'll take it!" she beams at me and looks like she wants to hug me to her bosom.
That, people, is an elegant solution.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Every night in Libraryland, we have a little problem. Nobody wants to leave. Well, nobody except those of us that work in Libraryland. But for the non-paid-to-be-there crowd, I honestly think they want to be locked in, like Luke and Laura in that department store, so they can frolic amongst the books in an overnight readathon slumber party. And it's not the homeless people that settle in for a comfy overnighter at the library, usually. It's everyone else. I realize this is a pretty nice problem to have, and yet another indication that people like our library and want to hang out here. So I'm not complaining too hard. But I can't help but wonder if there is a better way to do this. So here's what we do now, our own handcraftedCountdown to Lockdown: we make closing announcements over the PA system. This may not sound like much, but let me elaborate on the closing announcement protocol. We start making announcements a full 30 minutes before we close, gently easing people into the idea that the library is closing like a trusted bottle of Correctol. You've got 30 minutes, people, so you might want to think about coming up to check out if you need to. This is followed by a 20 minute announcement, a 10 minute, and a 5 minute. That's four times that they've been warned that we are shutting down the joint. They don't even give you that during last call in a bar. (They also have bouncers in a bar that will boot your ass out, so I guess that's the
difference there, I don't know). Then we always have to walk around the entire library, issuing personalized verbal invitations for people to go the hell home. If it goes too far past closing time and people still aren't budging, we do the old flick-the-lights on-and-off thing. This somehow usually does the trick, when all the verbal badgering hasn't made a dent. Then people mosey out of Libraryland like pot-smoking sloths, and we get to go home. I've been thinking about ways to make this transition from Libraryland to the real world easier, and thinking about the ways in which other places convey that the working day is done. Here's the best idea that I've come up with: a closing song. What if we piped in a closing song through the PA system? We wouldn't even have to come up with our own song: there are plenty of good ones out there already. Mr. Rogers always had that "I'll be back when the day is new, and I'll have more ideas for you..." song. That's totally appropriate. Or that song that Carol Burnett always sang: "I'm so glad we had this time...togethaaaaa." So nice.
Or maybe I am thinking of this the wrong way. Perhaps patrons aren't socialized to take direct verbal cues like this, as our interactions are so much more often subtle and unspoken. Perhaps if we all started using the Closing Announcement model in our private lives, people would get used to hearing it. So next time you are hanging out with your friends, or on a date or something, start making closing announcements a half hour early. "May I have your attention please. This social interaction will be coming to a close in 20 minutes. If you have items that you wish to bring up, do so now." Then do it again at 10 minutes, and then again at 5. Do this with your partner: "Cuddling will be over in 10 minutes, at which time we will commence with sleeping." Do this even when you're alone: "I will be sick of watching The Surreal Life in five minutes, at which time I will change the channel." Get the idea?
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
So you all are getting the picture by now that I'm a girl. A woman.
A layydeeeee. I've left hints throughout this blog to let you in on
this fact. Have you noticed them? I have a cartoon version of myself
right over there in the sidebar that signifies girliness, not only in
appearance, but in the slightly creepy way that I like to
dress my cartoon-self in little outfits of varying styles and hairdos
every few weeks. And if you haven't seen the more subtle girl-signs
like those, I even sign my posts "Librarian Girl." See what I did
there? A librarian, and a girl. Cleverness is my forte, people.
I bring this up because during this time of year in Libraryland, lots
of people seem to forget that I'm a girl. They look at me and all
they can see is the face of a man. Not just any man, actually. They
see The Man. Why the confusion over my tender gender? It's simple:
tax season. I set out the tax forms in Libraryland and all of a
sudden people think I'm the I.R. of S. in the U.S. of A. Or at the
very least, they think I am H.&R. Block. Let me tell you
something right now. I am neither H. nor R. I can't prepare your
taxes for you or give you tax advice. And if I did, you would quickly
be getting a knock on your door from the men in white coats. No,
wait, those are the loony bin guys. I don't know what kind of coats
the IRS people wear, probably tweed, but they'd be paying you a visit.
So repeat after me, Librarian Girl is not The Man. Librarian Girl is
not The Man. She's the Girl. Totally different.
And if there was ever a time that I didn't want to be The (IRS) Man,
besides always, it's during tax season. Yesterday, a woman came up to the desk in a frantic, malevolent state, and fired complicated tax questions at me faster than I could repeatedly tell her "I'm sorry, I can't help you prepare your taxes." Boy, was she mad. But this was not what was troubling me the most. What was getting under my skin was the fact that she kept calling me "sir." That's right, "sir." As in "what sorts of assets do I need to report on line 42e, SIR." Wow. I have enough trouble with being called "ma'am," and now I have to endure this lady knighting me in the middle of my shift? And she did it repeatedly, looking straight into my girlier-than-thou face. I don't know how much more of a femme someone can look than me, but to this woman I was Sir Tax-a-lot.
You know how moms with bald newborn girls really want everyone to know that they're girls so they dress them up like a doily and put that rubber-band-headband-with-a-bow-on-it around their tiny little skulls? Maybe I need to invest in some doily-wear and skull-bows. At least for tax season.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
It was loud in Libraryland today. It’s often loud in Libraryland. On the one hand, this makes me feel really good, because our library is so ridiculously busy and bustling that the dull roar just reminds me of how lucky I am to be in a place where tons of people come to the library and love us and utilize all the awesome things we’ve got. It’s a crazy-mad rush in here, with crowds of people, and I love that. People stand outside of our doors before we open, steaming up our windows with their hot little noses. Ok, so they don’t really steam up the windows, but they do stand out there like we’re giving away free shit, which, come to think of it, we are. On the other hand, we try to stay on top of the decibels by asking people to lower their voices, but the way our library is constructed makes voices carry even when it’s just a few people in here. When there are mobs, it’s almost impossible, but we give it a valiant effort. So here are some thoughts about noise control.
Who the hell designated the sound “shhh” to mean be quiet? Shhh is a loud noise in and of itself. It’s not soothing. It’s grating. Case in point: there are often groups of teen hipsters hanging out and yukking it up with each other in various parts of Libraryland. I go over to them and say something like “hey, guys, can you keep it down?” which (if not met with outright ridicule and a flippity of the birdkins) they usually try to do for the first few minutes. Then, inevitably, those wacky excitable teens get going again, to which their goody-two-shoes friends remind them: “Ssssssshhhhhhhh! Ssshhhhhhhh!” So now I have the sounds of talking and laughing in a wind tunnel. Lovely.
There are other places that promote calm and quiet besides Libraryland. Maybe we can take some cues from those places. Some of these places even convince you to be calm during times when you want to scream bloody murder. For instance, the spa where I go (pardon my mentioning it, not very graceful, I know) for waxing. As you wait in the waiting room, they serve you green tea on big, comfy couches. And when you’re up on that table, getting the bejeezus ripped off you, there’s incense, and calming music, and a little trickling fountain. And by golly it works. You actually feel relaxed, instead of brutally tortured, which, let’s face it, you are. So maybe we should be piping Enya into the library. It hypnotizes people. Think about it.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
When I was in graduate skool, I did a couple of internships. (Something you all should do if you are currently in library skool-- and I mean all y'all). One of them was at a local public library, which I adored. I loved everything about it. I loved the incredibly helpful manager, who always went the extra mile for every patron. I loved the librarians, who took so much time to chat it up with me and show me all kinds of ropes. I loved the circ staff, who encirc'd me with their camaraderie. It was the single most important experience that I had to help me figure out if I was cut out for this library racket, and I was lovin' every minute of it. It was great.
One thing I wasn't loving, however, was the state of the various display areas that I saw. You know what I'm talking about. Bulletin boards and shelf space dedicated to marketing our collections and services to the public, and holy madonna in a weddin' dress, did it look like ass. Stodgy ass. If there's one place in the library that markets our dusty bunhead stereotype, it's the display area. Every time I would look at one, I would shake my head and think: out of touch, out of time. "My displays shall never look so shitty nor shoddy," I silently vowed. I went home and gleefully told all my arty friends about the state of library displays. "Wait until I'm a librarian," was my inner monologue, "I will rock the library world with my display talents! I will plaster the library in the grand tradition of Lautrec and Glaser! It will be art! It will be hip! Check it and see!"
Well, here I am, a librarian, with my very own display space upon which I can unleash my crafty goodness for the masses to enjoy. And you know what? I take it all back. All of it. It's not art, it's not hip, unless you are of the Huey persuasion and think it's hip to be square. I'm ashamed of my hubris (that sounds dirty, doesn't it?) and am saying Uncle on the mat. So this post is all about me getting the snooty out of my patootie, and warning all you baby librarians out there: there's a reason for the (bad-display) season.
I think I'm a bit more creative than the average bear, but I haven't been able to walk the walk with this one, and I'll tell you why. After I tell you this, you are never again allowed to snicker at a library display! Never ever.
First, there is a drought of time. Yes, I have a lovely painting on my wall at home that I am proud of and makes me the head of the Pretty Committee at home. But it took me days to complete. I don't have days to complete a crafty project at work. Hell, I don't even have an hour. I have minutes. Sing the Jeopardy song and that's about the length of time that I have to do a display. I hadn't considered that when I got all Clinton-Kelly-critical of other librarians. So lesson one: no time. Tick tock and it don't stop.
The other thing that makes display work so maddening is the paltry supply budget. There are many things that need to be paid for, and getting us good accoutrements for displays is not on the top of that list. So I'm stuck with two sets of colored paper (pastels and flourescents), a pair of scissors, and a stapler. That's it. If I can scrounge up other stuff on my own, that's great, but that's all that's in the supply closet. Ain't nothing else in there.
So, considering what we have to work with, my attitude has completely changed. The displays that librarians come up with using no supplies and less time is completely genius. It's art on the run. We're making art out of nothing at all.
So next time you see a library display, be impressed. Even if it's a mylanta colored stick figure floating above a pastel blue sea with the caption "jump into reading!" emblazoned across the top. We're squeezing diamonds out of coal here. Well, maybe not diamonds, but at least diamelles.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
The obvious pop culture-ish thing to post about this week would be the Oscars. I could tell you my thoughts about Charlize Theron's second head that was growing out of her left shoulder, or about my girl-crush on Salma Hayek and her lovely Versace dress, or about my astonishment that Hilary Swank's ribcage was half the size of her cranium, or about how my favorite moment of the night was when those french dudes brought up their penguin toys and made penguin noises into the microphone for their acceptance speech (those crazy french!), or I could wax poetic about the fact that I haven't been in love with a celebrity since I was in love with Michael Jackson back in his Thriller/Off the Wall days when I was a child, but that over the past two years I've had a deepening love for Jon Stewart that causes me to want to put his picture in my locker, if I had a locker.
But I'm not going to write about that. The reason? I am having a crap-week at work this week. I'm Alexander and it's been a string of no-good, very bad days. Ugh. I'm not really prone to having many truly bad days, because of my usual go-with-the-flow-ness, so when I have them, it kind of throws me. The first thing that's been crap about this week is that the teens in my library are running amok, and we've had to kick them out at alarming rates. It's like the front door of our library is coughing out teen loogies and spitting them on the sidewalk. I know there are many librarians out there who like to hate on teens, but I don't happen to be one of them. I love those scruffy little rugrats, even when they're being assy. I certainly remember having my own assy teen moments when I was their age. I got kicked out of places too. My friends Alli and Map, who both read this blog and who've been my friends my whole life, can attest to the many times we tortured that poor student teacher in 12th grade English by mocking him at every opportunity. Or how our 8th grade history teacher kicked us out of class almost daily. Or how we almost failed 11th grade history just on the basis of being tardy to first hour every day, waltzing in to class in our pajamas with McDonald's breakfasts that we would spread out on our desks and munch on with that 16 year old bravado that I see at work every day. So kicking teens out of some place isn't the end of the world, I know. But I don't relish having to do it, like some librarians do. It doesn't make my day. It's one of my least favorite things about my job. Ugh, again. I need to be wearing some Ugg boots right now. All I can really do is walk around at work humming "It's hard out there for a pimp." You ain't knowin' you ain't knowin'.
So yesterday I had a meeting at another branch on the west side of town. My branch is on the east side of town, so I got a head start and left my branch early to be sure that I made it on time. In my city, driving from one end to the other in morning traffic takes about an hour. I fought my way through traffic and arrived a blissful ten minutes early, only to find an empty conference room. Aack! My schedule had the wrong location on it. The meeting was back on the east side at a branch not ten minutes from where I work. Another hour in the car for me, and being late for the meeting! I don't have anything witty or snarky to say about that. It just sucked.
When I got home last night, I got an email containing this link to a quiz. I decided to cheer myself up with finding out how I would be defined in the dictionary. I put in "Librarian Girl." It said: "Visually stunning." That actually cheered me up a little. Then I put in "Pop Culture Librarian." It said: "Sexually addictive." Wow! I'll take it! Feeling better already. Then I put in my real first name. "The consistency of congealed cheese."
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Ask anyone I work with about me, and one of the traits they will undoubtedly mention is that I am laid back. A go-with-the-flow kind of person. I try to refrain from saying "it's all good" because it's kind of lame, but it's hard, because that's how I feel about things at work most of the time. It's all good. No worries. It's cool. Not a problem. I don't know, maybe it's cultural. My tropical background is certainly prone to this type of zen-like acceptance of circumstances. It's a good trait for a librarian to have, because of the stressed out, loony tunes, kookoo for cocoa puffs people we sometimes have to deal with. A couple of days ago, after a particularly rude patron was beaten into submission by my pearly whites, a co-worker sang me "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole with new lyrics: "Unflappable...that's what yooo are..."
There are those situations that get my blood ter boiling, however. Few and far between, but there are times when I feel like I want to unleash that inner alien out of the center of my torso so it can gnaw the nose off that beef-witted miscreant in front of me, fo sho. I still manage to keep my professional face on, but my everloving goat can get got. One of my triggers that takes me to the dark side happened yesterday. Some dude lingers around the desk for a while, looking at me without really looking at me. Finally, he comes over and leans his smarmy self in and says "can you get me a copy of the ...Kama ...Sutra?" drawing the words out with relish. Vinegary, pickled, nasty relish. As I look it up, I know he's going to start in with the questions about whether I'm "familiar" with that work. Sigh.
This is where I have to take a deep breath and count to ten. Why does this get to me? Other patrons are often more overtly mean, rude, aggressive, crazy. This dude is just kind of annoying. He's not even really scary or anything. But yet I'm fighting the urge to kick him in the teeth. Why?
It's just all so...tired. The Kama Sutra? Are you kidding me with that? Do you honestly think that this is the first time that I've heard this? You see my brown face and think I'm going to be your guru of love and teach you about tantric sex? What do I look like, Sting? Push on, sucka. That's the best you can do? I've heard it a million times. Let's play a new song, shall we?
Hmmm. That's weird. I guess what I'm saying is-- he's not being creative enough? That it's not so much the drooly skankiness of it all, but it's the fact that I've heard that one a million times? Is that really what I'm saying? I guess it is. If you're gonna leer in my beer, show me something new. Give me some entertainment value. Give me a show stopper. If you're going to be an ethnophile and objectify me for my exotic appeal alone, do a little tap dance along with it so at least it's interesting. Throw in a punchline. Something. The Kama Sutra thing needs to be retired. Seriously.
When I was in college, this guy on the street asked me where I was "from". I told him, and he decided to give me a Barry-White-voiced response with "I knew it had to be some place tropical like that. 'Cause you look like a mango: sweeeeeeeet." Now that's what I'm talking about. Still kind of annoying, yes. But no frothy-mouthed, red-eyed rage welling up in my chest. No knickers in a twist over it. It doesn't bounce me out of my usual laid back, low blood pressure state of mind that I live in 99% of the time. And I like it like that. It's cool, no worries, no problem.
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
There are a lot of theories about what makes something cool. There are cool hunters hired by big corporations that troll the streets (yes I said troll) to figure out the next big thing. Ever read Westerfeld's So Yesterday? That's what I'm talking about. Eddie Izzard has this bit where he talks about the cycle of cool. His theory is that anything that is at the bottom of the cool scale can get to such a level of uncoolness that it rounds a corner somewhere and automatically becomes the height of cool. Well people, today I turned that corner.
I was walking through the work room in Libraryland, and the folks who work their knickers off back there (Hercules! Hercules!) were trucking along as usual. They had a radio playing back there, and what should be coming out of the speakers but "You Belong to the City."
Me: "Wow, this takes me back to middle school."
One of the high school students who works as a shelver here: "What is this?"
Me: "It's Glenn Frey. It's from that show Miami Vice. Guess I just dated myself by knowing that, didn't I?"
High school dude: (in an awed tone) "That is so...awesome that you know that."
Me: "It is??"
Him: (looking at me with new respect) "Yeah."
Knowing geeky music that I wouldn't have copped to in high school is finally paying off. Forget Postal Service, Thievery Corporation, and Arcade Fire. Glenn Frey is what the kids want!
Kiss the rings, I'm out.
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