Opinions are like assholes…

And there always seems to be an abundance of assholes around the library. Go figure.

A good number of our patrons have something in common – a lot of free time on their hands. For one reason or another they have enough spare time to hang out every day, all day at the library. Honestly, there are worse places for them to be hanging out. But as with most things in life, the less someone has to worry about, the smaller the things that will set them off. I’ve seen it happen. A lot. 

I’ve watched adults pitch a fit because someone had the newspaper they wanted. I’ve been yelled at over a thirty cent fine (more than once). I’ve watched patrons flip out over (literally) nothing and start throwing things. I don’t get it but it happens and what is best is watching someone freaking out because they have their own ideas about how a library should work.

Once while shelving DVDs one of the girls was cornered by an older man. He pointed to the DVDs and got right in her face. 

“Have you see some of these movies you have!? They’re perverted filth!”

“I’m sorry?” She backed away from him a little.

He pointed again to one of our many GLBT films and shouted some more. My co-worker just kind of nodded a little while she was trying to edge away from him. But he was having none of it. Every time she backed up, he followed. Finally he broke down and just started shouting the same thing over and over again. 

“This is  public library not a pubic library!” 

It was all I could do to not burst out laughing.

Not long after that another co-worker and I were shelving some books when she was approached by a patron.

“Are you a librarian?” He was dressed like a fairly normal patron but the hurricane-reporter-esque hair and the wild eyes were a bit tip off that not every thing was 100% upstairs.

“No I’m not, but I do work here. Is there something I can help you with?”

“You’re a liar!” he snapped at her, stepping too close too fast (I headed over to make sure he wasn’t going to do anything stupid). “I know the law! If you work here then you have to be a librarian!”

My co-worker didn’t quite know what to say to that (neither did I, for that matter).

“Do you think I don’t know! I know! I know the law! Don’t you lie to me!”

Uh….” We both kind of gaped at him for a minute. “If you want to speak to a librarian, the reference desk is right over there.” 

He stood there and glared at us for a minute before stomping off.

“Did that really just happen?” She asked when he was gone.

“Let’s pretend it didn’t.”

Thinking back on it, it makes me happy I moved in to a position that put a counter between me and our patrons. Some of them are a little unstable.

-Late Fines.

Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 2:02 am  Comments (2)  

Sometimes it’s not just the patrons

When I tell stories about work, whether it’s here or to my friends and relatives, I’m usually talking about patrons. They’re a constant source for material and endlessly entertaining (or infuritating). It just follows that I happen to have a lot of stories about them.

As much as I would love to say that the library only employs the most mentally balanced, socially adept people they can find – that would be lie. A really big lie.

Hell, I work there.

Most days trying to decide who’s worse is a pretty big toss up. Really, it could go either way. I think it has a lot to do with the kind of work in general. It’s easy and relatively stress free. But being only human, most of them aren’t content to just enjoy that and go out of their way to create problems and stress where ever possible.

So in the interest of being fair, I’ll try to toss in a story about us once and a while.

Library Cogs: Super Mom

There are a lot of places I could start when I think about the people I’ve worked with at the library. Lots of crazy places. But when I think about the ones who have given me the most stories to tell over the years Super Mom comes to mind first. Despite not working directly with her for very long.

When she started at the library I’d been there going on four years. At the library (like many other places) that’s a fairly long time. Long enough to have secured my place in the pecking order and to have the seniority to back it up.

Not that this meant a thing to Super Mom.

No, she’s one of those people who had been out of the work force for a long time. She’d been a stay at home mom (which I’m not knocking, my mom was too) and had spent years being in control of everything. After spending only a few days listening to her prattling on about her family and her handling of them, I was certain that she was someone who spent a lot of time in la-la land.

I grew up with a few kids who had parents like her. Those parents had no idea what their children were up to. I would put money on it that she had even less of a clue.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

It became immediately apparent that she saw anyone younger than her as a child and treated them thus. Including yours truely (For the record, my own mother doesn’t even speak to me that way. Actually, I don’t think she ever has.) as well as my friend and co-worker who has two children of her own.

Just to make this perfectly clear, I had been working there three and a half years. After three and a half weeks, she was trying to order me around.

She quickly turned from being a minor irritant to being someone who had to go. Luckily for us, she did. Not quickly enough for my liking but it was less than a year. She moved to another library and another job.

Oddly enough, it was there I finally had enough.

I was doing some call-in at her branch one weekend and, lucky me, she was working. She spent most of the morning barking orders at me, talking down to me and cutting me off when people asked me questions (usually giving them answers that I either knew or answers that were incorrect). It was wearing pretty thin by coffee time.

When you’re working the desk at the library the breaks aren’t really scheduled in any serious way. There’s a general “coffee time” and “lunch hour” but nothing is set in stone. One person goes at a time so there’s always someone on desk so the staff sorts it out between then who is going at what time.

“I’m going to go for lunch at noon, if that’s okay.” The other lady working announced. “Who’s going at 12.30?”

My mother was going to be near the library around then and I had already talked to her about having lunch. “Well, if no one minds, I’ll go.” And I meant it. I didn’t mind going later, but as no one was speaking up I thought why not?

Someone did mind. I’ll give you three guesses who.

“No!” She snapped. “No! You started at 9.30 and I started at 9, so I get to go first! You have to wait until 1!”

I was more than a little confused at her reaction and judging from the faces of the people around us, I wasn’t the only one. I just shrugged. “Fine, go at 12.30. It really doesn’t matter to me.”

“I will! You have to wait until 1!” She stomped off to the back.

It was a little more than childish, really, but I was mad. After all of her crazy antics, her condicending nonsense, her holier than thou attitude – to snap at me in such a ridiculous way was just more than I was willing to put up with. They just don’t pay me enough to take abuse from the patrons and the staff.

When she came back I had made up my mind to say something. Enough is enough and it was time something was said.

Super Mom, from now on if you can’t speak to me like I’m an adult and a co-worker, I would appreciate it if you don’t speak to me at all.” It wasn’t a threat and I said it as politely as I could.

She made a face and a few clucking sounds I took to mean “How dare you?” before she stomped off again.

It’s been two years and she still hasn’t said a word to me. What’s strange is, she seems to think she’s punishing me.

To be honest, if I’d known that was all it would take to shut her up, I’d have said it about three days after she join the library.


-Late Fines

Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm  Comments (2)  

A cautionary tale

We offer free Internet access at the library. Every branch has several computers for people to use, the central branch (being the largest) has the most. The central branch, as previously stated, is downtown and attracts the most colourful people.

The internet terminals aren’t really hidden away either. They’re out in the middle of the library, although they are off to one side. They’re also clearly visible from most of the library. It’s a big, fairly open space, that’s just how it works.

Yet we still deal with a constant problem. Can you guess what it is?


I don’t think I’ve ever walked past the Internet terminals without seeing at least one person looking at porn. I don’t know what it is about these people, but for them libraries and porn go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Here’s something I don’t know that I should be telling you – the library has no official policy on porn so long as it’s not illegal porn (ie. child porn). However, if we catch you looking at it, chances are good someone will say something to you about it. It is, after all, a public place that is often visited by children.

Most notably, we once had security escort someone out of the building when they were caught looking at porn in the children’s library.

I used to find it endlessly entertaining to watch one of my co-workers go off on men she caught looking at porn in her rapid-fire, heavily accented way (I kept waiting for her to skip completely in to spanish which would have confused the hell out of them). She personally scared off dozens of people while I looked on and laughed.

For as many times as people have been caught, one stand out in my mind. It would be impossible for it not to. It’s become the stuff of legend.

One of our librarians is rather outspoken. She’s one of those people I often wonder what made her become a librarian. She seems more like the hippy/biker type (I know those two groups don’t normally go together, but trust me on this one). She’s loud and opinionated which makes her one of the few librarians I get along with. She also doesn’t put up with any bullshit. So when I heard her shouting across the library, I wasn’t surprised.

“What the hell are you doing?” She barked.

Like I said, you yell in the library and everyone is going to look. Everyone did. There she was standing at her desk, pointing at a patron sitting at the computers across the library.

This patron couldn’t have been more than 14.

“Get your hands out of your pants!” She shouted.

Anyone who hadn’t been looking suddenly took interest.

She stomped across the library and this kid, terrified, sat frozen in place with a distinctive deer in headlights look about him. As far as I’m aware, he’s the only one to have ever been caught with his hand in his pants despite the scores of people looking at porn and I think he’ll always stand as an example of why you should never try it.

“This is a library! What the hell do you think you’re doing!? That’s disgusting!” She stood looming over him. “What is your name?”

The kid’s jaw moved up and down making him look a bit like a guppy, but he didn’t make a sound.

“Give me your library card, right now!”

And he did. Right before he hopped up and bolted from the building. He handed her his library card that had his name, address and phone number on it.

It wasn’t the cleverest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do, but then if he’d been terribly clever he wouldn’t have been trying to rub one out in the middle of the public library either.

This might come as something of a shock, but he hasn’t been back.

The library is a good place for lots of things. This is not one of them. Consider yourself warned.

-Late Fines.

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 7:16 pm  Comments (10)  

The Regulars: Mr. Balls

*This is a re-post from my other blog. I know it’s kind of a cheat but I’ve been thinking about putting this story up here for a while. I was going to rewrite it, but honestly, I don’t know that I want to. *shrug* Take it or leave it, it’s just another story from the vault of Late Fines. (As you may or may not have guessed, it’s one of those posts that led to the creation of this site.)

When you work with the public, especially when you work somewhere like the public library, you tend to meet a lot of weird people. People who are just kind of unforgettable in their dysfunction. For the most part, they’re people who aren’t really hurting anyone, but they make things just a little more interesting.

At the library (and I’m assuming in most places) our regulars get nicknames. It’s something we do so we have something to call them when we talk amongst ourselves. Most are completely self-explanatory. There’s “Pee Guy” who smells more like pee than pee does. “Bling Bling” with his gold necklaces to rival Mr. T. “Mr. Beefeater Gin” who used to sit in the back and pretend no one knew he was getting shitfaced. “Paper Friend” who would hoard all the newspapers. “Last Minute Larry” who always shows up ten minutes before we close and takes an armful of news papers to the other end of the building (oh yeah, that’s not annoying…). And of course, “Mr. Balls”.

Mr. Balls used to be known as “Stink and Stare”. You’ll never guess why. But that all changed one day when a co-worker decided that “Mr. Balls” was more fitting. This was all because of the duffel bag he toted with him everywhere. It was full of balls. All different kinds. He had everything from a small bowling ball to a squeezy stress ball.

He would go upstairs to the news papers, grab a handful, find a table and then it would begin. He’s start by taking apart the newspapers. I don’t believe I ever saw him read a word, but they were all pulled apart by the end of the day. And then he go for his bag.

Most of the time he’d take out a ball and rub it on his face. Honest, I can’t make stuff like that up. Or he’d sit with the bowling ball pressed to his face. One I watched him squeeze the stress ball around in the air before sniffing wildly like it had released some beautiful perfume. It was his thing.

Although the thing I remember the best is the night a friend of mine and I were headed back downstairs and he was walking ahead of us. As he waddled along (he really did waddle) a bar of soap fell out of his pant leg. He didn’t even pause. Just carried on with the used pant-soap laying on the floor behind him. I will always choose to believe he had a hole in his pocket.

Today I saw his obit in the paper. It was an odd feeling actually. To see his real name written out. A bit like in Fight Club when they’re all chanting “His name is Robert Paulson” because in death, they’ve decided, you get your name back. It was weird too because, for as much as we never really knew the guy, we did know him in a way and he was just part of daily life here. One of those constants you get used to and then just come to expect.

Honestly, a lot of our patrons are elderly and many of them in not such great shape. A hard life tends to do that to people. So it’s not something you don’t expect or something that’s never happened before. It’s just odd.

Anyway, good-bye Mr. Balls. I hope where ever you are, it’s like a giant McDonald’s ball room.

-Late Fines

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment