What do you think?

It’s been a very long day today. I don’t know what it is but the average IQ of the patrons seems to have dropped at least 50 points. There hasn’t been a person yet who has come to the counter and not said or done something stupid.

It’s even affecting people calling in.

“Hi, I just got a letter about some overdue fines. But I brought the book back yesterday, so do I still have to pay the fine?”

I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and assume she does. I do look it up though, just to be sure.

“Yes, there is a $16 fine showing on your account.”

“But I brought the book back!”

“You mean you brought the book back before it was due?”

“No, it was a reserve book that got mixed up with my other books. I took it home overnight. They called me and told me to bring it back. No one told me I couldn’t take it.”

That, folks, would be a lie. Everyone is told, every time, that the books are due back in two hours and they are all covered with bright yellow stickers that say “Library Use Only”.

“I brought it back the next day! Why would there be a fine?”

“It’s an overdue fine, it’s there because the item was overdue.”

“But I brought it back.”

Uh huh…

“Well I’m afraid that because the item was overdue there isn’t anything I can do about the fine. The best I can suggest is for you to contact the lady who handles all the fines. She’ll be back in on Monday.”

It takes a little more going around in circles, but she finally takes the information and hangs up.

I almost feel sorry for the girl who will have to deal with her on Tuesday.


-Late Fines.

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm  Comments (4)  

A shitty thing to do, unless I’m doing it

I’ve told you about the reserve books before. They’re kept behind the counter and most have a loan period of two hours (in library only) because, the idea is, the whole class needs them. The library doesn’t set the borrowing period for the books, the prof. does.

For the record, the reserve can have a borrowing period of two hours up to two weeks. Most are either two hour or overnight.

These books sit here for months at a time. Most show up within days of the beginning of the semester. Some are almost always here. There really isn’t any room to complain that you didn’t get your turn with the materials because it simply isn’t true. You had your turn, you just didn’t take it.

There’s an English midterm coming up. How do I know? Because the three books on reserve for that class have been going out steadily for the last three days tho they hadn’t been touched at all before that.

Two of the three books are two hour loans. The third is an overnight.

“I need these three books.” She shoved a piece of paper across the counter. At least she had the call numbers.

The other guy was helping her, but I figured I knew what she was talking about.

“The Evelyn Waugh books?”


“I’m afraid that the only one we have at the moment is this one.” Yeah, they’ve been going out enough that I know off the top of my head which are in and the only one is sitting next to me as I just checked it in. “One should be back shortly but the other is an overnight loan.”

“What?” She sputtered in a kind of indignation I normally reserve for situations a little more serious than an unavailable library book.

“I’m sorry. I just signed it out to someone.”

“Well do you know if they actually left the library with it?”

“Yes, they did.”

“Well that was a shitty thing to do!” She even slammed her fist on the counter. “We have a project due! And there are other people in the class who need that book!”

Somehow I doubt she’s going to be losing any sleep over these “other people”.

“I’m afraid that’s something you’ll need to take up with your prof.”

“So it won’t be back until noon tomorrow?”

“At the very latest.”

After a few more minutes of grumbling and kicking up a stink, she took the two hour loan.

Remember when I said that the books have been sitting here for weeks, untouched? I’m not feeling too sorry for someone coming in at the last minute who can’t get what they need. And getting mad at someone who showed up earlier in the day and took advantage of the overnight loan is ridiculous. I’m sure if she had been the one here earlier in the day, her first thought wouldn’t have been “Gee… other people in my class need this so I should cut short my time with it so they can all have a chance.”

A little while later she was back. “I want to return this and take out the other one.”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid the other book is out at the moment.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No.” Why would I kid you about that? “Did you still want to return this one?”



“Wait. I just want to photocopy one thing.”

Now I’m wondering if she’s kidding me.

“I just need it for a second. Do you really need to sign it out again?”



-Late Fines

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm  Comments (4)  

No, you may not

“Can I borrow a Kleenex?”

“No, but you may have one.”


“I honestly don’t want it back when you’re done with it.”

Hey, I resisted the urge to point out that he should have said “May I” rather than “Can I”.

I work in a library, what do you expect?

-Late Fines.

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm  Comments (6)  

That’s right, like Office Depot with books

I’ve been thinking about taking classes at the university. See, one of the perks of working at the university library is that employees get free classes (bet you didn’t know that, suckers). So I’ve been going through the offered classes and checking prerequisites and I’ve found something lacking.

Not listed in any prerequisites are the ability to take responsibility for yourself and your education, the ability to conduct yourself in an adult manner, understanding that tantrums make you look foolish and most importantly of all – the basic ability to tell the difference between a library and a stationary store.

Personally I think that this is a major oversight, although it certainly explains a lot.

For instance, it amazes me just how many times a day I am asked for pens, scissors, paper, tape, headphones, calculators, kleenex etc. We lose more pens every day to people who are going to “bring them right back” than I ever though possible. It leaves me wondering how these poor penless souls make it through their academic day. Do they think that if they steal pens from the library, the money they save on boxes of pens will get them through school?

It’s all I can do to not walk them outside and ask them if they can read the big sign that says “library” and not “Crazy Al’s Pen Give-Away Warehouse”.

But the best part of my day has definitely got to be dealing with the photocopiers.

The photocopiers, for the record, don’t belong to the library. They belong to printing services. We fill them with paper, change the toner and clear the occasional jam.  Beyond that, there’s not a lot I can do. But I’m the one at the desk, so it’s my fault.

I understand.

“There’s something wrong with the photocopier!”

Oh yeah, that’s my favourite thing to hear.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“It’s out of toner or something.”

I am the one who checks the copiers every day, it’s also my job to change the toner. So I ask her which one. The copier that’s “out of toner” is the same one that had its toner replaced a few hours earlier.

It’s not out of toner.

It’s part of my job to humour her, however, so I go with her to the copy room. She’s using the auto-feeder (all of which are only semi-functional and tend to eat paper, which I tell her).

She shows me the blank pages the copier has been giving her.

I show her the clearly printed icon indicating that materials to be photocopied need to be face up.

The copier is fine, by the way.

-Late Fines

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Temper Tantrums: not just for the students any more

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, I get yelled at a lot. I don’t know what it is about libraries that make people so edgy but they tend to lose it when they’re here. Someone really aught to do a study. For the most part, it’s students. To be specific, students who are stressed for any number of reasons.(At the public library it was, well, just about anyone who walked through the door. I still contend that there should be inch thick plexiglass between patrons and the staff – like at the movie theatre.)

I understand that. I was a student once upon a time too. I, however, never yelled at a library asssistant. Maybe I’m just weird.

What really catches me off guard is when a faculty member does it. These are not people who should be freaking out and yelling at anyone. Yet somehow they seem to forget that we are not servants or peons, but coworkers. Degree and pay band aside, we are employed by the same institution and watched over by a union that doesn’t like its members fighting with each other.

The phone rang the other day and since everyone else was occupied, I answered.

“I’m looking for three movies.”

Ever have the feeling that things are about to go badly?

Do you have the call numbers?” To be fair, I ask everyone. I’m supposed to. It’s my job. Go figure.

“No. They’re called…” SCREEEEACH! BANG!

Oh, did I mention they were doing some construction in the library that week?

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”

*sigh* “They’re called *mumblemumblemumble*”

Wonderful… “I’m sorry, could you say that once more a little more slowly, please?”

“Aren’t you listening to me!? Look, I need these videos for a class! I know you have them there!”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I didn’t catch the title of the item you’re looking for.”

This time she practically spelled it out for me after deciding that I am some kind of mental defective. I managed to find two, the third isn’t even in the system. I tell her.

“They both should be on the shelves if you’d like to come and get them.”

“I need them for a class.”

That could mean any number of things. “So you’d like them put on reserve?”

“No! I need them for a class! I want to come pick them up at the desk.”

Remember this guy?


“So you’d like them put on hold?”

“Yes. I will pick them up tomorrow.”

“If I put a hold on them there isn’t a guarantee that the items will be down on the hold shelf by tomorrow.”

“What do you mean!? I need them for a class!” Yeah, I picked up on that part.

“Well someone would have to go and retreive the materials and I can’t guarantee anyone will be available to do that tonight. The materials may also be taken out by any other patron who needs them.”

“Well just go and get them! I’m in meetings all day! I can’t come down. I need them for a class!”

“I’m afraid I can’t leave the desk to collects holds, ma’am.”

What is the matter with you!? You make it sound like you’re doing me a personal favour!”

Yes, that’s exactly what it would be.

“I want your name!”

I give it to her. She tells me again she’d be in the next day for the DVDs, despite my explaining that they wouldn’t be here, at which point she hung up on me.

I spent the better part of my afternoon explaining what happened to my supervisor to keep from hearing about it when she complained.

Some days, it’s not even worth getting out of bed.

-Late Fines.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm  Comments (8)  

They don’t pay me enough…

It amazes me on a fairly regular basis just how often I get yelled at by patrons, have them throw hissy fits and other wise act like small children. The library I work in sees maybe one or two children every month or so which makes it that much more confusing. You would think that in a university library people would be able to conduct themselves with a little maturity and decorum.

But I suppose that would be far too much to ask.

First thing in the morning a few days ago a patron came to the desk. When he asked for a reserve item, I asked him for the call number like I ask anyone looking for reserve material. Of course he didn’t have it. He also claimed that he didn’t know how to find it.

So I showed him.

“Well last time the lady was nice enough to just find it for me!”

I’m sure she did. I’m also sure that she’s not supposed to. However, I was about to say that I would pull it up for him but that next time he would need to find the call number before coming to the desk. It seemed easier than fighting with him. At least, that’s what would have happened if he hadn’t had a hissy fit and stomped off.

“I guess I’ll just have to find it myself then!”

Um, yes. You will. That’s kind of what I was trying to convey when I said that you’d need to find the call number.

He picked a computer close to the desk and made a show of pulling out books and searching for the call number. I assume he was trying to make me feel bad. Really I just became convinced that his princess act was worn out, his attitude needed a complete overhaul and that he had absolutely no idea which class he was in nor had he listened to my instructions. So when he turned to come back to the counter, I made a point of going to the back.

The girl I work with mentioned that he complained about me and threw another hissy.

A few hours later he was back to return the book. By “return” I mean “throw the book at me”.

“Here!” He tossed the book. “And just so you know, that book isn’t even listed under the right class so the other lady had to look it up for me anyway! So I guess next time you’ll just have to get out of your chair and get it for me!”

Of course, before I could say anything at all, he turned around and stomped out the door. You know, because I might have actually had the nerve to respond. Or I might have taken the time to point out that I don’t “have to” do anything, that next time he’ll still be asked to bring the call number with him and that now there is a note on his file stating that he has been shown how to search call numbers on his own.

Oh and just for the record, sweetheart, if you think for one second that your complete lack of respect, your hissy fits, your attitude and your bullshit are going to convince me to do one single thing above and beyond what is absolutely required of me, you’re in for the shock of a life time. Next time I will gladly point out to you that I’ve shown you how to search for call numbers on your own and that you are well aware of the mix up in cataloguing, so you should be capable of finding what you need all by yourself. Because me? I’ve got better and more important things to be doing with my time than sitting here taking any more of your nonsense.

If you don’t like that, I would suggest you take it up with management. Or, here’s a super special idea, maybe you could grow up and stop expecting the world to give you what you want as soon as you put up a fuss and stomp your feet? Hmm? Yeah, wouldn’t that be keen?


-Late Fines.

Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 12:15 am  Comments (1)  

The Regulars: Wig Lady and Albert

It may not come as much of a surprise but the library attracts a lot of seniors. My library also happens to be located only a few blocks from several seniors homes. Most of them are quiet, polite and don’t make much of a mess. Generally speaking, they’re the best behaved so the least noticeable.

Hey, if you want to stand out at the library, you need to be a special brand of weird. Wig Lady and Albert are a good example of this.

Don’t ask me how we know they’re brother and sister. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure if it’s true but it’s something that everyone at the library just “knows”. Same goes for how we know his name is Albert. I haven’t got a clue. That’s just what we all call him and it fits.

Wig Lady, I’m sure you’ve guessed (being the clever people you all are), is known for her wig. It’s bad. It’s the kind of bad only a bad wig can be. It could only be made worse if it had a chin strap. It’s dark brown, curly and about three sizes to big for her head. She is a tiny, frail looking woman to begin with and the addition of this giant monstrosity and glasses that cover a good 75% of her face… well, it’s not a good look.

She also has a tendency to fall asleep upstairs around the magazines. This is something that’s a little nerve racking for some of our staff. Her advanced age, general frailness and stillness when sleeping is a little worrying some days.

One afternoon, one of our more uptight staff members came rushing in to the back. When she’s wound up about something she whispers and talks faster than I’ve ever heard anyone talk in my life and when she came in to the back room she was going at full speed.

“You know the lady who wears the wig?”

Yes, I do. Wig Lady.

“I think she’s dead.”

I wasn’t sure if she was serious or not.

“I was upstairs getting a magazine and I think she’s dead!” I laughed. “It’s not funny! I think she’s dead! I was standing there for like five minutes watching her and she didn’t move! I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I go poke her with something?”

Like a stick? After laughing some more and having her tell me repeatedly that it wasn’t funny, I promised to go and check.

Before I could, Wig Lady walked past the counter. Alive and well. I was also informed that it still wasn’t funny.

But let’s not forget Albert, who is in now way any less special. He looks like he’s closing in on 100 and hating every second of it. I have never, ever seen him without a scowl and I’ve never, ever heard him speak. He just glares and scowls.

He normally takes a pile of magazines and sets them on his table where he ignores them. Despite that I’ve never seen him even glance at the magazines, he will not let you take them and re-shelve them. It’s been suggested more than once that he just likes to make sure we have extra to put away at the end of the day.

Aside from being a grump and hoarding magazines for no apparent reason, for years we never really had any legitimate complaints about the guy. Until one day when one of my co-workers went up to do pick-up early and caught him at the news papers.

The papers come every day (obviously) and the current papers are hung in alphabetical order and the back issues are kept in hanging folders. When we do pick up we have to go through them all and make sure they’re in order. The papers are in constant use and so are one of the messiest and most time consuming sections.

When my co-worker came around the corner, there was Albert. He was taking all of the meticulously organized newspapers and pulling them out one at a time and stuffing them back again in random places.

“Excuse me!” My friend snapped.

Albert looked flatly at her and walked away like nothing happened.

We also discovered that this had been his daily ritual for ages.

It’s always the quiet ones.

-Late Fines.

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 3:20 am  Comments (6)  

Helpful: The opposite of what you’re being

There is a lot of information that is incredibly helpful in my job. Unfortunately, it seems like that is the information I am lease likely to receive. So here is a handy list of things that aren’t going to help me at all.

“I’m looking for a book.” Followed immediately with “called ***” or “with this call number” this is exactly right. On its own, followed by a blank stare this is the least helpful thing you could say.

“My teacher said there was some reserve stuff here.”* Not only is this a poorly constructed sentence, it also fails to provide me with any useful information.

“It’s on reserve.”* I’m sure it is. That doesn’t help me unless you have a call number.

“It’s right over there.” * This (usually combined with pointing) is NOT an adequate substitute for a call number. Yes, I am aware of where the books are kept. Pointing in there general direction doesn’t help me in finding a specific book. It’s kind of like standing outside and saying “my house it over there”.

“I don’t know who wrote the book/the title of the book/my instructors name/my class number.” Funny, neither do I. Of the two of us, I’d say that it’s a bigger problem for you. Guess you might want to figure it out then, eh?

“I had this book out once before but I can’t remember the title/author but I remember that it was yellow/blue/red/any other colour.” That would be helpful if we sorted our material by colour. Which we don’t. Or if we kept records of every item you’ve ever taken out (and had them listed by colour). Which we don’t. Are you seeing the problem?

“I have it written down but I forgot it at home/lost it/threw it away.” So what you’re telling me is, you know where to find the information, have found it previously and somewhere along the way you became incapable of performing this miracle again? That really is a shame. An unhelpful shame, but a shame none the less.

This is not a complete list, mind you. But if you could at very least try to avoid these, I would be forever grateful. I will also try to advise you as more come up.

-Late Fines.



*These three normally come from one person, in that order.

Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Comments (3)  

The seat on the chair goes up and down, up and down, up and down…

This morning one of my co-workers was telling me about another woman who works here. Apparently she was sitting kind of funny and so she asked her about it.

She was sitting on two phone books because her chair was too low.

Her chair was too low because she didn’t know that you have to get off the chair for the “up/down” lever to make the chair go up.

Some days it’s not just the students…

-Late Fines.

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

You don’t want me to answer that

“There are no stupid questions.”

Not true. I believe that saying should be “there is no end to stupid questions”. Believe me, I know. I work in a library.

When you work in a library and the #1 most asked question is “where are all the books?” you know that there are stupid questions. Lots of them. From lots of stupid people. (One professor actually asked how to get out of the library. You use the same doors as you used to come it, the ones ten feet from where he was asking.)

There are two terminals at the front desk. For parts of the day it’s not odd for there to be only one person on the desk, leaving one terminal open. Have I confused you yet? No? That’s because you’re not a university student, apparently.

One girl came up to the counter this afternoon and stood there looking a little lost. It happens a lot. She looked at me and then at the empty terminal.

“Which one should I go to?”

Sigh. The other one, sweetheart. I’m just decorative. Luckily the midget hiding under the desk over there is really good at dealing with the terminally stupid. Now will you be so good as to excuse me? I suddenly have a splitting headache.

-Late Fines.

Published in: on October 17, 2009 at 4:45 am  Comments (5)