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A Library Of Abuse

, , , | Right | June 24, 2021

A mother and daughter come into the library to “pay a fine” on the daughter’s card. By “to pay a fine,” I mean to fuss about having to pay the nearly fifty dollars the kid racked up keeping some DVDs and books out well past their deadline.

[Mother] is LIVID with my coworkers. It is, after all, clearly their fault her daughter hid the items in her room and didn’t tell her mom she had them, and [Mother] only found out about them when the letter came. To punish her daughter, she has the child’s card cut up and her account closed. Then, she gets herself a library card. When you get a library card, you are required to sign it ASAP. [Mother] declines to do this immediately.

Mother: “Now she will have to go through me, and I will not let you people cheat us out of our money.”

The branch head agrees to cut the fines in half (this is almost standard procedure when kids are involved) and to remove the child’s account.

I learn about this AFTER the following incident.

Because of a staff shortage, I have been sent over to this library to substitute for the children’s librarian. In comes an angry woman, yelling at her child in a language I don’t know. The child comes to my desk and asks for some books on a particular topic. [Mother] huffs and sniffs and makes digs about my size, my shade, pretty much everything about me, including my uselessness. I have not seen this woman before in my life.

Meanwhile, I ignore her to help the daughter, who is probably ten and actually pretty friendly. We manage to find three of the books she needs. The other two are not on the shelf. I will need to get the library card to put the books on hold at our main library and have them sent to the branch.

[Mother] sniffs and snorts and says things like:

Mother: “Oh, I know why you need it. You’re all like that.”

Me: *Ignoring her comment* “Ma’am, without the card, I cannot put these books on hold.”

[Mother] slams the card down in front of me. I swipe it and… it does not work. Okay, sometimes that happens. I call the main desk and ask about the card.

Main Desk: “Oh. Her. She stormed out of here without getting the card activated last week. Send her out here and we’ll take care of it.”

Mother: “I know why you’re doing this to me!”

She continues to drop insults and slurs about my weight, my color, and so forth.

Me: “Ma’am, I do not know what happened to you today, but I had nothing to do with it. I am trying to help.”

Mother: “No, you are not. You are just trying to pick on me because of my color!”

Her daughter convinces her to go out to the desk and activate the card.

She comes storming back, slams the card down, and waits. I get the items on hold and tell the girl they will be available tomorrow. I have pulled out of the record and her personal information and [Mother] suddenly demands that I write up a note to tell the teacher that her daughter won’t have all her books on the morrow. Aha! [Daughter] waited until the last minute to do her report, I figure, and [Mother] is mad at her. So, I pull out a form letter and fill in the information and ask for the child’s name. Remember, I don’t know this kid from Adam and have logged out of her mother’s account.

I ask for the child’s name and the mother snaps a series of sounds at me. I catch some of it — later, I realize they are from the same Mediterranean area that some distant relatives are from — and write it down, and [Mother] screams

Mother: “NO! You’re so stupid!”

She slams the card down in front of me.

Mother: “The name is right there!”

Well, yes, it is. It’s one of those signatures that look like a big circle with some up and down scribbles, common to doctors and officers. I go to swipe the card and the mother snatches it from me.

Mother: “Are you so stupid you cannot read the card name?”

Me: “Forgive me, but no, I cannot. I do not know what the issue is, ma’am, but I have been trying to help you and I don’t understand why you are talking to me this way.”

I’m almost in tears.

Finally, her daughter spells out the name, much to her mom’s displeasure. I am grateful for that since, even though I thought I had most of the name, I would never have spelled it the way it was actually spelled. I thank the child and give her the letter, and they stalk off without another word.

When I tell the branch head about it, she shakes her head.

Branch Head: “That has to be the unhappiest woman in the world.”

Me: “Oh, she has had a hard life and she’s just taking it out on the world.”

Then, my colleague relates the whole story and adds in the fact that this woman holds a position of some importance in our fair city.

Colleague: “She just suffers from the notion that she should be bowed to every time she comes in here and we don’t do that. Therefore, even if you handed her a billion dollars and gave her her own private island, she would still declare you a racist or a sexist or an ageist or whatever she decided you were that day. Most of the staff runs when they see her coming.”

Me: “I’ll be sure to do the same.”

And not three days later, I almost did when she sent her daughter in to collect her other books.

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