Get Her A Book On How Libraries Work

, , , , | | Learning | July 14, 2019

(During my school holidays, I work for a while in the library of a combined elementary and middle school. This particular school is very near the town’s library. Our books and theirs are all clearly labelled with the respective institution names. However, we frequently get students returning the town library’s books to us and vice versa. The school’s policy is to not help them to return it to the town library, so that they will learn not to make this mistake. I’m used to it, as they’re kids, and they usually get it after a simple explanation. And then, you get this:)

Parent: “My son got a call from the library saying they still owe books, but he returned them all last week!”

(The school does not call to chase for books; we have a more relaxed policy and don’t even fine for overdue books. The mention of the call is enough for me, but most customers aren’t satisfied until you actually show them the record.)

Me: “Okay, let me check the system.” *pulls up the record* “Ma’am, the system shows that he doesn’t have any books on loan.”

Parent: “Yes, they’re from the town library.”

Me: “Oh, in that case, you need to call them to check with them.”

Parent: “But he returned it! I was waiting downstairs; he said he was going to run to the library and drop them in the book drop.” *points to our book drop*

Me: “He returned the town library’s books here?”

Parent: “Yes! So, why are there still books on his account?!”

Me: “Ma’am, our system is different from the town library’s system. He cannot return their books here, or vice-versa.”

Parent: “Yes, he can! My son said he can!”

Me: “Sorry, ma’am, he may put the books into our book drop, but if we scan it, it won’t be found in our system record. We will see that it’s not one of ours and put it aside for the student to come back to collect it.”

Parent: “Why didn’t you inform us?”

Me: “We do not have any record of which student borrowed the book.”

Parent: “But he borrowed it; it should show his name!”

Me: *patiently* “But our system is different from the town library’s; it will not show the name of the person who borrowed it.”

(The parent keeps this up for some time. I’m trying my best to explain it patiently, but she doesn’t get it. The elementary school students understand this better than she does! I end up using the dumbed-down parallel I give to the younger students.)

Me: “It’s just like if you go [Famous Fast Food Chain]; you cannot buy a [Rival Chain’s Signature Burger] because they are different stores.”

Parent: “You must have the book on the shelf. You can check the shelf and see that he did return it!”

(I check the cupboard where we keep the town library’s books that have ended up in our book-drop, but we do not have the title that the parent mentioned.)

Me: “Sorry, ma’am, we don’t have it. Are you sure he returned it here?”

Parent: “Yes, he did. Why won’t you believe me?” *points insistently at our book-drop* “I’ll get him to come and prove it!”

Me: “Okay, you can ask him to come by.”

(Would you believe it, some days later, the parent comes back again. This time, she has complained to the school office, who apparently was finally able to get through to her that our library systems are different.)

Parent: “My son returned the town library’s books here. Do you have them?”

Me: *checking to see if they have been found over the last few days* “Yes, here you go.”

Parent: “The person who called me said there’s a fine for overdue books.”

Me: “You’ll have to check with the town library, as [School]’s library does not implement a fine for late returns.”

Parent: “But it’s not fair! We shouldn’t have to pay a fine!”

Me: “Sorry, I have no control over that.” 

(I have a feeling I know what’s coming. Sure enough, she delivers.)

Parent: “No, I shouldn’t have to pay! My son returned it here!” *points petulantly to our book drop* “How can you charge me when I returned it here?!”

Me: *facepalm* 

(I mean, I can excuse a kid for not being able to tell the difference, but this is an adult in her forties!)

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