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In Need Of Group Therapy

, , , , | Right | October 25, 2021

We get many visits from teachers who bring their students to the library to borrow books. We ask that they call ahead before they come; that way, we can make sure we have enough staff to help them and prevent the place from getting too crowded. Some teachers are very good at this, but a lot of them just show up unannounced with twenty kids in tow during the busiest time of the day.

When the global health crisis hits, we get a lot of restrictions. For a period of time, we’re not allowed to be open to the public at all. The next step is to allow patrons inside but no large groups. Then, we accept groups but only at certain times, and they once again need to make an appointment.

A week or so ago, all restrictions in the country were lifted. We send out information to all the schools and preschools in the area that they still need to call ahead and make an appointment if they want to bring a group of kids, i.e. the same way things were supposed to have worked before the health crisis.

The first Monday we are open without restrictions, I have the opening shift at the information desk. Monday mornings are always crazy busy, but they’re usually manageable for one person. This Monday, however, there is a preschool class and their teacher standing outside the doors when I go to unlock them.

Me: “Good morning. Did you call ahead? You’re not in my calendar.”

Teacher #1: “No, but the restrictions are over. We don’t need to call ahead now, right?”

Me: “Actually, you’ve always had to call in advance. It’s for your sake as much as ours, to make sure you get all the help you need.”

Teacher #1: “Well, we didn’t know that, and the kids have been waiting for this visit for ages. We’ll call next time.”

It’s not a large group and they mostly take care of themselves, but I still get busy helping them find the books they want. A few minutes later, another group arrives. This group has made an appointment in advance and booked a guided tour, so my colleague comes out to meet them and show them around.

Ten minutes later, I hear noise from the entrance, look up, and discover an entire school class of ten-year-olds with their teacher. I go up to greet them the same way I greeted the first group.

Me: “Good morning. Did you call ahead? You’re not in my calendar.”

Teacher #2: “I tried to call, but no one picked up.”

Me: “Oh, I don’t see a note about that. When did you call?”

Teacher #2: “About five minutes ago when we got off the bus. We didn’t get an answer, so we figured it’d be okay. The restrictions are lifted anyway.”

The reason no one picked up five minutes ago is that I had a gaggle of children clinging to me and didn’t reach the phone in time.

Me: “We’ve always asked groups to call ahead and also to wait for confirmation that it’s okay to visit. As you can see, there are already two groups here, so it’s going to be crowded.”

Teacher #2: “Oh, well, we’ve come a long way so we can’t go back now. You need to give us better information in the future.”

The next half-hour is hectic, and everyone is grumpy — the group that did book in advance because they thought they’d get to visit in peace and quiet, and the two groups that just showed up because they aren’t getting help fast enough.

Teacher #2: “You know, if you’re going to have this many people in the children’s area at the same time, you need to have more librarians on duty to help out. We’ve had to wait for ages; it’s very inconvenient.”

Me: *With my very sunniest smile* “Yes, I agree, it’s very inconvenient. We were only expecting one group this morning, but instead, we got three. If only there was a way to prevent situations like this from happening!”

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