Her Management Style Is A Bit Rusty

, , , , | Working | March 19, 2018

(We have just opened a new branch library to which I’ve been assigned. Rather than furnish it nicely, our director has been obsessed with reusing old furniture. One of these pieces is a book return box that is so rusty we can barely open it. It also does not yet have a basket inside, so the return box is literally that: a box shell over the concrete parking lot. Anything returned inside drops straight to the pavement.)

Me: “Do you think we should put an ‘Out of Order’ sign on the book drop or something, so people don’t return things there until we get a basket inside it?”

Director: “Why would we want to do that?”

Me: “Well, we can’t really open it to get anything out, so people will think they’re returning stuff on time, but it might take us days before maintenance can pry it open.”

Director: *shrugs* “We’ll just back-date everything a week, then.”

Me: “Plus, items just crash onto the concrete. Movies are going to get broken.”

Director: “I guess that’s less inventory we have to deal with.”

(I just quietly walked away so I wouldn’t say anything that would get me fired. This director doesn’t care about the taxpayer dollars that bought those movies, nor does she care about keeping inventory well stocked, yet she’s petitioning the community for a million-dollar levy. Also, at the time of writing this, one of our patrons told us she returned movies in our dropbox, and she wants them removed from her card so she doesn’t get any fines. And we can’t get the rusty drop box open to do so.)

Time’s Arrow Marches Back And Forth

, , , | Right | March 19, 2018

(I am working at the reference desk. I often help people find books in the library’s catalogue, which is connected with at least two dozen other libraries in the region. We also have two monitors connected to the reference desk computer. One faces me, and the other faces the patron so that they can easily see the search results, too. It’s also important to note that our online catalogue records often have pictures of the library material. A man in his 50s approaches the desk.)

Me: “Hello. How can I help you?”

Patron: “Hey. Can you help me find a book? It’s called The Arrow.”

Me: *pulls up advanced search, types in the title* “Sure. Any chance you know the author’s name?”

Patron: “No.”

Me: “That’s okay. Let’s take a look and see what kind of results we get. Okay, there’s quite a list here.”

Patron: *points at his screen* “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Me: “The first record at the top?”

Patron: “Yeah, yeah. That’s it.”

(I take a closer look. It’s an erotic-looking romance novel; the cover shows a shirtless muscular man in a kilt. It is unusual, but also awesome for a man to ask for a romance novel, but it doesn’t matter what I think about his choices, so I stay neutral and professional, and don’t express any opinion.)

Me: “Okay, it shows that [Public Library two miles away] has it and it’s available for check out.”

Patron: “Yeah, I was there, but it’s not on the shelf.”

Me: “That’s a bummer. But now that we have the author’s name, I’ll do another search and see if there’s a chance there might be another record for that book.” *searches by author* “Okay, it looks like there are about a dozen of her other books available, but there’s only the one record for The Arrow by this author.”

Patron: “Yeah, I’m trying to figure out which one of the series that I need.

Me: “Okay, but I thought you said you wanted The Arrow? It looks like there are other books in this series. There’s The Chief…”

Patron: “Yeah, but I need to know which one I need next.”

Me: *confused, but trying to not get frustrated* “Okay, let’s go to the author’s website and see if I can find a book series list that can tell us the order.”

(I easily find the author’s website, which is clearly that of a romance novelist, and all the book covers show more shirtless, muscular men in kilts.)

Me:The Chief is the first in the series.”

Patron: *studying the screen* “No, I don’t think that’s the one I need. I need to know which one comes next.”

Me: “Here’s The Arrow; it’s the most recent one available in this series.”

Patron: “No, that’s not the one I need; I need the next one. I know that [College Library 60 miles away, which is in the catalogue] had the one I need. Can we check to see if they have it?”

Me: “Okay, I’m getting very confused. So, you’re looking for The Arrow, which is the latest book in this series, but that’s not what you’re looking for?”

Patron: “I’m trying to find The Arrow, the next book in this series.”

(I am now incredibly frustrated and not sure what the next move will be. Next thing I know, he pulls out his cellphone, punches in a number, and begins talking loudly on the phone.)

Me: “Excuse me, sir?”

Patron: “Hey, can I talk to [Woman #1]? I mean, [Woman #2]? Yeah, [Woman #2]. Hey, I’m looking for that book, The Arrow, and I know it’s out at [College Library 60 miles away]. Do you have it? They can’t find it in the catalogue here.”

Me: “Sir? I can’t help you if you’re on the phone.”

Patron: “Naw, you can; that’s okay. I can talk to both of you at once.”

Me: “No, actually, you can’t. I will finish helping you when you’ve finished with your phone call.”

(I refuse to do anything to help him while he is on the phone.)

Patron: “Yeah, [Woman #2], you got it out there? Okay, cool.”

(He talks a little bit more, and then hangs up.)

Patron: “Yeah, looks like they have the DVD out there; that’s what I wanted! Can we take another look at the catalogue?”

Me: “Wait, what? DVD? You are looking for Arrow on DVD? As in, the TV show based on a comic book? Okay, look: that is a completely different search, and asking for a book was not helpful.”

Patron: “Yeah, well, I meant the DVD.”

Me: *internally screaming* “You shouldn’t have specifically asked for a book, then. Or told me that the book record for a romance novel was the one you wanted.” *taking a deep breath* “Okay, so, you want Arrow, the TV series, on DVD, yes?”

Patron: “Yeah.”

Me: “Okay, let’s see what I can find.”

(I searched for Arrow on DVD and easily found it in less than a minute, figured out that he wanted season three and four, which were not available in the catalogue yet. Aye caramba!)

It’s Been Beautifully Supervised

, , , | Right | March 16, 2018

(I am the Manager of Branches for the entire public library system which means that I am in charge of all the desk staff and supervisors across the county. Although I am more than 30 years old, I am very petite and people often think I am younger than I am. The other thing is that most of my staff are either teenagers or between 50 and 70. I don’t usually do shifts on the desk but sometimes I am called in to cover lunches. I am working at the circulation desk when a middle-aged woman comes up.)

Patron: “Hi, I borrowed a copy of [Popular Book that just came out] and I seem to have lost it. I wanted to see how much it would cost me to replace it.”

Me: “Our standard fee for a replacement is $45.”

Patron: *suddenly angry* “$45!? It’s only $25 at [Bookstore]! You can’t just charge whatever you feel like for books. You teenagers are all the same! I’ll bet you are pocketing the extra $20 from every book that gets lost, you little b****!”

(I try to explain to her how the charges are set by our publishers, and about the service fees for cataloging books and re-entering them into circulation, but she isn’t interested in listening to me. She keep shouting over me and interrupting me. Eventually, a sort of calm comes over her and she stops yelling and lets me speak, while smirking.)

Patron: *grinning like she is about to play her trump card* “Sweetie, I want to talk to your supervisor.”

(Now, it’s my turn to smirk a little. I could just tell her who I am, but I’m interested to see how my branch supervisor handles problem customers. I go and get the branch supervisor. The patron starts bad-mouthing me to the supervisor, who seems a little confused by the fact that she keeps referring to me as a teenager. But my supervisor is professional and tells her exactly what I told her. This seems to infuriate the patron even more and she demands to speak to my supervisor’s boss.)

Branch Supervisor: “Well, the Manager of Branches is actually in the building right now; I can let you speak to her.”

Patron: “Good! Finally, someone who knows what they’re talking about.”

(The branch supervisor brings me back over.)

Me: “Hi, I’m [My Name], the Manager of Branches. Now, would you like to pay by cash or card?”

(The patron just looked at me, looked at the branch supervisor — who was trying not to laugh — looked back at me, and practically ran out of the library. I put a $45 charge on her card and suspended her account until it was paid. According to my branch supervisor, her husband came in the next day and paid off the charge. He comes in pretty often, but she hasn’t shown her face in a while.)

Own Up To Their Mistake

, , , | Working | March 10, 2018

(I work at a library that also has a museum. We are publicly funded and affiliated with a university. Telemarketers still sometimes call, and it can be pretty funny.)

Me: “Hello, [Library and Museum]. How can I help you?”

Caller: “May I speak to the owner, please? I have a great deal for them.”

Me: *thinking she means one of the curators, and wants to donate something* “Can I have the name of who you’d like to speak to?”

Caller: “No. I just need to speak with the owner.”

Me: “Ma’am, we are a public library and museum. There are about four different people you could be referring to. Could I get a name?”

Caller: “No! The owner! I need to speak with the owner!”

Me: *realizing she’s a telemarketer* “Our library is a public institution. We are also affiliated with [Local University]. We don’t have an owner like a traditional business. Is there something else I could help you with?”

Caller: “But… the owner?” *hangs up*

(I felt bad that she was so confused, but our name alone should have been enough for her to know we weren’t buying. I also should have realized she was a telemarketer earlier, but patrons do genuinely say things like that when they want to make a donation.)

Nerfed That Meeting

, , , , , , | Working | March 9, 2018

(The programs department at our library likes to have us employees “test” new activities before they put them in place for the general public. One morning before we open, they hand out Nerf guns and declare that we’ll be having a “Nerf War.” Soon, every employee is running around, hiding behind bookshelves, and cackling like mad as they fire foam projectiles at each other. In the midst of all this, the phone rings, and I hold up a sheet of white copy paper as a “flag of truce” while I run to the phone and pick it up.)

Me: “Community Library. This is [My Name]. How can I help you?”

Speaker: “Hi, this is [Administrator]’s husband. Can I talk to her?”

Me: “Of course.” *winces as someone shrieks in the background* “Can you hold, please?”

(I run back out under my makeshift “flag of truce,” and tell the administrator her husband is on the phone. She shifts her Nerf gun to one hand and grabs the phone with the other.)

Administrator: “Hello? Hey, hun… No, I haven’t had a chance; I’ve been in meetings all morning. Okay, talk to you later. Bye.” *hangs up*

Me: *eyes her Nerf gun* “Meetings all morning, huh?”

Administrator: “Yup. *runs out to re-join the Nerf war*

(Whoever said librarians are a boring lot has never actually worked with them.)

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