just doin’ my job, ma’am

I ruined a patron’s day this afternoon. The ten minute warning had been sounded: “If you would like to check out any library material please proceed to the checkout desk on the main floor at this time.” I was cleaning up in Children’s, which can be the worst part of the library to clean. All those tiny spined books plus little brains who don’t understand about putting things where they belong can add up to unholy messes, but today it was fine. Except for the giant stack of books next to a backpack on one of the tables.

I’d been in Children’s for about an hour and a half shelf-reading and then cleaning up and this stack of books had been sitting there unattended. The rest of the section was quiet so as I’d pass by, there they’d be, beckoning me to load them up onto the cart and take them away. But I held off. “Someone probably wants you. Probably the same someone whose backpack is right there.” So I left to put away the rest of the cart, back in the circulation workroom. But it was Sunday and quiet and there wasn’t much to do in there.

Once the warning had gone off I came back to Children’s and the stack was still there. All right, well, they won’t even be able to check out all those books now. There’s just not enough time to physically scan them. They must not want them. So I loaded up and took them away.

My tragic mistake was forgetting where I’d finished in my earlier shelf-reading so I had to go back to Children’s one last time to check. And now there was a man and woman accosting one of the other, less experienced pages about what could have happened to their books. Not even thinking, I told them I’d cleaned them up. You know, because the library was closing and there weren’t any people left in the Children’s section to tell me not to take them. The woman whined and complained. Or it felt like she was going to, so I said I’d go see what I could find. “Louis Riel? Henry Hudson? Some Aboriginal Resources? That kind of stuff?” She nodded and I went back to find them.

Now it had been a gigantic stack and we were now reaching 4:58. I grabbed an armful of books that might have been the right ones and went back out to them. “This is what I could find.” I was very polite. “Is that all? But there were so many more” the woman whined. She tried raising her eyebrows in an attempt to be cute or something, but she didn’t know I’d been in China having rabid students try to gouge extra points out of me; her cuteness found no purchase. “This is what I’ve got and we close in a minute and a half. That’s all I can do.”

Her boyfriend complimented my Diesel Sweeties R2D2 Tshirt and I thanked him. And then I left before she realized that all the checkout people were already gone.

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