Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Marina and I were talking yesterday about the weirdos in our field, and while we both recognize and admit that our little library and our littler department is comprised of some really quirky characters, we are nowhere near as weird as some of the other freaks who work in libraries. Often we forget how normal and stable we are until we attend a meeting at the consortium, and when these freaks return to The Mother Ship, all the stops are pulled out. I would not be surprised to find anyone wearing aluminum foil helmets or devouring their own young at one of these meetings.

The scary thing is, Marina has discovered something worse than Mother Ship meetings: library school.

I asked how bad it was and her eyes got wide, her face went pale, and she said it was BAD.

Me: Could it possibly be worse than the Mother Ship meetings? Surely not! I mean, I think I’ve seen people picking nits out of other people’s sweaters and munching on them at the meetings before. And then munching on their own sweater nits. It can’t be worse than that!

Marina: Oh yeah. Think about it. These are people who want to be librarians, but some of them won’t make it because even THEY are too freaky for librarians.

I threw up a little bit when I imagined this. I’m not sure whether to be more frightened for her safety or the future of the field.

Screw the future of libraries; I just want Marina to survive her Masters!

As if it’s not enough to acknowledge that we reside in a field rife with the socially inept, I had another conversation recently with a civilian, and his observances of the librarians at his library was further proof that Marina and I are glowing beacons of sanity in a stormy sea of nuts.

(That wasn’t overtly pompous, was it? Because you know how I like to play it close to the cuff, suave and subtle. Right?)

While complaining about how much people have changed in the airline industry over the last few decades, I asked him if his view of librarians has changed as well. He didn’t realize that I was referring to the influence of knowing me, and that I might make all librarians seem more interesting and cooler by association. (SUAVE and SUBTLE, see?!) No, clearly that point was lost, because it was as if I’d given him license to express the things that irk the world about librarians, like I was some kind of PR rep for the field.

(Thankfully you cannot hear my maniacal laughter right now.)

His rant went something like this:

The librarians these days aren’t 100 years old, like I remember them when I was a kid. They are, generally, younger, but they’re…different. When I was growing up, all they said was, “SHHHHHHHHH!” Like fucking hydraulic brakes: “SHHHHHHHHHH!” [I laughed, but insisted I’ve never shushed anyone at all.] My library now, they don’t shush anyone for any reason, but if you’re talking on a cell phone, right away they’re all over you to turn the cell phone off. It’s RUDE! Is it okay if I talk to this guy over here? Yes. Then why can’t I talk into the phone? What’s the difference? You’re just mad because you can only hear one side of the conversation. Would it be okay if I used the SPEAKERPHONE, and then you could eavesdrop on the whole conversation? Because you’re saying it’s okay for me to talk to anyone else but someone on my phone! [Incredulous, I recognized my own coworkers in this complaint and said as much.] What if we just call my cell phone Frank, and I’ll pretend like he’s a real person and talk to him. Is that okay? [I suggested he put a hand puppet on the phone.] Yeah, I’m a ventriloquist. Really. This is my dummy. [I added that I agree, and often librarians are vindictive about noise generated by cell phones, but do nothing about other noise, and it’s not fair.] You’d think that these are people who defend the First Amendment, and they should be more tolerant than they are. [Nooooooo, I said! God, no! These are people who love the books. Patrons interfere with their worship of books and the guarding of the collection. No, they don’t like or defend the people. It’s all about the integrity of the collection.]

From there the rant shifted to include some references to hate crimes and unfair persecution of cell phone users as a more heinous transgression than any other in a library. Largely, this is all true. I’ve actually heard the whoosh of my coworkers whipping their head around and glaring daggers at someone who neglected to silence their cell phone upon entering the sacred building, and it dared to play a stupid song and disturb the pristine peace of people masturbating and watching porn at the public computers.

(And we all come down WAY HARDER on people who have extremely dumb music that plays on their cell phone. Admit it. You think much less of someone when Shania Twain or Flock of Seagulls announces they’re getting a call. You know you do. And that’s okay. That kind of persecution is deserved.)

We all know about the obnoxious cell phone users who you can be speaking with, explaining the location of some material or asking a pertinent question to aid in the search for something, and they will suddenly pick up their cell phone and engage in a lengthy conversation with the caller about where they are, what they’re doing, when they’ll be home, what they ate for lunch, what color undies they’re wearing, and who their baby’s daddy is with today. All while you’re sitting there, mouth agape, interrupted in mid-sentence, and forced to listen to this ridiculousness until they hang up and turn their attention back to you. Yeah, those people need to die a horrible death that involves pieces of said cell phone choking and gagging the offender.

We also know about the idiot who answers a call in the middle of a quiet afternoon at the library, where people are eagerly playing online games and pretending to be looking for jobs, and either this cell phone guy is half-deaf or the connection is so poor that he’s bellowing into his phone, using foul language, and talking dirty to his girlfriend. Dude, that’s so not cool. Bellow and swear all you want, but all dirty talk should be directed at me, don’t you know? Wait. On second thought. What’s that smell? Urine? You smell like urine? Like 2-day-old urine? Just leave. Now. Go. Yeah, he’s another one who needs to know what it feels like when he gets a phone call while his phone is buried in his large intestine.

But indiscriminately disallowing all cell phone conversations in a library just seems desultory. Yet, there are so many people in our field who pick something, some kind of issue, and they fixate on it, turn it into cause for harassment, and in severe cases justifiable homicide. Whether it’s cell phone usage, where a book belongs in the collection, the territorial wars between departments or within departments, the dress code, or any other obsession they focus on, there is always something the freakier members of our field will go completely berserk about. I’ve seen good librarians melt completely down, belly down on the floor, kicking and punching the ground while sobbing uncontrollably when they felt defeated in their lifelong battle to have baby books separated from regular picture books. Some things my people cling to a little too tightly.

But I take solace in the knowledge that there are freakier freaks out there who did not make the cut to become librarians.

And I think they’re the ones I’ve called the police on because someone saw him stroking himself under his pants while at the computer, or she insisted she was the wife of Jesus and chased a librarian up the stairs. Surely people who are this comfortable being freaks in a library tried to become librarians at some point.

It’s a good thing there are some standards. Whew.

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