When I was little, I had difficulty discerning the library from church. Both institutions required its patrons to speak in hushed voices. Both housed books that you were told to respect; they weren’t toys or meant to function merely as a hard surface so you could doodle on the bulletin. Also, when visiting either place I knew instinctively that I was to be on my best behavior. Especially at the library.

No matter where I roamed among the endless racks of books, I could feel the bifocaled surveillance of the resident librarian. Without fail, this person was female, smelled vaguely of Chanel No. 5 and mothballs and seemed to have nothing better to do than shush any and all noises. Even rogue squeaky sneakers against a tiled floor were not exempt from the librarian’s scourge. Though sitting at what was called a help desk, she was never particularly helpful. Instead, I sensed that she took pleasure in charging me a late fee whenever I kept Ramona the Brave or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle a day too long.

Apparently things haven’t changed much.

Last week I was at my local library and needed a space where I would be able to talk (in a hushed voice of course). Not wanting to disturb the other patrons, I headed to the help desk for some input as to where I should sit. Should have known better. I was still a good twenty feet away when I felt the icy glare from behind her horn-rimmed visage.

Me (super chipper): “Hi! I’m here to do some tutoring for a few hours. Where would be the best place to do that without disturbing anyone else?”

Her (annoyed): “At home.”

Me (nervous laugh): “Well, that’s not an option.”

Her (more annoyed): “We don’t have private rooms. If you can find an open table, I suggest you take it.”

Okay, seriously… Why are librarians so damn crabby all the time? Do they surround themselves with inanimate objects because they hate living, breathing people that much? Or perhaps having so little human contact has permanently stunted their social skills? Because I am totally confused as to why these chicks are so mean to everyone.

What could be better than working at a library? You can read anything you want, from Tolstoy’s War and Peace to Polizzi’s A Shore Thing – Snooki to you uncultured creatures who don’t keep up with The New York Times Best Seller list – and claim it as “research.” Or don’t pick up a book at all. Just surf US Weekly online and say you’re trying to help patrons navigate the world wide web. Plus, the library is quiet. Warm and cozy. And they have drinking fountains! (Have you noticed how quickly they’re disappearing from the American landscape?)

The only thing that could make the library better is if they gave away free stuff… Wait a minute! That’s right. You can check out whatever you want – books, CDs, DVDs – and you don’t have to pay for any of it! I bet librarians are exempt even from their own late fees.

Yet they always seem to be in a foul mood. So what am I missing? I realize that libraries aren’t exactly a top priority in terms of fund allocation, so it’s likely that most librarians are paid very little. Maybe some of them work only on a volunteer basis. In that case, I get it. However, their bummer attitude makes me reluctant to engage them or visit as often as I would like… So maybe that’s it. Maybe their Machiavellian plan is to discourage people from coming to the library so they can have all those wonderful books to themselves.


Image: pixtawan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “Knowledge Is Power”

Anna, did you know you wrote this post for me? 🙂 I’ve been looking into a master’s in Library Science and the grad school I’m considering actually has a class called “Machiavellian Plans To Discourage People from Coming to the Library” in their program!

But, as I now aspire to be a librarian when I grow up, I do promise to be a totally hip, passionate, friendly, smiling, encouraging version of the classic stereotype. Even if that would mean rebuking the evil plot and (sigh) sharing all those awesome books…

November 12th, 2011

Hahaha! I knew it! I knew they wanted all those lovely books for themselves. 😉 J, the future of all library patrons rests solely on your shoulders… You can be the catalyst for change. May the force be with you.

November 14th, 2011