Librarians are not known for their lovability.
Lost in reminiscing, my grandpa once reflected, “I was scared of the library ladies.” When pressed for details, he paused, and his left eyelid twitched. Finally, he muttered, “They shushed people.”
Generally, the public views librarians thusly:
I cannot deny the existence of such librarians; however, the point must be made:
We are not all monsters. Sure, your childhood memories may consist of thin, pointy-elbowed, sharp-tongued, spinsterly book guardians, but the uprising generation of librarians is conscientiously breaking this stereotype.
For instance, I am a librarian. I do not shush people. (Except for that one teenager, but he was asking for it). I do not wear glasses. (I used to, but they made me look like an owl, so I have since graduated to contacts). Admittedly, I once tried to peer down my nose at a rude patron, but since my appearance resembles that of a sixteen year old, the overall effect was probably underwhelming.
Although I attempt to be a non-scary type of librarian, my patrons generally treat the position with respect, cringing as I call them on overdue books, fines, and pencil-marred margins. However, yesterday broke that mold….
Yesterday, a patron said he loved me.
Allow me to set the scene. I was calling overdues, a lovely task which consists of passive-agressive reminders about late materials, thinly veiled threats about looming bills, and/or effusive apologies for materials I called about, but failed to realize that said materials were already returned.
Typically, a call goes like this:
Me: “Hi, this is the library. I was calling to let you know that your book, Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet, is overdue.
Embarrassed parent: “My seven year old checked that out. I don’t read those. Really. Never have, never will.”
Me: “Not here to judge, sir. Just stating the facts.”
Parent: “Ok, I’m…he’s…on chapter 7. We’ll get it back to you ASAP.”
Me: “No rush. Great literature must be given its due.”
End of scene.
Yesterday, however, the call went like this:
Me: “Hi, this is the library, calling about overdue materials. May I speak to a parent of Herbert?” (Name changed. Just in case a lawyer is sneaking around, waiting to slap me with a libel suit).
Rapid breathing on the other line.
Bemused, I try again. “Hi, may I…”
A panicked whine ensues, broken by a tentative click.
Listening to the dial tone, I grin, redial the number, and wait. Patrons have hung up on me before, and the resulting story is always memorable. Therefore, I wait with relish for the punchline.
“Hello?” whispers a tiny voice.
“Hi,” I repeat blithely, “this is the library. May I speak to a parent of Herbert?”
The unseen person considers the question. “No, you may not,” he finally answers, conviction steadying the trembly voice.
Choking on laughter, I say, “Oh. Ok, then. Will you let her know that her son has an overdue book?”
Quietly, the disembodied voice admitted, “He knows. He’s done with it.”
Taking a wild guess, I say, “Return it when you can, okay Herbert?”
A horrified pause stretches for eons, then a flustered voice blathers, “Ok, thank you, love you, bye.”
Herbert loves me. Score one for modern librarians.