Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nineteen Things That Will Break Your Heart When You Work in a Public Library

  1. You cheerily accept books for checkin only to find they are coated in a strange unidentifiable mucus.
  2. You cheerily accept books for checkin only to find pure, white grains of sand falling from the spine, sand from a land you will never visit.  Also the spine has been cracked from the heat and you'll need to repair it. Fuckers.
  3. You gruffly accept books from a silent teen who never meets your eye and strikes you as sullen [It was a hard day and I didn't have sweetness left to squander on sullen teens, okay], only to be greeted with a whisper: "I really loved that one, the one with the 'Staff Loved' sticker on it".
  4. Getting Copydex on your favourite cardigans (IT NEVER COMES OFF)
  5. Throwing teenaged girls out of the library for throwing balled-up paper over the balcony.  One, wearing a Burger King crown (ironically, one assumes) mutters "fat bitch" at you under her breath as she slopes out; this girl you recognise moments later as the angelic child who had previously come to you for book recommendations for years of Saturdays, and who gave you a hug on your birthday three years ago. Your heart is rent.
  6. Paper cuts  
  7. When you offer your own favourite book as a recommendation to a carefully curated reader and, having checked it out to them with a knowing wink, receive it back from them three weeks later with the soul-crushingly dismissive comment of "I just couldn't get into it". [WOE]
  8. Your personal pet, a bright-eyed, beautiful eight year old, who tells you he wants books on motorbike racing, because he wants to be a motorcyclist when he grows up, and drive very fast. When you express concern at the danger inherent in his chosen profession, he deliberates for about ten seconds and offers: "Maybe I'll work in the library instead so. Will you still be working here when I'm finished school?" When you tell him yes of course you will, he answers, "Oh good, I will be your boss then so."
  9. Your terrific colleague who tells you to "go home, I'll stay" when it's your birthday and it's after hours.
  10. When a favourite customer asks bashfully if you would mind awfully being a nominator on his Irish Residency application, and, after you have responded "absolutely!", starts to giggle delightedly when, under RELATIONSHIP TO APPLICANT you fill in 'friend'.
  11. Speaking to a customer's daughter on the phone who has started crying because her father died last week and she just received an overdue letter from the library and she didn't even know he used the library and what on earth will she do next?
  12. The woman who asks you for "happy stories, but no love stories, just women, being happy for themselves" on a hugely busy Saturday afternoon when there is a queue of ten people behind her waiting for you, but who then goes on to open her jacket and show you where her blouse lies flat because she got a double mastectomy four weeks ago, and "I just can't be dealing with sad stories at the moment".
  13. The most glamorous, petite septuagenarian you've ever met, who walks into the library calling your name and saying "my gorgeous girl, so beautiful, you've lost weight again!" every day she visits, regardless of the hot mess you look on a particular day.
  14. The regular, genial, gentlemanly patron who calls you by name and always asks how you are, then one day leans in to ask if you were planning on doing anything about the two teen boys holding hands in the Magazine area, because "it's just not right, there's children around".
  15. Learning your favourite elderly newspaper-reader has died a month after he has been buried.
  16. Showing a dad how he needs to fill in a form to get a membership card for his seven year old daughter, only to have him come back to the desk ten minutes later to ask you, in a whisper, to fill it in for him, because he can't read it.
  17. This dad and his daughter goes on to visit the library every week and they take out ten books every time. The daughter happily tells you how much she likes reading because "Dad lets me read it to him!" 
  18. The mum who turns back to the desk to tell you "thanks" for joking with her kids while they were checking out their books because "they're so shy, I'm trying to get them to be more brave and do things themselves, I can't believe they responded to you". Aw, jeez
  19. The nervous mum who hovers as you chat about books you've both loved with her 17 year old who giggles like a ten year old and reads everything: "She had a brain injury last year and we want her to read novels about emotions because she has trouble recognising people's motivations since the accident". 
  20.  The regulars who never check out a book but wait outside for the library to open every morning just so they can read the papers, tell you about the weather and say "enjoy!" to you as they leave. 

These things can be surmised into: people grow; they change; they get older; and they die on you.  You will never be worthy and people will always confound you.  Which is probably the root of all our heartbreaks. Let's all weep happy/sad tears together. 

Libraries and Social Media