Dispatches From a Public Librarian
For some five years I have worked for a smallish public library nestled cozily between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, California. This is where most of the observations in this dispatch will take place, although sometimes I do go to other libraries (some even far, far away), and I’ll include those observations as they come.
I came into the library scene about eight years ago. I began as a student assistant at a college library in Fullerton. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I was bored, confused, and didn’t want to get off my parents’ insurance plan, so I enrolled in the Library Science and Information Technology program at San Jose State.
I will update this dispatch on a sometimes-regular basis, and will include stories about strange patrons, strange tales, and otherwise just strange things. The names and description of the patrons are purposely left out, so as to protect their privacy (libraries are real sticklers for this privacy stuff, which is why many have been in a tiff about the Patriot Act, but don’t get me started).
Lost & Found
Toy cell phone
Anime DVD case (no disc)
Photocopy of an income-tax statement
Child’s wallet, including two Mickey Dollars from Disneyland
Stuffed teddy bear
Ink pen from CarCo.
Kids and Porn
The most popular website this week for kids 8-14 is the borderline-pornographic site Newgrounds.com. Newgrounds features a splendid assortment of innocent kids games mixed together with adult-oriented games. It is full of nudity, crude sexuality, drug references, violence, and swearing. One favorite, for girls surprisingly, is the dress-up Britney Spears game, which so happens to feature a Britney without any underwear on. The content of the site seems geared at high-school-aged kids, but 95 percent of the kids that I caught looking at the site were still in elementary school. The library has decided to ban Newgrounds, and library Internet filters prevent kids from accessing it further. Curious about how they found the site, I asked some of the kids; their responses varied, but by and large it was from web banners on non-adult websites that had either chat rooms or cheat codes for game systems (e.g., PS2, Xbox, and Game Cube).
Patron of the Week
Reflecting on who my favorite patron is on any given week is difficult—there are so many. My favorite patron this week would have to be the one who tried to take my shoes. The patron was a mentally challenged man who was visiting the library as part of his rehabilitation. He came up to me while I was in the juvenile-fiction area and asked if I would be his friend. I politely nodded and said that I would be his friend. He then asked if he might have my shoes. I told him, as gently as possible, that I needed to keep them. He nodded, and asked if I was still his friend. I said yes, and he asked if he could feel my shoes. Seeing no harm in this, I told him he could feel one, but he had to do it quickly. He nodded, bent down, and proceeded to lift up my foot and pull off my shoe. A little panicked, I told him that shoes had to stay on in the library. He knew by my tone that he had done something he should not have. He began saying he was sorry over and over again. I told him it was okay. He asked if we could still be friends. I said yes and he left. The next day he came into the library looking for me while I was taking a break. He asked the librarian at the reference desk if the priest was there, and then went on to describe the priest as me.
The strangest item found in the book drop was the head of a blond plastic doll wrapped in pink tissue paper.
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