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).
Adventures in MySpace
There’s a stereotype about librarian jobs that goes something along the lines of “all librarians ever do is sit around all day and wait for someone to ask for a book.” This is simply not the case. For starters, most people don’t even know how to read anymore, and the few that do don’t come to the library—they’re obviously smart, and therefore well off financially, and therefore go to Amazon.com to buy books, which they in turn donate to the library, which the library sells at a book sale, from which proceeds go to buy new computers.
Second of all, librarians do plenty: they buy books, form committees to decide what sort of committees the library needs, type up minutes for those committee meetings, complain about how people can’t read anymore and only use the library for free Internet access, burn books to make room for the new Harry Potter (which I’m pretty sure most kids only check out for the illustrations), and if all that isn’t enough, librarians also take breaks and lunches. Now occasionally librarians sit behind a desk bored out their minds (but hiding it well), but never for more than seven hours a day. Which brings me to MySpace.com.
MySpace was started a few years back in the proud tradition of other social-networking sites like Friendster.com. My library is full of high-school kids who think MySpace is the greatest thing since Razor scooters—if you’re on MySpace, then I’m sure you’ve run into one or two of them. What does this have to do with my previous point? Well, I’ll tell you if you just pipe down. I started a MySpace account recently in an effort to cure my boredom while sitting at the reference desk waiting for someone to ask me where a book was. I figured if high-school kids had so much fun on it, then why couldn’t I? Plus, it’s my duty as a librarian to be informed about what people are doing at the library.
The first time I logged in to MySpace, I saw a picture of guys kissing, a friend whose profile said she was gay, which was news to me (at least now I know why she never would go out with me, which is better than that “I don’t like to leave my cats alone” excuse), and an overweight girl with her legs … actually I’d really rather not go into what she was doing with her legs—it was actually pretty frightening. I saw many other disturbing things, but I honestly can’t say I saw anything very interesting, and yet I stayed for a full hour reading profiles of people that I, for the most part, had never met. I discovered in myself a voyeuristic fetish I never knew I had.
If you are a bored librarian like me, or just a bored person in general, then perhaps we can be friends; my user page is www.myspace.com/scottdouglas. If my profile says that I’m online, then perhaps that even means I’m at work waiting for someone to ask for a book. And if you have an odd or funny library story, or just like libraries, then join groups.myspace.com/librarylovers.
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