Dispatches From a Public Librarian
Scott Douglas works 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 his dispatch will take place, although sometimes he does go to other libraries (some even far, far away), and he’ll include those observations as they come.
Scott began as a student assistant at a college library in Fullerton. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he was bored, confused, and didn’t want to get off his parents’ insurance plan, so he enrolled in the Library Science and Information Technology program at San Jose State.
This dispatch will update 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).
The Library Brawl.
I’ve seen my share of fights in the library. Normally, it’s sweaty spoiled kids involved in some sort of pushing match because of the comment So-and-So left on a MySpace page; occasionally, it’s a bit more ridiculous and involves looking at someone the wrong way. But they are kids full of angst, and really I can do nothing more than laugh and wish I would have used my cell-phone camera to film it so I could put it on YouTube. But when two large adult women with children started going at it I had a hard time laughing it off, because that kind of stuff should be strictly kept caged on the set of Jerry Springer.
Regardless of how I felt about the scene, I am a librarian, and, though it is not in my job description, I must do my best to keep order. Upon arriving at the fracas, I was met by another peacekeeping librarian. The two large women were in each other’s faces. I said something along the lines of “Ladies, let’s please break it up.” The other librarian took a much more passionate approach, saying, “Don’t do this in front of your children.” He made the better point, in retrospect, but, alas, it didn’t matter, because neither woman heard us. They were too caught up in each other’s faces to know that other people were talking.
I suspected it would be just angry talk mixed with the occasional swear word, but it got a bit more hostile when the slightly larger woman said, “Go ahead and hit me—I’m pregnant.” I’m not sure what’s worse—the fact that a pregnant woman was egging an angry woman into a brawl, or the fact that the angry woman actually did it. (Well, not a hit exactly, but a shove that heightened the entire ordeal.)
It was the shove heard around the library, because right after that a circle formed around the angry women; patrons came from all corners of the library to watch. Their eyes cried for fight. I expected the behavior from teens, but adults? They were supposed to be helping us out, encouraging the women to break it up.
It all seemed to be in slow motion now. One woman was on her cell phone describing the scene to a friend, one of the women’s children was begging his mother to stop, another librarian looked on hopelessly, and teens by the dozens were laughing the whole thing up.
I was certain someone had to be filming it for YouTube; it would be an Internet sensation: Brawl in the Library! If teens going at it got millions of hits, I could only imagine what adults (in a library, of all places) would get. I looked over the crowd to be certain 911 was being called, and I could see a third librarian doing his best to explain to the police dispatcher that, yes, two grown women were brawling in the library.
Pushing continued. Both women threatened to take it outside, as if it really made a difference where they fought. I found all of this a bit humorous—you can yell, swear, and push in the library, but fists could not come out unless you were outside. I did not dwell on the oddness of this then. Instead, I continued with the other librarian to try to get through to the women. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I also knew that we had to at least make it seem like we were trying.
The pushing escalated until they were near the library’s exit, and then, almost poetically, it stopped. Both women took a step back. We talked one woman into going into another part of the library to cool down, while the other woman stayed near the front.
Police arrived 10 minutes after the pushing fight. There was nothing more for me to do, so I went to dinner. Upon my return, I learned that absolutely nothing happened. Both women went home after explaining their story to the police. It was a good story, certainly worthy of a fight in front of their children. What was it? Well, in the line of people waiting to check out books, one woman cut in front of the other woman.
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