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).
I’ve seen bored librarians do everything from play FreeCell to read a book. I typically go to Wikipedia. When I visit the site on work time, I feel like I’m educating myself, which will help library patrons in the long run. It helps me feel not so guilty for getting paid over $20 an hour for essentially doing nothing. Plus, it makes me look busy.
At some point in my infinite bored searches, I find myself reading about Casanova and I dream that one day I will join his ranks as the greatest librarian who ever lived. Sure, there are those who argue that there were other librarians who contributed more to the profession (people like Charles Cutter, Mary Fairchild, John Beckley, and Zenodotus … people I’m sure most have never even heard of), or people who are more well known for having been librarians (people like Beverly Cleary, Madeleine L’Engle, Jorge Luis Borges, or Lewis Carroll). But when I think of famous librarians, I don’t think of any of those people; I think of Casanova, because he makes the whole profession seem sexy. In truth, Casanova didn’t really like being a librarian and didn’t contribute anything to the profession. Still, he is the only librarian to have Heath Ledger play him in a movie, which has to count for something.
In my effort to become the greatest librarian since Casanova, I am enlisting the help of my fellow readers. I’m asking you all to please go to Wikipedia.org, type in “Scott Douglas,” and invent my life. Tell the truth, tell a half-truth, tell what you think might be truth … just make me look good. If that means saying I’m rumored to be courting Jessica Alba or, heck, even a Brokeback cowboy, then by all means say it. If Stephen Colbert can get people to write an entire Wiki entry on a word that didn’t even exist until he said it, then surely you can do this. Many of you are probably reading this at work, and have nothing better to do, so here’s an assignment to cure your boredom. And, if you are really bored, you can go one step further and add an entry for the word I use to describe boredom at the reference desk: referbored.
Here are some of the Wiki topics/people I’ve read up on: Mills Ends Park, Micronation, the Principality of Sealand, D’oh!, Bill Gates’s House, Weird Al, Death Erection, Dipendra of Nepal, John Wilmot (Second Earl of Rochester), Ilya Bryzgalov, Ed Gein, the Invisibles.
SUGGESTED READSDispatches From a Public Librarian: Dispatch 1
by Scott Douglas (12/12/2003)
Dispatches From a Public Librarian: Dispatch 2
by Scott Douglas (1/5/2004)
Dispatches From a Public Librarian: Dispatch 3: Special Movie Edition
by Scott Douglas (2/3/2004)
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