Wednesday, September 08, 2010

At the Library

Yeah, I'm back! Look at my tan! I'm very rested, thanks for asking. I hope you like the fall motif around here. You didn't notice? Look again, it's very subtle. Hint: I used a mallard and elk fabric print to cover the cushions on the couch. I like to keep it seasonal around the ole QC Report. Wait until you see the singing Santa I'm going to plug in at Christmas.

I wish I could say "And so much has happened since I last wrote, I don't even know where to begin." Many things happen each day, the car never fully cools down, and yet there isn't a fun anecdote or six to point at to prove I'm busy. Daughter is, at this exact moment, not entirely hungry, and I can say that with pride because it's nearly a job unto itself. The pets are well. The house is quietly decaying. Yesterday, Consort spent seven hours fixing something blindingly complicated on his work computer. Eventually, it was fixed but nothing appears to be different or improved. I'm glad this pleases him; if I spent seven hours working hard I'd want something in return besides "I've staved off entropy."

Wait, there is one thing. I currently hold feelings of wild distaste for someone who barely matters to me at all.

It all began a few months ago when I noticed my wallet weighed slightly less than a frozen Cornish game hen. Ruthlessly pruning out expired museum membership cards and "Buy 9, get the 10th free" yogurt coupons was satisfying but my wallet still remained in cold poultry territory. Harder choices had to be made, the first being "no redundancies", which resulted in removing my library card and keeping only Daughter's card -- an arbitrary call. Eventually, I got my wallet down to a small bag of coffee, weight-wise, and we all moved on. I moved on slightly faster, what with having a lighter purse.

Months passed. I'd pick up books from the library and because this is the library we have used since Daughter was born, the desk clerks would scan the card and hand me my books. Then one day, a new clerk scanned my card, paused a moment, examined the card closely, peered coldly at my face and clucked.

"This isn't your name" She said gravely.

"No," I said smiling. "It's my daughter's name. And these are her books."

"Those are books for adults. I think these are your books" she clucked again.

And yes, some of them were from the adult section, but it wasn't as if they were titled things like "Rafe the Virile IT Guy Visits Helen in HR." As it so happens, both Daughter and I enjoy Roz Chast cartoons and books about rare fatal diseases. We would both read these books and so what if we didn't? I didn't like her tone. I quickly established she had no authority beyond clucking, twittering and peering. I grabbed my books and my -- I mean Daughter's -- card and sailed off with a "You have a nice day, now!" whispered over my shoulder to her.

For the new few weeks, no matter what time I went there or what day, there was the Clucker, glaring at me over her glasses. She'd check out my books and hiss something about how I was breaking the rules. I'd grab my books and prance out, occasionally chuckling about how people with no authority who get all rule-tweaked are a little sad. As it turns out, I was right; she had no authority. But she did have a boss. Three weeks ago, I came in to pick up some books and there was the Clucker who, upon spying me, ran into the back room and got her boss, the actual librarian.

I then endured a five-minute speech while Clucker stood right behind her, carefully dusting an empty desk and scrutinizing everything in the immediate vicinity but me. To her credit, the librarian looked embarrassed to be even mentioning this. I explained wallet was a frozen Cornish game hen. She nodded in sympathy. I noted that anything on my daughter's card, since she is a minor, is my responsibility anyway. She nodded in agreement. Eventually, we settled with "Quinn, it would be great if you could bring your own card. You know, just to make everything easy on...everyone."

And you know? Until that moment, I might have even done it, found the card in my desk drawer and changed over. I feel great affection for librarians, because they do important work and make our lives better in so many ways. But I just couldn't give the Clucker what she wanted because...it didn't matter! The very meaningless of this power battle meant I COULD NOT BACK DOWN. Because this person thought she could harangue me into doing something which didn't matter to me at all, I could no more give in to her wishes than I could fly. The Clucker was a wee little bully-queen, ruling over seven or eight electrons of the universe, the electrons which decreed whether I could use Daughter's library card and I couldn't give her the satisfaction. So I smiled at the librarian, thanked her for the hard work she does and watched her check out my books.

[Yes, they were mine. Daughter's not reading about the mosaics of Pompeii any time soon.]

I then grabbed my books, sneered at the Clucker and vowed to find a library with an automatic check-out. But I'd like the record to show I did show some restraint, some recognition that this situation wasn't so much inconsequential as infinitesimal.

At no point did I say "Cluck you."

29 Comments:

Blogger Heather said...

I too carry both my own library card and my daughter's, although I have upon several occasions checked out books for one, the other or both of us using just one card. (The email notices from the library for her account come to me and she's not the one saying "Oh my, but don't I have books to either renew or return by Friday?" - such mundane matters do not concern her lofty, seven year old mind.) I've never had a problem, either. We don't have a Clucker but we do have a librarian, I kid you not, who is named (according to her nametag) Miss Lent. I chuckled aloud the first time I read her tag and was about to comment until I noticed how thinly her lips were pressed together and how she appeared to be utterly humorless in every aspect of her appearance, clothing and demeanor, so I refrained.

Oh - an alternative to the automatic checkout library (which as far as I've experienced, doesn't actually exist - maybe it does out there in California though?) - our library recently adopted keytag library cards, thus enabling my wallet to be lighter but my keychain to be heavier. A trade off I'm pleased to make. I have both our library keytags, our YMCA keytags and any number of grocery store and pet store keytags dangling from my chain. :-D

4:55 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

Cluck you - I love it. You crack me up. And I just picked up a book on the black plague that I think you'd like.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous --Deb said...

You can make a "Nothing interesting has happened" post more entertaining than anyone I know. (No, really. I swear I'm not trying to suck up for any reason of which I'm consciously aware.) I wish I had more to contribute, but it's been years since I checked anything out of the library... I'm not sure if I'm the kind of reader that authors/publishers love or hate because while I buy just about everything I read, I tend to read them over and over and over because, well, I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford my own reading habit. If it helps, though, I DO have a library card. I'm just not entirely sure it still works. For all I know, the local library has gone through seven and a half upgrades to their system since it was issued back around 1990...

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

Funny I've run into a clucker and rule follower at our local library too, and have experienced similar encounters with her.

I finally decided to just give in to her needs and followed the card borrowing rules. I also decided to really go overboard and compliment her on something she was wearing or greet her sweetly every time I approached the check out desk.

In the end I was the winner cause she would then go out of her way to help me or my daughter. She has since retired.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Char said...

some people their little pond is their whole world. poor dear... or as we say in the deep south, bless her heart.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Remember the old days when librarian just shushed us? This bully queen with the scanner makes one nostalgic for the small mouth/raised eyebrows.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

The bully queen with the scanner and personality issues makes me nostalgic for simply being shushed.

6:56 PM  
Blogger SARA J. HENRY said...

Welcome back, Quinn. You've been missed.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

We have those automatic checkout things in the Ann Arbor District Library, but I never use them for the same reason I never use the U-Scan checkouts in the grocery store. I feel like I'd be taking someone's job away.

If you only want to carry one card, couldn't it be yours instead of Daughter's?

7:44 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I had recently been wonder what it was that has been missing in my life.

Now I know.

Posts from you.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I must join the choir in saying I am so happy to see your post. :)

I just don't understand how someone can want to go out of her way to make life unnecessarily more difficult. It is so sad when people abuse the power that they have, no matter how small, for the negative.

I think this clucker just came from NJ! The libraries in NJ are a mystery to me. The town which my address on my lease held would not give me a library card unless I paid $100. They said the taxes for that exact address went to the town over. At the town over, they would not give me one unless I paid $50 because my address said the other town. I went to 5 libraries encircling my town and am empty-handed. I can pay the fee, but it just seems unfair. Oddness. Cluckers in both libraries who wanted to deny me books. Barnes and Nobles and the small bookstore were happy, though. Perhaps it is a new conspiracy with libraries? ;-) Kicking us to the bookstores through unpleasantness.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Melodee said...

Ha ha. Cluck you. I'd like to start saying that . . . but I might be misunderstood.

Glad you're back.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

The NYPL gives you a scannable key-ring "card," just like the supermarket. (They give you a credit-card sized one too, but you can put that in your sock drawer.) Of course, with the supermarkets, drug stores, gym, and God knows what else, your keyring might get a bit unwieldy.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I rely on the Kids in the Hall to describe people like her: "insane with her moderate amount of power."

For ease I'm the sole cardholder in the family. I've have yet to hear, "Hey! This Fox in Socks isn't for you, is it?"

I've only gotten guff from one checker. "Do you realize that you have 37 items checked out?" After stammering a response about four people and one card, I stuffed items 38-44 into my bag. She asked the next person in the same accusatory tone, "Do you realize that you have THREE items out?"

I avoid the nice old volunteer who directs people to the self check-out. Once you scan your items, you have to go stand in line for a human to unlock the CD and DVD cases. The same line you stand in to check out. Progress.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people just really need to feel bigger than they actually are. Personally, I prefer to feel smaller, but that probably has nothing to do with my job lol. At all the libraries I've had cards for, as long as you held the card for the person whose books you were picking up, you were all set...but I reserve EVERYTHING! That way, I just have to run in and get the books.

8:27 AM  
Blogger bcre8uv said...

I use my son's library card, because I have close to $100 in fines on mine for a single, $12 book that was lost on vacation four years ago. The library policies can be really clucked up.

~Tami

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, but in the clucker's defense, there are parents out there who are not conscientious.

I've seen parents who've lost their own library privileges (because of lost materials, sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of books and DVDs.) And then they get the kid a card, and lose a bunch of stuff on the kid's account. It sucks. The policy is pretty meaningless but at least it's something to try to protect those kids.

11:18 AM  
Blogger MichaĆ©le said...

Library Lady is just one more example of someone who needs more fiber in their diet.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous The Other Elle said...

Oh, Quinn, you are so funny! I will send this on to my Librarian Daughter, who will laugh and pass it to all of her Librarian friends.

Maybe you are just going to the wrong branch of the library? Here in my town, the librarians are so happy to see people who want to read actual BOOKS, they wouldn't dream of quibbling about the name on the library card if it belonged to a member of the same family.

Their jobs depend on customers who prefer printed books rather than electronic ones. Our library has cut so far back on its hours due to cuts in the town budget, it's closed more than it's open.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe your library doesn't have a key tag! I live in rural New Hampshire and even our wee little circa late 1800s library has key tags! :-)

10:21 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

It does have key-tags, but I have so many key-tags from so many different places which demand key-tags my keychain now resembles a charm bracelet. I was trying to keep my life simple. Believe me, I've learned THAT lesson.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Welcome back... hope you also continue your YouTube videos....my daughter and I love those---have you thought about recording your book on DVD? I enjoyed reading it so much....
Susan
Williamsburg, VA

7:45 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

I think I would have to mess with the librarian a bit.

I would have to bring both cards and grab a stack of really adult books and really noticeable kid books and then insist that the adult books be checked out on the kid card and the kid books on the adult card.

As a mom, many times I check out kid books to read aloud to the kids. They are my books.

As for the kid, prove that my kid can't read that.

Also, in our system my kids had to give permission for anyone but themselves to check out on their card. So when they got their own card they just said yes I could when asked. One of them didn't want to say yes (he is like that) but he was coerced, probably with a promise of a snack from the snack machine. Your librarian wouldn't have liked it.

I carry their cards on my key ring until they can drive. At that point I figure they can keep track of their own card, until then they won't be at the library unless I am there to drive them.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous kim said...

Silverlake library not only has automated checkout, it's hard to find someone who's actually supposed to check books out (they can help you with automatic if you need though.)
Plus that, you could visit me and get coffee! :)

12:37 AM  
Blogger OHN said...

My crude and crass husband would say that she needs a good cluck.

(That was my husband talking...not me :)

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Quinn,

As a librarian somewhere in LA County, I have to tell you that at OUR library we have "family cards." We understand that having multiple cards for one family might be a pain in the patootie, so we offer a one card, one family option. On the other hand, if you have a family that likes to have individual cards we do that too. And what? Yes! It is true, we EVEN LET FAMILY MEMBERS USE EACH OTHER'S CARDS. It's just with the understanding that if it's on your card you are responsible. Doesn't matter if Brother checked it out and then made it the dog's breakfast. Your card, your responsibility. Become OUR patron Quinn. We do it right. :)

Spenser

3:52 PM  
Blogger Ivy said...

Bless her heart & God love her...Your restraint was truly admirable.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know how you feel- at the other end of the desk there are these people having meaningless power struggles with me. The policy we have at our library is in place because parents were losing 10 books on their own card and then switching to their kids cards or trying to make up children to have cards for. We will always look up someone's account with your ID if you don't have the card with you. It's amazing the number of people who drive without their driver's license- what would they say to a cop if they got pulled over?

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn, why don't you leave your own library card in your wallet? That would have ended all of this and you wouldn't have had to make fun of someone who is trying to earn a living just so that you have something to write about in your blog.

7:55 AM  

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