Today was one lousy circumstance after another.

We were short-staffed.

Our Millennium catalog system was down for the first half of the day, and our offline system wasn’t working for reasons too annoying to discuss.  So we spent hours and hours unable to process the reserves, or check in the mail, or check in the bins, or check in any returns, or print out receipts, or renew items on patrons’ records, or look up PIN numbers … We checked out items for patrons using copies of a paper form that was last updated in the 1980s, which might as well be medieval times.  And frankly, by the time the system started working again, all we could do was spend the rest of the day trying (and failing) to catch up.

I was blindsided by an irate patron.  I was working in the Children’s Room when I was approached by a woman who asked if I would post a flyer for a children’s theater group.  I agreed, and went upstairs a few minutes later to post it on our bulletin board near our front door.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this simple act made me a prime target for an irate patron who was leaving the building.  As I was attaching the flyer to the bulletin board, I heard an angry EXCUSE ME!  EXCUSE ME!  coming up behind me.   I turned to face the man who was standing in (and thus blocking) the entranceway to the library.  He then proceeded to outline a series of points:

  • He wanted to complain about “the element” in this library.
  • His mother also did not approve of the people who were visiting the library.
  • They smelled bad.
  • They were loud and rude.
  • They were sick, and were spreading their diseases to other people.
  • He smelled alcohol on other people’s breath, and his mother noticed it, too.

I stood there, trapped like a deer in the headlights.  My mind quickly sifted through a series of politically-incorrect responses:

  • What do you expect when you come to the public library?
  • You certainly have some interesting criteria for throwing patrons out of the library.
  • Yes, patrons are loud, and rude, and sometimes they’re sick.
  • Honestly, most of the times I get sick, I assume that it’s because a sick patron contaminated me.
  • And on a related note, YOU can leave any time you want while *I* am stuck here all day!
  • And by “you” I mean “you and your mother”!
  • And yeah … you wouldn’t BELIEVE the nutcases that come in here!

Of course, I said none of these things because I am just that much of a professional 🙂

Instead, I calmly told him that it was a public library, and that the doors were open to everyone, and that a lot of people go to the public library because they have nowhere else to go.  The man stammered at me for another moment or so, and finally trailed off with, “… I just wanted you to know” before leaving the building.  And no, I did not see anyone who looked like his mother leaving with him.

I was just about to go through the main door back into the building when our security guard approached and told me that he’d heard the whole thing.  I was embarassed, but just rolled my eyes and shook my head.  Then I went further into the building, where I had several more staff members (who’d been working at the desk about fifteen feet away) comment on our conversation.

In case you’d like to know the jist of their comments, please see my interior monologue of politically-incorrect responses as detailed above.

I laughed, and smiled, and shook my head, and thought — Jeez, was EVERYONE listening to this conversation?  Only now, when I’ve had time to come home, and have dinner, and let my mind relax, do I realize … oh … RIGHT!  That guy was yelling at me in the entranceway to the library, between two sets of glass doors that do nothing but amplify and project sound!  We notice this all the time when we ask people who are talking loudly on their cell phones to please step outside, and they continue their conversations between those glass doors and they just get even LOUDER.

Anyway, at least now I understand how the entire staff got to hear that patron yelling at me.


So all I had to do was survive until the end of the day when I would be running our teen game program.  The highlight of the hour was when the boys got so hyped up while playing the Kinect boxing game that they started GETTING EACH OTHER IN HEADLOCKS AND WRESTLING ON THE FLOOR.  That’s when I did something I’ve never had to do before, which was walk over to the TV, turn it off mid-game, and say, “Okay, that’s it!” and wait for everyone to leave.

I spent the rest of the day going up to different people saying, “Ask me how my gaming program went today!  Go on, ASK ME!”  When the person would obligingly ask, I would say, “Do you mean before or after my teenagers started wrestling on the floor?”


One more day, one more day, one more day, one more day …