Lots of people don’t understand technology, or perhaps they simply don’t understand what it is and is not capable of accomplishing.
Some dude just sauntered in here telling me he’d like to check out a book he’d had like a year and a half ago.
Apparently he’d started reading it before he had to leave the country for business and he’d really like to finish it.
Being the ever-helpful library dude that I am, I did my best to explain that we don’t keep borrowing records—go, go Patriot Act—but I could look it up for him.
As most people who come in on Saturdays are wont to do, he complained…
Books McCoy: “This is a huge inconvenience.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Sorry, there’s not anything I can do about it, but I can look up the book.”
Books McCoy: “You just said you couldn’t…”
Cap’n Charisma: “No, no…I can’t look up a list of the books you’ve checked out, but I can look up the book. So you can check it out again.”
Books McCoy: “Oh, well I don’t remember the title.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Oh…um…okay. How about the author?”
Books McCoy: “No, I don’t know the author.”
Cap’n Charisma: “So you don’t know the title or the author? Do you know anything about the book?”
Books McCoy: “Yes…”
Cap’n Charisma: “Okay cool…what do you got?!”
Books McCoy: “It was blue or maybe green. Definitely blue or green.”
Anyone who has been a frequent reader here at “Blank Stares and Blank Pages” is well aware that library patrons have this odd affinity for book colors over actual book information.
I know I’ve blogged about this type of situation a time or two before and I think everyone who has ever worked a circulation desk has had to politely explain that books aren’t cataloged by cover color at least a half-a-dozen times in their career.
Cap’n Charisma: “Okay, we don’t actually catalog books by color. So do you know any searchable information about the book?”
Books McCoy: “I know I checked it out seventeen months ago and I enjoyed the first chapter.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Riiiiiiiight. Like I said, we don’t have a list of titles you bor…”
Books McCoy: *Cutting Me Off* “This is ridiculous. I don’t care if the government knows what I’m reading. Can’t you just keep a list of my titles?”
Cap’n Charisma: “No, sir. It’s an all or nothing thing.”
Books McCoy: “Such bullshit. Politics play into my library books. Government is keeping me from checking out books.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Actually, the only thing keeping you from the book is the lack of pertinent information. If you could remember the title or author, we can get you the book.”
Books McCoy: “So it’s my fault?”
UGH!! What an awful question. Obviously I can’t tell him that it is, in fact, his own damn fault he can’t remember anything—aside from one or two possible cover colors—about a book he supposedly really, really liked.
As such, I proceeded like a professional.
I tazered him.
Okay, no…I didn’t tazer him, but how cool would that have made the story?! Angry library patron gets a tazer to the throat. Awesome.
Cap’n Charisma: “No, sir, it’s no one’s fault.”
Books McCoy: “Really?! I think it’s your fault.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Sir, there’s nothing I can do. We don’t have a magical hidden database with your borrowing record and I can’t look up books by color. Period.”
There was one of those fun awkward periods of silence where he was obviously trying to determine whether or not he wanted to get irate or just accept that there wasn’t anything we could do for him.
Books McCoy: “You know, I really don’t like it when people say no to me.”
Cap’n Charisma: “I’m not saying no, I’m saying we can’t. There isn’t anything I can do if you don’t know the title or author.”
Books McCoy: “Don’t you think that’s bad service?”
Cap’n Charisma: “What’s bad service? That I can’t magically decipher what book you checked out a year and a half ago without any information. How is that bad service?”
Books McCoy: “I’m sure Harvard could figure it out.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Even if Harvard did keep backlogs of checkouts, they wouldn’t have our records to check it with, so no Harvard couldn’t figure it out.”
Books McCoy: “Oh, well they don’t need your records because I didn’t check it out here…”
Cap’n Charisma: “Wait…didn’t check it out from here, like the Engineering Library or from MIT?!”
Books McCoy: “From MIT.”
As one can assume, I was doing my best to resist pummeling this dude to a bloody pulp with a copy of “Climate Change and Agriculture.” When he let me know exactly how big of a pain he really was…
Books McCoy: “The Boston Public Library and Boston University couldn’t tell me what the book was either. I figured a technical school like this could get it done, but if you can’t I’m sure Harvard can.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Where did you borrow the book from?”
Books McCoy: “I borrowed it from the town library where I used to live, in California.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Yeah….no one out here is going to be able to look that book up for you.”
Books McCoy: “This is horrible service!! That tiny little branch library could do it, how come none of you can?!”
He then stomped off, mumbling under his breath about how superior small-town California was to the east coast.
People like this make my brain hurt and my soul sad.