Head-On Collision with Courtesy

Sometimes I get the funniest questions from library patrons. One day, a young man came up to the desk with an empty, obviously used, baby bottle. He asked me if we had an outdoor faucet so he could rinse out the bottle. I tried not to roll my eyes at him, and I asked him if he could use the water in the bathrooms. He said he needed to use the outdoor faucet, and to this day I don’t understand what he was thinking.

So I asked the director if we had an outdoor faucet, and she got a special key from the maintenance closet, took him outside, and turned on the faucet so he could clean his baby bottle.

The other day, the lady that I wrote about in “Crab Walk” came back to the info desk. She didn’t hesitate to approach me, so I figure I did a good job of pretending to be nice on that day that I was in a really awful mood.

She was surprised that the computer had logged her out when she’d used up her allotted time. She was hoping I would be able to give her some more time. “I should have noticed,” she said, “but I just wasn’t paying attention.” The computer gives several notices before it logs someone out, so I just sighed to myself, and printed a pass for another session because there weren’t very many people using the computers that evening.

While I was making her new pass, she noticed the teens knitting in one of the meeting rooms, making squares for an afghan they want to give away. She looked at them, and looked at me, and proceeded to tell me all about how she couldn’t knit, but her sister could. She wanted to learn, but she didn’t think she would have the patience. She could crochet, though. She was very good at crocheting. Did I think she would be able to knit with the teens? She held up the scarf that was draped around her winter coat. “I love scarves,” she said. “I love hats and scarves. Do you think I could make a scarf?” She didn’t wait for me to do more than nod before she went on and on…I just listened, because I was trying to be nice, and be a “helpful librarian.” I was also fascinated by her. She just kept on talking, not really noticing or caring if the person she was talking to was even listening, or giving them a chance to respond. She talked about how her daughter loved to do crafty things, and made the most beautiful crocheted beaded bracelets which she described in excruciating detail.

Finally she decided to take her pass and go back to the computer. I couldn’t help but think of how different she was than me. For one, if I had used up all my allotted computer time, I would have packed up my stuff and left. For two, I would never have assumed that a stranger would be so interested in listening to my family’s entire crafting history.

I would have felt bad if she had known I wasn’t interested in what she had to say. I know that feeling too well. I don’t even really feel comfortable talking about myself like that, because I am way too sensitive to the possibility that they will just be humoring me by listening. I like to say living with my husband taught me how to speak in short, concise sentences, but maybe I have been like that for a very long time and just didn’t remember. I like to ask questions. People listen to questions, because it gives them an indication that they are going to get to talk for a bit and that you are interested in what they have to say.

I read a job application for a library assistant last week, and among other things, the successful applicant would have “good judgement, tact, and courtesy.” Working at a library is interesting, that’s about the best way to describe it. I love these comic strips by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes about working in a public library, and this one fits well right here.


Work all day tomorrow. Let’s see what new stories I can bring home.


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