Monday, December 31, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Ten

Hope this year is a great one for you! Here's some library confessions to ring in your new year. (From: Forgive me for polluting your eyes with nothing but repeated information for over a week. I promise I'll be back with original comments and observations shortly.
Librarian Confessions
When I tell patrons to lower their voice in the library, I like to say it in a loud voice.

I tell patrons the library is closing in five minutes even though it's closing in ten minutes, just to make them think it's closing so they'll check out their books.

Sometimes I tell parents that their child's library card is showing a fine of $57.20 when it is actually showing a fine of 20 cents. After their eyes widen, I tell them I was just kidding.

I like to make up stories about people who work at the library. One day, for instance, two young boys were looking for books on wrestlers; I pointed to the man shelving books and said they should talk to him because he is a former pro wrestler. They spent 10 minutes asking him about various wrestlers he had beaten, even though he repeatedly denied that he was a pro wrestler.

When a patron asks what we do with the money we collect from fines, I tell them it's a Christmas slush fund and at the end of the year we buy each other presents.

When a kid asks for the fourth Harry Potter book, I tend to say, "Is that the one where Harry dies? Oh wait, no, that's in the fifth one—my bad."

When the fifth Harry Potter book arrived at the library before it was scheduled to be released to the public, I opened it up and read the first sentence just because I knew I wasn't supposed to.

I am frequently nicer to female patrons than to male patrons.

Sometimes I act like I don't know very much about computers just so I won't have to help a patron on the computer.

When a kid comes to the reference desk and asks, "Where are the books on dinosaurs?," I frequently will point very broadly at the rows of bookshelves and say, "Over there."

In the break room, I frequently complain to other workers about patrons who smell funny.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Nine

Yet another tale of a man who wanted nothing more then to beat me up. (From:


I think the first clue that the man was going to be a problem was when he said to me, "I want to know who took my generator—was it you?" This was actually the first thing he said to me. It wasn't just what he said or even the hostile way that he said it that made me know that this was going to be one of the conversations they didn't teach you how to handle in library school—it was everything about him. The way he moved, or rather fidgeted, told me right away that he had had the sort of breakfast that destroys brain cells.

I had never seen the man, but I knew right away who he was. The previous night we'd discovered that some people had been stashing their belongings behind the air-conditioning unit in back of the library. A polite note was left saying that if they didn't remove the items, the library would have to remove them for them. It was nothing personal—for liability reasons, people just can't do this.

I checked the back of the library to make sure everything was gone—it was—so I figured the problem had been solved.

It hadn't.

"It isn't right—that generator cost me 300 bucks, and someone is going to pay."

I apologized to the man and explained, "The library can't be responsible for belongings left behind."

The man became more agitated. "Then you know—you know where it was hidden. It was you. You took my generator."

I shook my head no and explained, "I saw it last night, and know a note was left for its owner to remove it from the property."

The man's eyes got bigger. He crossed his arms and nodded a bit psychotically, "I know your kind—don't think I don't. You think just because you have a job you can take from me." He paused and continued in a threatening way, "You're either going to give me back my generator or pay me. Otherwise, I'll call the police."

Even if the man had not appeared to be on drugs, I think I still would have been a little nervous—he wasn't bigger than me, but his appearance suggested the sort of man who liked to keep a knife in his pocket. Still, I did my best to hide any fear, and calmly explained, "Sir, I assure you that I did not take your generator. Maybe you should call the police and report it as stolen." I knew that he wouldn't call them, but I could always hope.

"Oh, don't think that I won't." He paused, then asked, insanely curious, "Where is your car parked?"

Plenty of patrons had asked me strange things, but this was the first who asked me where my car was parked. It was almost comical to look at the man, because he actually thought I was going to tell him. I struggled to come up with a reply, but the best I could muster was, "That's personal." What I meant to say was, "Sir, the fact that I work in a public library doesn't make me stupid, it just makes me poor. There's no way I'm going to tell you—a psychotic person who could very well have a knife in his pocket—where I have parked my car."

The man stood straighter, and actually, in his straightness, began to look even crazier. "It's in the parking lot, isn't it?"

So now the man thinks he's Sherlock Holmes, I thought, amused. A car parked in a parking lot—who would have ever guessed!

I didn't answer his question, which apparently was the answer the man was looking for. "I knew it—I'll find it. Don't think that I won't. And I bet that generator's in the trunk."

He left the library, but didn't leave the premises. I sent a co-worker out a few minutes later, who told me he was riding a bike in circles around the parking lot.

I don't think he found his generator, but, lucky for me, he got tired of looking for my car after two hours and left in time for me to go home.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year End Review

Greetings! Forgive me for a weeks worth of reruns! There are just a few more! I'll be back on with some original ideas January 2nd (starting with my favorite books, music, movies, and TV shows of the better way to start off 2008 then telling you what I liked about 2007!)

So see you real soon. Don't party too hard!

Greatest Hits - Day Eight

I'm still asked for this advice today, so apparently people who write me because they read my dispatches have not actually read them! (From:

Advice to Future LibrariansEntering Graduate School
Fall is here, which means a new batch of young wannabe librarians will be starting graduate school in just a few days. If you happen to be starting library school, then this dispatch is for you.
Avoid cataloging classes; they will be pointless.
In papers that you write, cite papers your professors have published.
Take an internship or practicum.
Ninety percent of what your teachers teach you is theory that does you no good in the workplace; do your best to forget it after you leave school.
Ask your teacher why a public library uses the Dewey cataloging system as opposed to LOC, then doodle for the next three hours while they explain it.
Buy a laptop and play FreeCell during lectures.
Join ALA. It will make you feel important.
Libraries don't do, librarians do.
Take online classes and have the cheap thrill of going to classes in the buff.
Two weeks working in a library will give you more experience than two years in graduate school.
Gain as much computer knowledge as humanly possible—this will put you ahead of so many other librarians.
Letters to the editor do not count as professional publications and will not impress the instructor.
I am sorry to say that you may find your stay in graduate school to be not very stimulating and quite a yawn, but the job that follows is quite the contrary.
If you ever want to vent your frustrations or need moral support, then by all means e-mail me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Seven

I haven't see this lady in some time, though I here she is still alive and well. (From:


Choose Your Battles Wisely
Old-lady patrons add a unique flavor (and smell) to the library. For the most part, they're either warm and fuzzy or bitter and rude. Either way, it's fun to listen to their rambling theories about life, happiness, and why everyone should read Dick Francis. Libraries, however, wouldn't be quite right if there weren't at least one woman who was loud, crude, and sometimes a little drunk. For me there is Ms. Haskell. I can think of several older patrons I get a kick out of, but I knew Ms. Haskell was special the first day I met her; she asked for the dictionary ... on audiotape. Not an abridged version, or a "500 Power Words Everyone Should Know"—not even a collegiate dictionary would do. She had it all scribbled out on a stained napkin, which she proudly dangled in front of my eyes: "OED Dictionary on audiotape." When I said no, we did not have that, she said, "Well, compact disc will have to do then." That was my first encounter with her, and all the encounters that followed were also about audiotapes. One night, she came in loudly and spent 10 minutes at the circulation desk telling a helpless library clerk what she thought of each of the seven audio books she was returning. When the clerk explained that the library was closed and she would have to leave, she turned toward the audio books to make that night's selection. I saw where she was going and intercepted her. "The library is closed, Ms. Haskell—you'll have to come back tomorrow." She kept on coming, and said, "Out of my way, honey." She then shoved me out of her way. "I'll be just a second," she said. I think I was more surprised by her strength than the fact that she pushed me. "Did she just push you?" a page quietly asked. "I think she did," I admitted. "Dude, what are you going to do?" I didn't reply. I stared at Ms. Haskell, who had made her selection. "See, honey, that didn't take but a second." I could have forced her to come back and check out the next day, but she would have argued that idea longer than I cared to listen. In a public place like a library, you have to choose your battles wisely. Plus, I was kind of afraid she might push me again and I'd have to fill out an incident report saying a 70-year-old woman physically assaulted me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Six

I kind of miss seeing this kid around.


Giving nicknames to problem patrons is one way to provide humor on the job. It also establishes handy covertlike code-names for people should problems persist. I have nicknamed many patrons over the years—the Red-Faced Man, Mumbles, the Mole, and Potty Mouth, just to name a few. Recently, I developed a new nickname for a patron: Jeffica. Jeffica has a long history with the library. About four years ago, there was a patron named Jeff. He fit perfectly into the she-male category of the human species (which is the category for a person whose appearance could easily be passed off as either male or female; it was made popular by SNL's "It's Pat" skit). Jeff would come to the library two or three times a week and spend hours at a table poring over books. He was usually quiet but would occasionally harass librarians over things like having only one book of poetry by John Donne. Then one day he stopped coming. I didn't realize it immediately; it was several weeks until somebody said, "Say, I haven't see that one guy in a while." After a brief discussion on who "that one guy" was, I realized it was Jeff, and indeed it had been a while. I didn't see Jeff for four years, but last week he started coming in again. There are some patrons you never forget—Jeff is one of them. He had the same routine: he would pore over books for hours at a time, and at one point he complained to me that we didn't have a single book by Ben Jonson. Toward the end of the week, he applied for a new library card because his old one had expired due to lack of use. I was surprised when I read the application—under "Name" he wrote "Jessica." It was odd; he had the chest of Jeff, the voice of Jeff, even the same dress shoes that Jeff used to wear. There was no mistaking it: Jeff was now Jessica.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Five

About a week after the following went up, someone who didn't know I even wrote for McSweeney's emailed them to me because they thought I'd think it was funny; I read it, and said to myself, Boy this looks awfully familar. Then I realized I wrote it! (From:


Corny Library Pickup Lines, and How Librarians Effectively Shoot Them Down
Pardon me, could you please tell me what kind of card I need to check you out?Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.

You must have been burning books, because you're looking hot.My apologizes—the new Harry Potter is coming out and I was in the back burning the Newbery winners to make room for it.

Can you tell me where I can find books on overcoming a deeply passionate love I have for a librarian?636.45 MICH.

Libraries should allow food in the building, because right now I could just eat you up. Policy is policy, but if you'd really like to change that, the appropriate forms are behind you—just drop it in the suggestion box when you're done, and in due time it will be pulled out and set in the loser pile.

I know what I need to access the Internet, but what do I need to access your heart? A life.
What book would you recommend to help me sweep you off your feet? How to Divorce a Jealous Mad Person.

Can you tell me how to spell love? I'm writing a letter to you. Do you mean the agape love, or the love you have for someone you don't have a chance of ever getting?

Can you settle a bet? My friend says librarians have no life, but I say they're wild beasts. Can I take you out to dinner and prove my friend wrong?Tell your friend he's right.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Four

Merry Christmas! I'm sure this page will be busy on Christmas Day...not. If you are here, then you really need to find someone to keep you company. How about a girl from Czech? Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas! (From:


The Bus Stop Is Near, No?
Working near Disneyland, I see a lot of people walk into the library from out of town—people visiting the city for the conventions, amusement parks, or (though they certainly won't admit it) the motels with ... hourly rates. Most of these patrons never come in long enough for me to remember their name, but there are exceptions. One such exception was Zelenka, a homely Czechoslovakian, and Veronica, her drop-dead-gorgeous (also Czechoslovakian) friend, who were both working for a hotel for the summer.

Veronica never once came into the library unnoticed; whenever she entered the building, it was like seeing a model do her thing on the fashion runway, putting on a little show for every person in the library (male, female, and even small children). It was fun watching all the desperate old men (who normally were occupied in Internet chat rooms and posting personal ads on dating sites), trying their best to communicate with the Czechoslovakian vixen, who knew little English and really just wanted to check her e-mail. There were even one or two requests for books on learning the Czechoslovakian language. Library pages, in their own attempts to get to know the wondrous lady better, would accidentally tap their book cart against the back of her chair, then apologize and engage in small talk, not seeming to notice that she probably understood only 10 percent at best of what they were saying. Sometimes the pages would say something she understood, and she would smile and joyfully repeat whatever word she had picked up: "Ah, yes, pancake!" Then, believing they had established a common connection, they would use the word in every sentence that followed.

I, of course, kept it professional (a hazard of the job being that all librarians must pretend to be boring while working ... except children's librarians, who, I'm pretty sure, take pills to maintain their abnormal amount of energy and perkiness). I felt a little sorry for Zelenka, who got no attention, but it was her own fault for this—there was no dazzle in her step or charm in her smile, and she had a horrid sense for fashion; to be quite honest her name only comes to mind when thinking of Veronica, but that' s beside the point. As their stay progressed and it became certain that they would soon leave for their homeland, the pages made mad attempts to have just one date.

Ultimately, however, it was I—the librarian—who had the last waltz ... though not literally, of course. The library was closing one night and Veronica was the sole patron in the building; I had not seen her companion Zelenka all day. As best as I could tell, she was supposed to have a ride home, but something happened; how anyone could have left such a beauty abandoned at a library in the night is beyond me, but they did, and I knew it would be up to me to protect the damsel in distress from the dangers of Southern California. I used gestures and slow speech to try to tell her that if she stayed outside the library alone she would surely die and that she should let me give her a ride home. And she did. I tried to make her feel safe as we drove; I told her about my country and asked her about hers—it was the same corny small talk I observed patrons using on her in the library. The same corny small talk that she never seemed to understand. She smiled mostly and stared at me confused. Once, she said, "I am Veronica," and another time, "The bus stop is near, no?" but mostly she smiled and said yes to things that didn't exactly warrant an answer. Before taking her home, I had never had any sort of conversation with her; the only thing I'd ever asked her was "How are you today?" and "Would you like to use the Internet?" Now that I had her in my car, and I was asking her less generic questions, she seemed less attractive. Seeing her stare at me confused, as I did my best to make her feel comfortable, made her seem a little ... dumb. I realize this feeling was caused mostly by the language barrier, but nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel as though I'd violated something a little sacred, and had stolen forever that beauty she had once given to me. She was like a store mannequin meant to be adorned but never touched. When I pulled into the parking space in front of her motel room, I thought of all of the pages and patrons who had dreamed of such a moment—to be here, in front of her room, in the right seat to make a move. They probably would have had pickup lines that she would not have understood, or perhaps tried to charm her with their looks or incoherent ramblings that passed as humor in English, but there was only one thing I had in mind to say to her. I told her good night. She told me, "I go. The bus stop is near, no?" and then she waved and ran to her room. From that moment on, I did not view her with the same admiration that I had when she first came into the library; all I saw when she came into the building was the friendly woman who had said "I am Veronica" when I asked her, "Do you like California?" I learned an important lesson with Veronica: I realized that some patrons were special, and should never be touched; they were given to the library to be mysterious figures who walked through the doors and were never meant to be known; people who were meant to be recounted through the ages in breakrooms as legends and myths of the library.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Three

What's not to love about computers? Everything! They're fine when they are confined to homes, but when they are unleashed to public, then, if it could go wrong, it will go wrong. (From:


Tale #1: In Which an Elderly Patron Unintentionally Tries to Destroy a Computer
Elderly patrons are very sweet people who very frequently bring me food, tell me how much they appreciate the library’s presence in the neighborhood, and small-talk about their favorite mysteries and true-crime books. They’re pleasant to be around—unless they want to use a computer. I am convinced that grandkids are inherently evil people who tell their grandparents to “just go to the library and open up an e-mail account—it’s free and so simple.”

Of course, the free part gets them to the library in swarms, and, of course, they don’t want to take part in the library’s free Internet classes, because ... well, in the words of one elderly patron, “I don’t need a class, because my grandkid said it was simple, and you can just show me the basics.” One such elderly patron came to the library not too long ago with such ideals.

Strangely, his trouble was not so much opening an e-mail account as it was using the print card.

Print cards are pesky little things librarians institute for the sake of harassing patrons and discouraging them from printing anything. Often, it works, but this little old man was persistent. I showed him step by step what to do to print, and he was doing pretty well. He seemed to be paying careful attention: he hit the print button like a pro, walked to the print station like a king.

Then he screwed up—big time. At the print station, another patron told me some teenagers had just said the “f” word to her five-year-old son and then ran off to the boys’ room, where she was pretty sure they were up to no good. I told the elderly gentleman to hang tight and I’d be right back to help him.

I learned in just a short time that expecting him to hang tight was a mistake. When I returned to the man, he looked hopelessly confused. “It didn’t work,” he explained, frustrated. “And it won’t give me my print card back.” I walked to the print station and stared for several seconds at the card reader. I studied it from several angles but did not see his card. “You’re sure it didn’t come out?” I asked. He nodded, but then pointed at his computer. “It’s in there.”

I looked at the computer, confused. He pointed at the floppy-disk drive and said, “I tried pushing the button, but it still won’t come out.” I kneeled down and immediately saw the print card wedged deep inside the floppy-disk drive. I had seen paper clips, scrap paper, and pencils inside the floppy-disk drive, but this was the first print card.

I went to the workroom to get out some tweezers, and when I returned, the man was gone. I never saw him again.

Tale #2: In Which a Patron Decides to Record the Internet
Because I work in a small branch library with only a dozen or so Internet terminals (all of which are very close to where I sit), it has become a habit to do my best to ignore what patrons are viewing, so as to ensure their privacy. Last week, however, I noticed a woman sit down at a computer and pull from her small handbag a video camera. She logged in to her e-mail account, turned on her recorder, and proceeded to record messages that had been sent to her inbox.

Using a video camera in a city building without prior consent from the city is not allowed, but I let her do it for a few minutes, more for the sake of personal amusement and curiosity than anything else. Finally, after about five minutes, I became bored watching the woman, so I approached her and explained that she would have to get city approval if she wanted to use her video camera in the library. She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, I was finished anyway.” She stuffed her camera back into her bag, looked suspiciously around, and left in a hurry.

Tale #3: In Which a Patron Has a Little Too Much Fun
There are different types of Internet users who visit the library. There’s the casual user, who uses the library’s Internet service perhaps once a month; the regular user, who uses it every day; the college user, who comes to the library only when their school’s lab is full; and many other types, which I’ll leave out for no real reason.

This final tale involves what I would describe as a regular user. I rarely saw him doing anything on the computer except sending and reading e-mail. He was quiet and never asked for help on the Internet. Then one day, as I was helping a younger patron find a book for his state-report assignment, the man came to me seeking help with printing.

When I got to his computer, I saw a picture of an overweight, fully nude Caucasian woman holding a jar of peanut butter. I told the man that this kind of material went against the library’s Internet usage policy. I have had to explain this policy to several patrons who have used the Internet terminals to view pornographic images, and every time, the patron does one of three things: they act embarrassed and apologize for their actions, they nod and quickly leave, or they try to defend their actions by saying that they are a taxpayer and can look at whatever they want to on the computer.

This man, however, explained quite seriously that, “I didn’t know you weren’t allowed to look at pornography on the Internet.” I nodded and pointed at the large sign above the computers, which stated clearly the library’s stance on this issue.

The man nodded and asked if he could still print the picture. I said no and added that, because he’d abused the library’s policy (a major no-no), he would now be banned from using the Internet. He nodded; then, to my surprise, flipped over a computer printout of a nude woman; and left with no further comment.

I did not bother asking how he was able to print the other picture without help.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day Two

I'd like to say that bathrooms are a little bit better today, but alas, they are not; I hate to shamelessly promote my book (note to reader: I love to shamelessly promote my book...Quiet, Please, Da Capo Books, April 2008, ISBN 0786720913 ), but there are a few more stories on curious bathroom encounters there; one involving a man who refused to leave the restroom after several hours inside...but you'll have to wait til April to here more about that. Until then, here's my favorite bathroom encounter on McSweeney's (From:

It's not incredibly strange to have an odd thing happen with a patron in the restroom, but to have two in a week...that kind of thing's worthy of an entire dispatch devoted to the bathroom.

Patron One
On Saturday, I was minding my own business when a library clerk came to me and said there were complaints about a patron sleeping in the restroom. "Sleeping in the restroom?" I questioned, believing that somewhere in this short statement there had surely been a misunderstanding.

"Sleeping in the restroom," he assured me.

I hate being informed of such things, because this means I have to do something about it. I could handle the time I had to tell a man he needed to pull his pants up a little higher because he was exposing himself in such a way that it was offensive to patrons; I could handle telling patrons that they're not allowed to look for pornography on the library computers; I can even keep a straight face when someone asks if we have The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sex. But sleeping in the restroom—there was something sacred about the restroom that I hated to disturb.

I approached the restroom with a bit of weary caution. Man #1 was using the urinal; Man #2 was sleeping on the floor of stall one (our only stall) with his head resting against the toilet. I left the restroom and told the clerk that, yes, there was indeed a man sleeping on the restroom floor.

I knew what his follow-up question would be: "What should we do?" I shrugged, waited for Man #1 to leave the restroom, then entered the restroom once more and said, "Sir, are you okay?" It had not escaped me that Man #2 might have had some sort of freak restroom accident and was thus unconscious. "Yes," was Man #2's reply. I was really hoping he was unconscious and there was thus a reason for his odd behavior that was justifiable. Instead I had to reason that Man #2 was just plain nutty, and I hated having to reason such thoughts about patrons.

I thought quickly for what I could say. "You're not allowed to sleep in the restroom." There was nothing original about this, but it was fast thinking. "Okay," Man #2 said. I had expected some resistance and when none came a part of me was a little disappointed.

I left the restroom with that feeling of accomplishment you get when you kick a man out of the restroom for sleeping on the floor, then ran to the front of the library to get a good view of the man when he left the library (he had been behind the stall with the door shut and I could only make out his backside).

When Man #2 left, I was surprised to see that this was a regular patron, granted one that was sometimes a little off, but not exactly the type of person I'd take for sleeping on restroom floors.

Patron Two

Patron number two is the man who sang romantic Spanish tunes in the restroom. He came on an otherwise normal Thursday evening about an hour before closing. I was sitting at the information desk looking intently at a blank computer screen when a library page came to me and said, "There's a man in the bathroom who's been in there a really long time."

I shrugged and thought to myself that it was a little weird for the library page to be keeping track of how long patrons used the restroom. I said the patron was probably just having a rough go at it, and to let me know if he was still there in thirty minutes.

The page nodded and continued, "That's not all. He's singing in Spanish. He keeps flushing the toilet and then singing a new song every time he flushes it. He's flushed the toilet at least ten times since he went in."

I asked what songs he was singing. I don't know why I asked what he was singing; I don't think I would have treated the situation differently if he were singing disco or grunge. I suppose I was just curious.

The page said he didn't know because they were in Spanish, but they sounded romantic.
I nodded and told the page to follow me to the bathroom (it's always a good idea to approach a strange situation in the library with another person who can act as a witness should anything happen that requires police attention). I stood with the page at the restroom door for several minutes listening to the man sing in Spanish.

He had a nice voice, although he sang high notes a little off key. "What are you going to do?" the page finally asked me. I shrugged. I was preparing the encounter with the singing restroom man in my head; first I'd ask if everything was okay, then I'd tell him to wrap it up because we were closing the restroom in five minutes.

I hated restroom encounters with patrons—there was no way to make them less awkward. I started for the restroom door, but it opened before I went in. A tall Spanish man with a large sombrero on his head exited. He was wearing a Disneyland T-shirt and faded jeans, and he carried a ceramic cactus (the ones street vendors sell for haggled prices in Tijuana). "Everything okay?

The man smiled and nodded, "Sí." Then he left the library.

Odd Things Found in the Restroom Sink


Half-eaten Snickers bar



Shaving cream

Prom picture

Bundles of hair

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Greatest Hits - Day One

This is the second dispatch I posted on McSweeney's (; I still had no idea what my format would be...actually I still have no idea today. For the record, this man never came back, but I still think of him every single time I tell people to speak softer on their cell phones.

It always surprises people to know that patrons frequently verbally, and sometimes physically, assault librarians. This week's memorable patron was the man who said he'd be waiting for me after work.

The man came in on a Saturday to use the Internet. He was middle-aged, tired, but seemingly friendly at first. I assigned him a computer on the other side of the library. Saturdays are usually slow and quiet at the library where I work, and usually I pass time by studying the palm of my hand from different angles.

Things got a little loud, however, when the man I had assigned to the Internet began yelling into his cell phone (as a side note, if anyone has ever been asked to turn their cell phone off in the library, it is because many people, while normally quiet in regular conversation, get quite loud when on the phone).

I approached the man and I explained that it was library policy that cell phones remain off in the library, and if he wanted to continue his conversation, he'd have to use the phone outside.
The man, clearly upset that I had so rudely interrupted his phone call, explained that he was talking with an important Sprint PCS customer service agent regarding his most recent billing statement, and that he needed the Internet to access his bill. Before I could respond, the man turned and went back to his phone conversation, explaining to the costumer service agent that he was sorry but an "idiot librarian" had tried to end his call.

No librarian likes to have his or her authority as librarian undermined. It's not a power issue, rather a simple fact that policy has been disturbed and you don't mess with library policy and get away with it. Nonetheless, I was in a good mood, so I walked around the man (so as to face him), and I asked him if he'd consider talking in a quiet-like fashion and finishing the call quickly. He said he'd finish the call when he was done talking and not a minute sooner. I turned off his computer and asked him to leave; and that's when he stood (and also when I realized he was quite tall) and screamed, "you want to see loud" in a fashion that made everyone in the library turn around and look at the man a little frightened.

I didn't think he meant it as a question, so I decided not to answer him, which only made him louder as he asked, "Who do you think you are?"

I knew at this point that the situation was quickly getting complicated, and to make matters worse the man really did not have very good breath. I told the man he was being disruptive and he needed to leave the library.

I knew he wasn't going to go out without further fuss, but I still hoped. I returned to the reference desk, and the man of course followed. He asked for my name, and when I gave it, he said he was going to go see the mayor and have my job. He started to leave, but turned back around after only a few steps, and said he would be waiting for me after work and I was going to be sorry. Finally, he left, at which point one of the library volunteers (a high school kid) approached me and said, "that was awesome, I thought he was going to jack you up right in the library!"

Later that day I received a call from another librarian at the city's main library asking if I had had any problems that day with a patron. I said yes, and asked the librarian why. He said the man had come into the main library and filed a complaint against me. I asked if he mentioned coming back after I got off work to beat me up. He had forgotten to mention that.

After work, I approached the parking lot with a bit of caution, but the man was not there, nor have I seen him since that Saturday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Un-Ten Days of Christmas

It's not that I'm lazy (note to reader: I am); I just want to take some time off from blogging for the holiday. To please your eyes, I'm spending the next 10 days (starting tomorrow) posting some of my favorite dispatches from McSweeney's. I hope you enjoy them, and you have a great New Year!

See you tomorrow with the first track of my literary Greatest Hits album.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Parking in the Rear

When I passed by the adult clothing/toy store, and saw the sign, "Parking in the Rear," I thought to myself, well that makes sense. But the store has caught my eye for more then just the convenient parking; it's caught my eye because everything about it screams, "The Family Man's Porno." It has the word couples in the title, so passersby’s will know that this is not your run of the mill pervert sex shop for lonely old men. It's window display is quite innocent; you almost expect there to be a children's section in the store. There's even a nice Christmas tree on display in the window, because, as everyone knows, every wife would just love for her husband to do her Christmas shopping there. Just think of how fun it will be to explain to your kids why mommy's present under the tree won't stop vibrating! But if this store is a sign of the times, then porn has become a family affair.

It kind of seems to be the way we do business these days; advertise everything, from porn to movies as a family affair. It used to be adults had their movies to go to, kids had there's, and once or twice a year a family flick would come out that everyone could agree with. Times have changed. So I guess it makes sense that we market our porn to families.

I had a friend whose kid watched his siblings play shoot 'em up army-style video games; eventually the kid, would army-crawl instead of real crawl because that's what he was seeing on the TV; his older brother (only 4 or 5 himself) would go around telling people he liked to kill people. Kids are becoming adults very quick these days, so I'm happy that there are family-oriented porn stores to accommodate them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jesus Schedules December Vacation

Sometimes a headline is enough to tell an entire story. Such was the case with this headline in the Wittenburg Door Magazine: "Jesus Schedules December Vacation, Will Miss His Birthday‏"

And All of Geekdom Rejoiced

Peter Jackson, who had previously backed out of directing any LOTR prequels because of a lawsuit with New Line, appears to have forgiven all, and now has agreed to produce it. I'm crossing my fingers that he signs on to direct as well. Read the full story here:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Dreamt of David Foster Wallace

I had a dream about David Foster Wallace that was borderline erotic, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

In this dream I was at a party; one of those Gatsby type party's where people stand around drinking cocktails and trying to be social. From the corner of my walks David Foster Wallace. He's not dressed nice like everyone else; he looks right out of a book jacket photo. I walk up to Wallace and say, "Hey, aren't you David Foster Wallace?"

He grins and can apparently tell I'm a pretty big fan. This is where the dream gets weird. He says, "So you wanna hug."

I'm a bit taken a back by the suggestion, but tell myself, If David Foster Wallace wants to hug it up, then we will hug it up. So we embrace, and Wallace reaches behind and takes a squeeze at my rear.

How does one interpret a dream like this? I've spent some time think it over. It wasn't a sexual squeeze of the butt--it was more the excentric squeeze. And I'm quite certain Wallace wasn't gay in the dream, and I didn't get any pleasure from the squeeze (aside from the pride of being able to tell people that David Foster Wallace gave my hind a squeeze), so I'm certain I wasn't gay either. Plus my fiance was in the dream, and I was very happy when I was around her.

The weird thing about the dream was I haven't read or even thought about Wallace in quite does he suddenly appear in my dream? And for the love of all things blue, what the heck was he doing grabbing by cheeks?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is It Really a Surprise?

Baseball players do drugs...that's the big story this past week. I read a few of the stories surrounding the investigation and was left wondering, who cares? They haven't been my hereos for quite sometime.

Growing up in Anaheim, I used to go quite frequently to Angel stadium when all the big teams came into town. I looked up to the players as a teen, and would eagerly wait for the stars to arrive for practice to get their autographs. They were my hereos. Until they spoke.

There were a few nice players of course; Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken, Jr. were all class; as was Kevin Mitchell, which is odd considering his frequent trouble with the law. But for every Ryan or Ripken there were 100 bad apples.

Some of my favorite moments? Frank Thomas (playing at the time for the White Sox's) yelling at a kid for daring to ask him for an autograph (this, sadly, wasn't actually polite compared to some of the other White Sox' of the players actually shoved a little kid when he ran up to him with a pen and baseball card!)

Ken Griffey, Jr. (playing at the time for Seattle) I notably remember because he locked himself in the car while Kevin Mitchell (his driver that evening) signed autographs. I remember a little kid tapping on the car, and Griffey looking up at the little fan, then simply looking at the floor of the car and pretended not to notice. Mitchel ended up signing autographs for about 20 minutes, while Griffey stayed in the car just starring at the floor.

I saw Wally Joyner when he was both a Royal and an Angel; his obnoxious behavior changed little with each team. I liked him better as a Royal, however, because he was booed as he went to the bus.

Tommy Lasorda was polite depending on how well the team did that night. He'd always sign autographs and try to be professional, but some nights he was a complete jerk about it. For the most part he was just a grouchy old man. The worse I saw him was at a public signing where he was signing autographs in support of some new food he was endorsing.

Finally, there's Darryl Strawberry; I saw him run from autograph seekers just so he didn't have to deal with them. I stayed late one night after a Dodger game hanging out with a bunch of friends in the parking lot; in retrospect I'm pretty sure he was smoking pot, but I was too young to know what that was then; it was the most relaxed I had ever seen him, and the only time I got his autograph.

Seeing so many bad sports in the game, it became harder and harder to support them; so eventually I just stopped. I still catch the occasional baseball game if the tickets are free or cheap, but it's just not the same anymore. The magics gone when you see them up close.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stick With Your Day Job

Who pays fifty plus dollars to go see a writer? Me for one (FYI, that's $50 for two tickets). That's how much I paid to see David Sedaris in Riverside this summer. And I hear that's the going rate to see him in 2008 when he makes a few stops in support of his forthcoming book Indefinite Leave to Remain (Little, Brown and Company - June 2008)

It seems like a growing trend for writers who are able to become famous in their careers...and why not? Musicians charge money to see them play a CD they want you to buy, so why should writers charge people to hear them read from a book they want you to buy? But here's the difference, and it's a big difference, if they charge big money then they should, at the very least, be good at performing.

In the case of Sedaris it was worth it; if nothing else I talked him before the reading for a good ten minutes, which was worth the price of ticket alone. But how many writers are like that?

Below is my incomplete list of writers I would pay $25 bucks to see:

1. Sarah Vowell
2. Dave Eggers
3. Thomas Pynchon
4. David Foster Wallace

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Things That Pop Into My Head While Bored At the Reference Desk

Why doesn't everyone wear their socks inside out?

How did I end up here?

Does Apple really not have the capability to create a iPod Touch with bigger storage? Or perhaps it's just all part of there marketing plan? Get them to buy this, then the bigger one comes out in six months. I'm sorry, Apple, but you are not the anti-corporate enviorment you try to make us believe. You are no better the Microsoft. And at least Bill Gates gives money to charity...what have you been doing with yours, Steve?

Is Warren Buffets kids not at all upset that he didn't leave them any money?

Why don't they just call it a computer center? And if people want books they can go to the bookstore. People who read statistically have more money then people who sit on their butts all day playing computer poker, and checking out the personal ads on Craigslist.

Does anyone who wears a tennis shoe play tennis? Everyone who walked into today wearing them does not look like the tennis-type.

I think I'd rather have a jury by professional jury person (someone who gets paid to sit on a case (like a career)), and not a jury by peers.

Were any of the Golden Girls fetching in their younger days?

I think that movie The Holiday is making Americans try and be British and say, "I'm going to have holiday at my boyfriends home." It just sounds stupid when some American chap says it.

Why does it always sound dirtier when a British person talks about sex?

I don't really miss TV now that it's on strike.

How the heck is J.D. Salinger still alive? Has anyone check in on his home lately?

Who will be the next American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature? I'm guessing DeLillo, but I'm hoping it's Pynchon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kansas City Public Library

About once a year a new library is built, and every other librarian stares with envious eyes, because they wished they could get that kind of money. The glam library this year, in my opinion, is the Kansas City Public Library. I don't know when it opened, but I think it was recent. It seems to be a cross between a library, a museum, and a hotel. And it has a cafe, which I think is a must in new libraries. I know there are many who disagree, but it seems to be what people want.

Below are a few pictures. Visit the libraries homepage for an expanded view of the new library (

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Future of Books

Every few months some company releases the equivalent of an eReader, and sparks a discussion about whether or not society will ever adopt the idea of a paperless world. In the end, people ultimately agree that readers will never adopt the technology because nothing beats an actual book.

The talk of the town in recent months has of course been Amazon’s little contraption, Kindle. It’s too expensive, and people still are not quite ready to grab onto this kind of technology, but I for one believe it’s the closest thing to the reality of eBooks that consumers have ever seen. I think it’s quite sad how little librarians have done to campaign for the little device.

A pretty large conscientious of librarians say that books are here to stay for some time; I’m not in this conscientious. I still believe that one day people will adopt eBooks. For some time, I’ve believed that the publishing business was on the verge of a new median in literature, and that new median will rest in interactivity.

I think one day they'll be wi-fi equipped (with built in Internet Browsers and one day full blow GUI operating systems), and we'll get Blogs and RSS feeds we subscribe to automatically once they are updated—much as they are with Kindle…but I’m going to go a step further and say that I think this same kind of technology is going to keep authors literally at readers hands, and they'll be publishing a lot more novellas (if there is any median out there that can bring the novella back to their glory days it is these kind of readers).

I believe in the future every library will have free wi-fi and people will walk in with their readers and automatically their will be the database of every book they can put on their reader. I don't believe we'll see the end of books for a long, long time (if ever), but I do believe these devices will be as common to some people as an iPod. And I believe that when they are, books will change; we'll start seeing more books for free, but embedded with advertisements that readers can click on and go to the Internet right on their eReader.

I think we are already seeing a trend in people’s reading habits, and that trend is they like to read more content in smaller doses. I think eBooks fit perfectly into this trend.

The problem with eBooks so far, in my opinion, is they have predominantly targeted the traveling businessman; this market is too limited. The future of eBooks rest in the company that can make something for the rest of us. Something that will let a college professor beam his lecture notes to every student in class who has a reader; something that will let a television viewer instantly receive a recipe they just saw on a Today Show cooking segment; something that will let a person stand next to a bus stop and automatically receive the bus schedule delivered to their reader; and finally, something that let’s you not just see a Wikipedia website, but the entire Internet. The technology is here for such a device, but not enough has been done to grab a hold of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nicholson Baker Is a Big Fat Idiot

If you go to graduate school to get a degree in library science, you’re bound to come across figures in the literary circle that really pissed off a librarian, and your entire two years in graduate school will be at times misery because of this literary figure.

There was only one when I was in school. Nicholson Baker. There are few people who can stand alone in a sentence by being both the noun and verb--good ole Nick is one of these people.

The curse of Nicholson Baker apparently all started in 1996, when Baker wrote an article called “The Author vs. the Library” for the New Yorker (volume 72). The article attacked the way the San Francisco Public Library was discarding many of its older books.

I have not read the article, I do not care what the article has to say, and indirectly I don’t hold anything against Baker (although I still cringe when I hear his name and silently curse him for the horrors the name put me through in graduate school).

To this very day, many librarians have remained bitter and outraged with Nicholson Baker; in fact many faculty members at San Jose State’s library science department will probably be willing to argue about Baker and book preservation at the mere drop of his name.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Divorcing the Enviornment

I've heard people say don't divorce for the sake of the children, or good old family values...but today I heard a new one: stay married for the sake of the enviornment. Scientist are now citing the increase of single family homes (due to an increase in divorce) as a contributing factor to the environments destruction. Read the full story here ( So I guess next time you see a celebrity pull up to an award show in an eco-friendly car with his fourth wife/husband next to him/her throw an acorn at his head, and tell him he doesn't really care about the environment.