Sunday, March 30, 2008


I'm not in full return mode yet, but I am home and have lots to say...I just don't feel like saying it yet! Until then, below is the radio interview I did for WNYC while I was on my honeymoon (yes my wife is so patient that she let's me do interviews on my honeymoon!). Enjoy...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Homeless Problem

I read in either Newsweek or Time a couple days back that there was going to be some big library conference about how to handle homeless patrons. The homeless are always easy fodder for people talking about the downside to working in a library, and for many reasons I happen to agree. Some of them do have an unfortunate smell, argue about some ridiculously petty crap to the librarians, and misuse many of the facilities that are supposed to belong to everybody. Nobody wants to wash their hands after using the toilet only to find someone shaving in the only working sink. Some are also very mentally unstable, and that's a whole other issue altogether. But more often than not, I feel really, legitimately bad for these people. The "smell" issue is just a stupid complaint. Yes, it's inconvenient for others, but it's not like some of these people have easy access to showers and are choosing not to bathe just because they don't want to. Some of these people come into the library every single day, and once we close and lock up the doors, it's back on the streets, sleeping in the cold or finding some other place to beg for change or get a meal. As for misusing the library, they're not really taking that much more advantage of it than parents who blatantly steal display balloons for their kids or come up with long-winded ways to get out of paying for a lost book. If something is free, there are always going to be people who abuse it in some way. That's just how things go.

I don't really have an answer to the "homeless problem" that some libraries have, but if I had to choose between some guy who had nowhere to go and just wanted to spend a few hours in a warm place reading a book, and loudmouth teenagers who play videogames on the computers and yell out "FAG!" at each other, I'd pick the homeless hands-down. I think that out of everyone who goes in and uses the library, the homeless probably care about it a hell of a lot more than anyone else, save the people who work there. They're usually quiet, considerate, and on a couple of occasions have actually tipped me off to someone else doing something that they shouldn't be doing. Come to think of it, maybe that's the best way to handle it: Hire them to monitor the library undercover and boot out the other "undesirables" who really should know better. It'd get them a little bit of cash and save me the trouble of telling some random slob not to eat a bowl of spaghetti over a reference book. That's the best solution I can come up with. What've you got?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Top Five Patrons

The Deaf Lady

There was a woman who used to come into my old library who was not only deaf, but one of the rudest broads I’d ever dealt with. She would yell at the staff in a voice that sounded like an adult character in a Peanuts cartoon plugged into an amplifier used by The Who. She was old and had her hair in a ponytail which made it look like she was blind rather than deaf. She wore the same ugly dress and sweater every time she came in. Fondest memory: One time she was sick and was using one of our computers. She wiped her nose and mouth with the palm of her hand, and a couple of times she let a large blob of mucus-y spittle drop from her mouth into her hand, which she then dropped politely into the trashcan sitting next to her. A women who was assigned to use that computer once she was finished watched in obvious horror.

The Handicapped Girl

A group of “special” adults came into the library every morning with their teacher, and were allowed to wander around the library to do whatever they wanted. One girl had a face that looked like a Halloween mask that someone was pulling on, from the inside. Her teeth looked like someone took a pair of dentures and shot gravel at them for half an hour. Because we had the bell system, whenever she needed help she would look at us and holler “DING DING DING,” meaning she wanted a librarian. She smiled at the staff every time she came in and would say “Hello.” Overall, a sweet girl. Fondest memory: I was once at the circulation desk and she looked at me and giggled. Then she said loudly, “I like cute boys!” I told my girlfriend about it and she told me that I better not sleep with her.

The Little Jerk In The Wheelchair

There was a boy who always came into the library in a wheelchair and wanted to use our computers. His face looked perpetually angry and he always verbally abused him mother, who once passed gas loudly while I was shelving books and looked at me with a smile afterward. He was a rude kid, and only got worse as he got older. Because of how mean he was to his mother I realized that maybe God cripples some little children for a reason. Fondest memory: He liked one member of our staff a lot and knew his full name, which he used every time he addressed him. Finding out that this clerk did not get a lot of presents for Christmas, he shouted at him, “WHY DIDN’T YOU GET A LOT OF PRESENTS THIS YEAR?” as if this were an injustice comparable to his being crippled.

The Toothy Artist

This guy was the enemy of the patron above, and once complained to a librarian that “The Wheelchair Kid” was trying to steal his library card number. He had the biggest teeth I’d ever seen, and he always walked with the slightest hint of a skip. He always had some issue with the computers, and one time when there weren’t any librarians at the desk he yelled from his computer to me that the printer wasn’t working. I looked him in the eyes and went back to work, ignoring him. He then yelled out “THIS IS SERIOUS,” a plea which I also ignored. He always tried to request Cds and DVDs that had never been released, and would ask for a comic book, “about that guy, who was in a group of superheroes.” Everyone tried to figure out what he was talking about, but not a single person could figure it out. It wasn’t Justice League, so don’t bother suggesting it. Fondest memory: On my last day of work at this library, a librarian told him that I was leaving and he drew me a picture of a superhero. I later commented to another coworker that the left arm on the character was much shorter than it should be, and that this kid needed to work on perspective.

The Stripper

Every now and then a women who lived near the library would come over in either sweats and a tank top, or shorts that almost went up to the belt line. She had a terribly acne’d face, and the general opinion was that she was using a ton of drugs, most notably meth. Somehow it was known that she worked at one of the many strip joints that peppered my small town, and I question whether or not she told this to someone or if a lusty coworker actually saw her on the job. One night when I drove to the library to drop some stuff off I saw six or seven cop cars surrounding her house, and children in the front yard looking confused. Fondest memory: One time she came into the library with some hairy rodent running along her shoulders. When she came over to the circulation desk the thing looked at me and started running around her shoulders again. I almost had an accident in my pants. She smiled and said, “oh, she’s friendly!” Turns out it was a chinchilla, and if I were less of a pansy I would have found it adorable rather than terrifying.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Janitor Is Needed To Shelf-Read New Fiction

When I was a page, life seemed so much simpler. Your supervisors expect next to nothing from you, and as long as you keep out of some of the behind-the-scenes politicking, you’d have to be a complete idiot to be fired. Either that, or have the extreme misfortune of being someone who your boss just doesn’t like. My duties as a page were easy, but I sometimes hated the fact that we were little more than “Janitor Plus,” since we had to check the restrooms, pick up trash, and other stupid little duties that weren’t in the job description. We were the little ants marching our carts up and down the aisles, shelving the books, picking up books that were laying on the floor, and basically keeping the library propped up and organized. The most tortuously boring task was shelf-reading. This was when a page would spend an hour staring at their assigned section of the library, and make sure that every single book was in it’s correct spot. It wasn’t so bad for the first fifteen minutes, but after an hour you begin to space out and start pondering deep philosophical questions. I came up with ways to achieve nirvana, ideas for what would be a masterpiece of modern literature, and various schemes for making millions of dollars all while shelf-reading, but never once wrote a single one of them down. I frequently thought about my life, and would leave the shelves with a furious expression on my face, and it became known that you didn’t bother me after I had been shelf-reading. There was probably something very Zen about it, but at the time, I didn’t see it and just wanted to shoot myself.

The most degrading aspect of the county library that I worked at was the bell system. We were trained to come to either the reference or check out desk when someone rang a bell. Actually, everyone was on the bell system, from the pages to the manager. To make matters easier, every hour a specific person was assigned to be “on bell,” and if someone needed a page and rang, you would only have to answer when you were on bell. This was annoying because when I was a clerk and would ring for a page, sometimes there would be one right next to me who could have easily helped me out, but flat-out refused, saying, “I’m not on bell. Let whoever's on bell do it.” This was a blessing to me on one occasion though. I had mentioned that as a page we were expected to be “Janitor Plus” on occasions. If something spilled or a mess was made and you were on bell, it was your duty to clean it. This would range from a Sugar Daddy stuck on one of the shelves, covered with ants, to a soda spilled on a desk, sliding dangerously close to the business books. These were nothing compared to what I saw when I was closing one night. During the closing hour a boy had an accident while waiting in line at the check out desk. Normally this is an issue that the parents take care of, but there was one little problem: The boy was wearing shorts. Once that “accident” slid down the leg of his shorts and splattered on the library floor, it immediately became our problem, or rather, the page’s problem. I remember walking by with my cart after hearing the bell ring, and seeing the grotesque Rorschach blots on the floor. The clerk at the desk looked at me and said “Oh good, you’re here. Can you take care of this please?”
“Sorry,” I said, “I’m not on bell.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Library: Not The Place Where Romance Begins

If you work at the library and are even moderately attractive, you will at some point have people hit on you. This can be either charming or cringe-inducing. While many of my supervisors have felt pangs of revulsion, others have taken advantage of this attention. I have heard stories of previous supervisors having brief flings with random patrons, and there was one supervisor who was known to be flagrantly cheating on her husband with at least a couple of patrons. The other librarians even joked about it, as if sleeping with the public was commonplace among library folk. Not all the patrons were Casanovas, though. One patron, memorable for missing a front tooth, wearing a faded “God Bless America” T-shirt every day, and always requesting books on different types of poisons, actually hit on a younger clerk by asking her if she were pregnant, since her stomach had gotten a little bigger. Needless to say, the pick-up line did not have the desired effect.

Anyhow, I remember back when I was a page, there was a girl who I went to high school with who started coming to my library and creeped me out. While I was shelving books I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a head peering over at me from the edge of one of the shelves, and when I turned to look it ducked away, like a Gremlin or Munchie. I decided to ignore it and continued shelving. Once again I could feel someone staring at me, and I saw the same head gawking at me through the corner of my eye. This went on for about five minutes, and I went up to her and said “hi.” She smiled meekly and started an awkward conversation. She was a year older than me and would be pretty if she cleaned herself up. As it was she had dirt smudges on her face and what looked like spittle stains all over her tank top. All that I remember of our conversation was that she said she liked Disneyland, and when I asked her when was the last time she had been there she replied that she had never been there. She came in a few more times after that, and I felt so uncomfortable around her that I wanted to throw up.

In addition to the “stalkers,” there are also the gorgeous patrons who some of the staff obsess over in ways that are creepier than even the most persistent of patrons. When I was a clerk I remember a couple of my coworkers looking up personal information about patrons as they checked out, and would commit their database numbers to memory. More than a few admitted to looking up a patron’s information before checking out their books, just to make sure they were “legal.” No one ever did anything as douchey as slipping their phone number into a book that was being checked out, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if someone did. There was also a ton of blatant flirting going on at the circulation desk, and to this day I’m surprised that no one got reprimanded for it. But then again, when even the bosses are slobbering over the patrons, you can’t really expect them to say “boo” to a part-timer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weeding The Collection

For today’s entry, I’m going to tell you a story that Scott claims I’ve told him four times before. Maybe I’m losing my mind, but I only recall ever telling him the story twice. Anyhow, here it is:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was I worked with a librarian who everyone but myself hated. She was by far the sexiest librarian I ever worked with, and hers is the image I imagine writers of "Librarian Erotica" conjure up when clacking away at their keyboards. This was not why her and I hit it off, however. I am by my nature drawn to people who others loathe, since my instinct is to question the wisdom of the crowd. On a few occasions, they have been right, but more often, dead wrong. Anyhow, this librarian was a cut above the others since she legitimately cared about libraries and, surprise surprise, was actually a reader. She not only read, but she also liked classic Hollywood cinema, and we talked frequently about films and books. When I wanted to listen to classical music, she gave suggestions and even told me some operas that she enjoyed. While my coworkers dreaded closing with her, I looked forward to it. She wasn’t an overly tough supervisor, she just expected people to do their jobs.

She was in charge of the fiction collection, and at one point we needed to do a massive purging of books. For the past few years I had made it a point to regularly check out my favorite books just to make sure that, when someone checks their status in the computer, it shows up that the book circulates. My favorite author is James Joyce, and one thing I prided my old library on was the fact that it carried all of his works, which a lot of libraries do not. The one book of his that I wanted to make sure we kept was Finnegans Wake, so I checked it out every now and then. One day when I came into work I was given a cart of books to be discarded, and lo and behold, my beloved copy of Finnegans Wake was among them, laid out to rust. I asked her why she was getting rid of it, barely containing my disgust, and she said simply, "It doesn’t circulate." I tried convincing her to keep it, asking her again with my eyes, but she said, "Sorry. We need to make room for other books."

I later joined my other coworkers in loathing her. When she transferred to another branch, I could barely contain my joy. I realize that this is a completely irrational reaction to something fairly trivial, but emotions don’t follow logic, and the moment we discarded Finnegans Wake was the moment I knew that even the greatest librarians can sometimes be no better than swine. I brought the book home, while some went to the book sale racks and the rest were tossed unceremoniously into the dumpster out back, with banana peels and cored apples falling faintly upon all the discarded and the unread.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

For about three months, working in the library was my dream job. I was working at a department store during the holiday rush, and I had a deep hatred for my bosses, my coworkers, and the consumers. I saw the library as a cozy spot where I would shelve books and form an intimate bond with the collection. Most people have romantic views of the library, but mine was extreme to the point where it was nearly a fetish. I was there every week, tearing through the stacks and wanting to cram all that knowledge in my head, and nothing seemed more heavenly to me than to be in an environment of fellow book-lovers. I filled out an application for Library Page and went into the interview a ball of nerves. I was interviewed by two women; one a balding blob of skin that looked like a pile of rags, and the other a gap-toothed pale gal with cowboy boots and a shirt with a button that was popped open in the center, continuously flashing her bra every time she shifted her upper body. I gave what I thought were the right answers, and told them how much I loved the library. When I left I was filled with excitement, sure that soon I’d have the job I wanted.

A few weeks passed, and I called the library. They said that they were sorry, but that they gave the job to someone else, and that they would "keep me in mind" if another position opened. I discovered later that the spot I interviewed for was taken by a fat black-haired girl who told me that her ex-boyfriend was a heroin addict, and she only applied because a friend of her worked there and suggested it as an easy job where you don’t have to do much. I was persistent, however, and I went into the library every week to ask if something opened up. Probably to stop my asking all the time, they eventually hired me.

I ended up working for this hell hole for around seven years, getting paid peanuts and having to deal with so many levels of stupidity that it boggles the mind. A massive debt and my masochistic urge to "hug the dagger that stabs me" kept me at this place, until I found a place that paid me twice as much to do less. Everyone who worked at my old library has horror stories about it, and even my bra-flashing boss once smiled at me and said, "people have actually compared this place to a concentration camp!" For years I wanted to keep on good terms with this place because I figured the recommendation would be valuable, but not anymore. The Los Angeles County Public Library System blows. If you want to get into library work, start anywhere but there. That’s my advice for the day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Introduction

If I were a regular reader of a blog and discovered that, for whatever reason, the creator wasn't going to post for awhile and instead had a "guest writer" come in to keep it active, I would probably avoid it until he came back. That's just me, however, and since I've only got about a week here, and I will try to keep you moderately entertained. I will also keep it PG-rated, as I promised Scott before he left.

Instead of speculating about what Scott's doing on his honeymoon, I will instead begin with how I actually met him. I had spent the previous two months being trained at another library in the city, and I wasn't prepared for how different it would be when I started at the brand new library where Scott would train me. It was packed, and kids were running all over the place. The books were not in any kind of order. Kids would ask for a book, I would get the Dewey number, and lead them to a shelf where the books were crammed into random spots. The computers were using a program that I wasn't familiar with, and things were a hellish chaos. I needed someone to make sense of it all, and I could not have been paired off with a worse person to guide me. I would ask Scott a question and would get a short, mumbled answer, which only vaguely helped. The impression I got from him was that he wished I would just leave him alone so that he could get back to doing whatever it was he was doing at the time (whatever it was, I can assure you that it wasn't what he was being paid for). When one of the printers stopped working, he walked over to it, pressed a few buttons, and got it to work again. When I asked him how he fixed it, he rubbed his finger in a circle on the side and said that I just needed to touch it the right way. I later learned that the best way to fix the printers is to do exactly as he did: randomly tap at the buttons until it starts printing again. After two years of the same printers, that system has yet to fail me. I usually leave off the part where he gently massaged the side with his finger.

A couple more things. For those who have read the book already, yes, I did carry around a notebook, but I didn't write down everything Scott said, since very little of it was of much help. Also, the interview in the book took place in our break room, and was suddenly brought to an end when the boss walked in and started talking to us. Thus, it never had the chance to morph into "My Dinner With Andre," which I was hoping for.

You may now start speculating about the honeymoon.

Till next time,
Roland Saint-Laurent

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Signing Off…

Well, the wedding is literally days away, and I just wanted to write quickly and say this is my last post for a week or two.

Thanks to all of you who have read loyally over the last few months, and thank you even more to all those who have bought, stolen, or reserved my book at your local library. It’s nice to know you care.

Next week, as I have previously said, Roland (aka Roland from the book (he has the big intermission/interview right smack in the middle of the book)) will invade this blog. I do not know what he will say, though I’ve given him permission to say whatever he likes. I have suggested he spend the entire week telling everyone what a jerk I am. Whatever the case, Roland is the best of what’s left so just be nice! You'll probably like him more than me, and will be sad when I return.

When I return in April, I will have an update regarding that book give away contest. And no it’s not too late to enter, so by all means, enter away! And to those who have read the book already, let me know what you think…even if it’s bad. I do greatly appreciate your correspondents.

All the best until I return,
Scott Douglas

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thanks to...

Thanks to the following libraries for being among the first to get "Quiet, Please" into your databases:

Seattle Public Library - Seattle, WA
Ames Public Library - Ames, IA
Alexandria Library - Alexandria, VA
Merrimack Val Library consortium - Andover, MA

If you live near any of these areas, you may now put holds on the book!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where's Waldo?

Who doesn't love a good Waldo parody?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Librarian Part 3

Hold on to your seats, cheesy TV movie library francise fans! Noah Wyle is back for the third time as a librarian in the TNT francise! Any one have thoughts on this series?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Acres of Books

Acres of Books in Long Beach is the best used bookstore I've ever been too...heck I'll go the extra yard and say it's the best darn bookstore of anykind anywhere! Don't believe me? Ask Ray Bradbury...he's been a long time patron of the store.

Though it has status as a historic landmark, the city of Long Beach has decided it's not pretty enough; it will close down sometime this year to make way for the cities redevelopment plans. I hear they will relocate, but it's hard to relocate something like that...those of you who have been to it will know what I'm talking about. Those of you who have never checked it out, now is a good time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Read It Now

To those who placed pre-orders for Quiet, Please with Amazon, it looks like they are shipping now; the pre-order button has been enjoy the read, and if you feel so obliged post a review.

Let me know what you think...the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Monday, March 10, 2008

ALA & Censorship?

A library group called "Friends of Cuban Libraries" is claiming that American Library Association, a group that champions free speech, is censoring. It's not exactly a new claim. Hundreds of people have claimed throughout ALA's long history that it censors, but the claim is nonetheless intriguing. We all censor to a certain extent, I that what ALA is doing? Read the press release and judge for yourself. Feel free to comment below and weigh in on the issue...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Birthday…You Old Fart!

Yesterday, I received a letter from my healthcare provider; it seemed very friendly, and I didn’t think anything of it…until I read it! My birthday is just around the corner, and, apparently, they just wanted to give me an early present—a present to the tune of $25.00 extra to my bill each month!

According to the friendly letter, because I am getting older I am more likely to get sick and go to the doctor.

I’m not a big Michael Moore fan, but his last documentary made a good point: U.S. health care sucks! Over the past four years I have spent over $3,000 dollars on health insurance. I went to the doctor exactly once. So when they say I’m now older and now have to pay more money, what does that mean? That over the next four years I might see the doctor twice so I need to pay an extra 300 annually?

Next year for my birthday, I think I’ll just ask my health care provider for a sucker…come to think of it all they have to do is buy me a mirror and every time I’d look into the mirror I’d see my sucker…

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Does Your Library Have Movie Star Looks?

Do you work in a public library that has the looks of a Hollywood Star? Emilio Estevez may want it to have a starring role in his new movie, The Public! Read about it below:

I am currently working on a feature film written and directed by Emilio Estevez entitled "The Public". It is a terrific script which features and is set entirely in the LA Public Central Library. The film is a drama involving homelessness in the City of Los Angeles and it's affect on the library and society. We will be filming a major portion of the project at the LA Public Central Library but are still in search of a location which could double as the reference desk and reading room of the library. Ideally, it is an older library that matches the classic architecture of the LA Public Central Library. It can be open, closed or not in use or partially in use. However there will be approximately 3 weeks of filming in the interior of the location and the location needs to be available for filming during regular business hours. If the location is empty or closed, there may also be an additional 3 weeks of temporary set construction and/or set dressing of the space in preparation of our filming work. Our filming begins early May and continues thru the end of June so the location would need to be available for the above mentioned term during this time period. We are hoping to find this location in the next 2 weeks.

We would prefer it to be within a 50 mile radius of Los Angeles but are considering all options at this point. If any of the libraries in your system may be interested or have a space available, they should contact me directly and send any pictures available of the location. Our main character is a librarian and this project will put the spotlight on library professionals everywhere and highlight the challenges they face in their daily work. Thank you for any help or direction you can give me in this search.

Tony Salome
Location Manager "The Public"
805/813-0374 (c)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Top 10 Reasons to Be a Librarian

In case you missed it, McSweeney's put my newest "Dispatches from a Public Librarian" up on Monday.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Insanity @ My Library: A Photo Contest

Do you have a picture that perfectly illustrates the insanity that takes place at a library? Maybe it's the book drop that was destroyed by a firecracker, the librarian who never matches his socks, or the library that is completely falling apart and has structural damage to prove it! If so, send them to me and you will automatically be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian.

One copy a week will be given away starting Friday March 28, 2008, ending on Friday, May 2, 2008.

To enter simply send a JPEG photo to By submitting your picture, you are affirming that you hold all copyrights to the photo (or have permission by the copyright holder to submit on their behalf). Please make sure and include your full name, address, email, and the name of your favorite library (only your first name and favorite library will be published…the other information is just to help me make sure a book gets to the right place if you win).

By submitting your picture you are also giving me permission to publish your picture (even if you are not a winner) on my blog (

Additional commits can be emailed to me directly at

Submit as early!