Thursday, July 17, 2008

Orem Public Library Woes

I am a librarian. I like order.

You might not be able to tell from looking at my house or my desk, but trust me, I have stellar organizational skills.

I learned this from my mother. She's been a librarian for as long as I can remember. She would check books out for us and keep them in her room, hidden away, so that we couldn't destroy them unsupervised. She would bring them out before bed and read us story after story after story. She taught us how to take care of books.

When we got older and were able to read to ourselves, she'd let us take responsibility for a novel or two, but still, the children's books remained squirreled away.

I started working in libraries when I was 13 years old. I worked at the HBLL for my entire undergraduate education and then got a staff job, which I kept until just a few hours before Rachel was born.

I'm good with books.

I've tried to teach Rachel to treat books well. She never been allowed to chew on books and I rarely leave her unattended with anything other than board books. She has ripped a few pages in hymn books at church, but only minor, and quite accidental, tears. We keep our library books in a bin above Rachel's head. She's not allowed to read them herself because they aren't hers. We have a bookshelf where her books are kept and she can read them anytime she wants to, as long as she doesn't chew on them.

I have never lost a library book. I have never turned a library book in late. I am absolutely anal about library books.

I'm a librarian. Enough said.

So you can imagine my dismay when I got a phone call saying that I had a book overdue. Impossible, since I had turned in every single book I had checked out, crossing them off my receipt before putting them down the book shelf. I looked it up online. The library had conveniently phoned 5 days after the book was due, so I would have already owed $0.50 had I not turned the book in before. And I knew I had turned the book in.

I phoned to talk to the circulation desk about it.

"Hello," I said, "I just received a phone message informing me that I have a book overdue. I'm quite sure I remember turning this book in."

The librarian took my information and looked me up in the system.

"Opposites?" she asked.

"That's the one," I said, "Would you mind looking on the shelves for it? I'm positive I've turned it in and it probably just didn't get discharged and ended up on the shelf by accident."

"Here's what we'll do, sweetheart..."

I'm sorry. Did you just call me "sweetheart?" Your patronization score just went up by 50 points. Now I'm 50% less willing to listen to what you have to say.

"I'll renew the book for you so that it stops accruing fines, but it is a children's book. Why don't you just take a look around for it. There are lots of places it could be: under a bed, behind a couch, under a car seat, in a diaper bag, in a toy box..."

You can stop listing places the book might be now. It's not any of those places. I remember turning it in. And even though I remember turning it in, I looked for it everywhere that it would be after getting the ugly automated message informing me it was overdue. We don't take books many places other than the rocking chair and the book bin. I even looked under the couch.

"I've already looked, and it's not here. But I do remember turning it in..."

"Be a good girl and look again and if you still can't find it, give us another call and we'll see what we can do."

Curse my voice for making me sound like I'm 10. You just earned yourself another 50 patronization points and now I'm just mad.

I pulled out the stroller, packed up Rachel and all her hud, and stormed off to the library, hoping that the walk would help me calm down enough to not enter the library screaming my head off.

Twenty minutes in 90 degree weather did the trick and I was a lot calmer when I arrived. I went straight to the board books and started scanning the shelves.

I understand why the librarian didn't want to look for it. The board books are hopelessly and constantly out of order. I don't think they even have an order for the books. They're all just labeled "boardbook" and are thrown, mumble jumble, on the shelves.

But I knew I was looking for a green book. And it only took me 30 seconds to find the book.

I snatched it off the shelf and went up to the circulation desk to explain what happened. She forgave me my fees and, after returning our other library books and checking out some new ones, Rachel and I went home.

I'm still upset with the library. That might seem a little harsh, but do keep in mind that this is the fourth time this particular situation has happened.

I turn in book.

Book doesn't get checked in.

I talk with very patronizing librarians.

Nothing gets done unless I do it myself (or get very demanding).

Book is found on shelf.

It's just happened a time too many. I don't think it would even bother me if the librarians I get to talk to weren't so patronizing. Here is another conversation that I had with an Orem Public Librarian a few months ago.

Librarian: I'm calling regarding a book you recently turned in: Rainbow Fish.

Me: Yes.

Librarian: There is a ten inch tear on the front page and scribbles throughout.

Me: Oh...

Librarian: Was the book like that when you checked it out, or did one of your children do this?

Me: It was like that when I checked it out.

Librarian: There is a ten inch tear. You're sure you remember that being there when you were reading it?

Me: Yes. It was like that when I checked it out.

Librarian: And there are scribbles throughout the book. You're sure one of your children didn't do that?

Me: Yes, I'm sure.

Librarian: So the book was in this condition when you checked it out?

Me: Yes.

Librarian: And you're sure your children didn't do it?

Me: Yes, I'm sure. I only have one child and she is 9 months old. We keep the library books in a bin above her head and she doesn't draw with crayons. She eats them. We don't let her read the books by herself and we certainly don't let her have crayons without supervision. She's a baby. The book was like that when I checked it out.

Librarian: Well, that's all I needed to know.

Well, now you know, Librarian, now you know. I only had to tell you x-amount of times.

I am honestly very glad that I'll soon be finished with the Orem Public Library. I have never frequented a library where I've been afraid to check out books. I feel like I have to inspect each book and take out an insurance policy to cover each page before I check it out.

Perhaps I should suggest that the library take a refresher course in customer relations.


  1. arg! that would drive me crazy. We checked a VHS out of there around christmas time, and it was MELTED on the side and couldn't even fit in the VCR!
    although just last week when we were there for laptime, I realized there was a board book section. I had no idea! and I constantly forget to turn my books in. I think it's because I check out too many at one time. I just find too much that i want!!

  2. I turn my books in late because I'm scatterbrained, and I don't work at the same library I check out books at. I'm sorry that you have to deal with mean people. :(

  3. Wow, maybe you should start taking out insurance policies on the books if they're going to be that strict about it. On the other hand, I wish the Tucson library was a little more strict. More often than not, the DVDs don't work because of excessive scratching. And the touchy-feely board books are usually all torn up. No fun.

  4. I so love the self-return machines and the fact that here, you can stand there at the library desk until the book has actually been returned and is off your record. then you KNOW they got returned...

  5. Wow, England must be ahead of the game...we have self check-OUT machines--I think self check-IN is an awesome idea!!

  6. Orem librarians sound wonderful when compared to those at the Provo library.