Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Library woes

This morning we headed to the library, making it just in time for story time (somewhat of a fluke for us; it's happened twice in months of weekly library visits). I turned in our books and then decided not to speak with anyone about it because the last time we managed to show up for story time (which was just a couple of weeks ago) I talked to a librarian about needing to turn in our books before we could check out books and she kind of rolled her eyes (what is with these people?) and asked if we would be staying for story time. I told her we would and she said, "Then your books will definitely be checked in by the time you go."

So today I thought, "Okay. It's story time. We'll be here for a full hour. The books will definitely be checked in by the time we're ready to check out and go."

But they definitely were not checked in.

So I found an employee and asked them about it and they again asked which book drop I'd used. So I told them and they went back there for a long time. Finally they came back out to say they'd checked some stuff in but there was so much back there that they couldn't be certain which books were mine.

Meanwhile the plumber I'd called to fix our garbage disposal had called me to say he was fifteen minutes away from our house. He'd originally told me he'd give me a half hour's head's up, which is why I decided to go to the library in the first place, figuring that when he called I could just check out and go home.

Now here I was with fifteen minutes to get home (it's a ten minute drive) but I still hadn't checked out the books and the books I had turned in (and which had now been sitting in the book drop for over an hour) still hadn't been checked in.

Checking out library books can take quite a bit of time because at our branch we're supposed to use the self-checkout machines and they are terribly glitchy and slow. I've been told by more than one librarian that I "overwhelm" the machine by checking out so many books at a time. But if that's the case then they need better machines. At any rate, I put a book on the scanner and wait and wait and wait for the computer to pick up the signal from the sticker and then repeat the process until the computer freezes and then I wait for it to unfreeze and... it's really more of an exercise in patience than anything. And I knew we wouldn't have time for that.

Anyway, the librarian checks my card and says I can check out 30 books now (oh, boy) but we have 45 books selected so in addition to having to check them out and drive home, I also need to now choose which 15 books not to check out.

So instead I said, "I don't have time for this today," and I unloaded all 45 books right there on the floor by the information stand (because, of course, there's no counter to plop my books onto) and we walked out of there.

I called to talk with a manager about this, but apparently that's just the way things are, especially if I show up at story time. Because then so many people drop their books off.

But I happen to know that there was already a large number of people there for story time when we arrived and that the book drop bin was empty when we started putting all our many books into the chute.

Evidently the best course of action would be to bring my items directly to a librarian for them to check in because they're often so short-staffed that they can't just send someone to the back to check in all the books on a whim. Fine. But why am I only learning about this best course of action today?

How many times have I asked librarians to check in my books for me only to have them roll their eyes and shuffle back there to check in a few items for me? Why did they not say, "Sure. I'd love to do that for you. It's a little complicated. Here's why. In the future, just bring your books directly inside and I'll help get them checked in right away."

It literally took me dumping (well, stacking the contents of) three bags of books onto the floor while complaining that this is a routine problem that I face and that no one ever seems very happy to help with this problem for them to offer up any sort of solution. Like I hadn't brought this problem up a billion times in the past.

And then I had to come home to pay a plumber five million dollars to fix a simple problem that we couldn't figure out how to fix ourselves, on top of waking up this morning thinking there was an axe murderer in the house (don't worry; it was just Rachel chasing Miriam around the house, one screaming, the other yelling, thundering up and down the stairs and slamming doors and full of all sorts of rage (which was lovely)), and then while I was on the phone with the library manager Alexander pooped his pants, and we've gotten very little work accomplished today and all my lesson plans were thrown off because I didn't end up checking out any of the books I had planned on checking out this morning.

So I'm a little bit frustrated.

And I still don't understand how it's difficult to check in books (even all the books from everybody who came to story time within an hour).

Like, maybe—and I'm just going out on a limb here—our library could use one of those lovely information desks where a librarian sits and checks in books as they come through the book drop and is available to answer questions all at the very same time.

Wouldn't that be fancy?

Or would it just be old fashioned?


  1. I really think your librarian needs to read your blog post. You are such a great writer.

  2. Or!! Maybe you could put hold requests in for like 45 books at a time and make them select the books for you.

  3. Get Andrew a card and just use it on an alternating schedule. Since it is self check out, who would even know 😂

  4. Oh man...we had one of those self checkout machines as you described, and I never had 45 books to "overwhelm" it. That lasted about 3 months, and then they got a really good one that is super-fast. Thankfully the librarians also check people out so we don't *have* to do it ourselves.

    I hope you find a solution that works for you to get books with less attitude from the bunch of irritable, unhelpful librarians where you live! I like Crys's idea! And your mom's idea about putting books on hold is good, too! You can choose them from your computer and let them do the collecting! :)

  5. That experience sucks! Librarians have the power and usually the tendency to be so lovely so it's disappointing to hear this. And it should not be possible to overwhelm a machine when you're using it for its entire purpose!! Do what Crys suggests.

  6. Going to New Orleans for 4 months made me realize how amazing the Provo library is. The books check themselves in when you put them down the chute. We at one point had 100 books checked out!! I was panicking about getting them all back while my kids were in a reading frenzy. Bad library systems can be so very frustrating.

    1. And their self checkout machines can handle 3 books at a time no problem. I wonder if certain cities just don't put money into libraries or what? Provo isn't that big of a city.

  7. Thanks for making me feel less crazy everyone. Hahaha! I've been feeling like I'm overreacting but it's really quite frustrating—and there are better systems out there so why not be better?! :)

    I will probably start using Andrew's card every other time we go since I don't see anything changing any time soon...