Book Nazi

23 Feb

I love DC’s public libraries. It’s a great system with a wonderful selection and lots of locations. What I don’t love is the woman they’ve hired in the last year to work the desk at MY branch in the West End. I first encountered her three weeks ago in the wake of DC’s big snow storm when I stopped in to pick-up a book they were holding for me.

Note: I said this was in the wake of the storm, so the streets were hardly passable and there was absolutely no parking available. I swung by for what I hoped was a quick errand on my way to stick my car in the parking garage under my office. The challenge was that parking outside the library was lacking.

Because there was NO other traffic, I double parked, right in the middle of the street, turned my hazards on, and ran in. The book was behind the desk, marked with my name, I had my library card in my hand leading me through the door – all told it should’ve been a 30 second transaction.

That is, until I encountered Rita the Regulator.

First, I didn’t even realize there was someone behind the desk. I sat there impatiently tapping my card on the laminate counter, looking around for a librarian to help me. Then I noticed Rita standing there, her chin barely clearing the counter top. Embarrassed, I told her there was a book on hold under the last name of Farmer.

Most librarians will walk to the shelf, pull the book, then come back and ask for your card. Not Rita.

“I’ll need to run your card to verify that,” she told me.

No problem. I handed her my card. She ran it (at a snail’s pace) and then tromped off to retrieve my book.

When she came back, she wouldn’t set the book on the counter.

“I can’t let you check this out until you pay your fine,” she told me.

I wasn’t aware I had a fine, but she informed me that it was 80-cents. I handed her a dollar and told her to keep the change as a donation for the library.

“I can’t do that,” she said. “Your fine is only 80-cents. I have to give you 20-cents back.”

OK, fine. Whatever. Can we do it quickly? (I was eying my car out the window, praying that no other car tried to trek down 24th Street since I’d pulled – what was on its way to becoming – an asshole move.)

She counted out two dimes and then said, “Now I need to write you a receipt.”

“That’s OK,” I told her. “I don’t need one. I’ll just lose it.”

“No,” she pushed back. “I have to. It’s the rule.”

Another librarian had appeared behind the counter and took everything in. “Rita,” she said, “I think you can skip it. She seems like she’s in a hurry, and if she doesn’t need the receipt, then don’t worry about it.”

“I can’t do that. I need to give her a receipt and make one for the till,” Rita kept her head down, fumbling with the paper receipts that had to be completed manually.

“Well fine,” the other librarian said, “But you can at least fill out OUR copy after she leaves. You don’t need her standing here to do it.”

Rita turned her body so her back was toward the other librarian and continued writing out the receipt as if she were deaf. The other librarian looked at me and rolled her eyes. Meanwhile, Rita carefully wrote out “eighty cents receive from…”

At long last, she finished the task. I took the receipt and the new book and quickly bolted for the door. There, by the exit, right in Rita’s line of sight was a trashcan. I paused for a moment, my hand hovering over its opening.

But in the end, I pocketed the receipt and brought it home to throw away. It would be cruel to flaunt it in front of her.

Besides, had I done that, it’s a lock that the next time I tried to check out a book, I’d be haunted by an unpaid 80-cent fine. Because somehow, in the end, I think Rita generally gets her way.

7 Responses to “Book Nazi”

  1. Babs February 24, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    I miss DC and the Fairfax libraries. They were so well stocked and generally run by wonderful people. Rita sounds like she would fit in much better down here in Richmond, along with everything else that’s out-of-date in our libraries.

  2. Holly February 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Rita burns me everytime! I’m pretty sure her last name is Bookman.

    • pithypants February 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

      I’m not even sure her name is Rita. I was tempted to name her Midge, but thought that was too close to midget to be socially acceptable.

  3. Karen Rita Murtagh February 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    As one who sometimes goes by my middle name and a lover of books and exceptional customer service, I’m offended. If I get my MLS I think I’ll start going by Rita full-time to break the stereotype on the name that you are perpetuating.

  4. Karen Rita Murtagh February 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm #


  5. Kim Pugliano July 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I could barely get through the rest of the post after: Then I noticed Rita standing there, her chin barely clearing the counter top.

    HAHAHA!!! Next time you go to the library, secretely take a picture.


  1. Forgiveness Day helps me take “loving kindness” to a whole new level. « pithypants - July 10, 2011

    […] This DC Librarian: I forgive you for hating people so much that you spent five long minutes pretending to shelve a […]

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