News Flash: apparently when I’m sick, I’m cranky.

5 Feb

Admittedly, I was feeling rather sorry for my sick self yesterday when I reported on my recent experience at the library, so my tone was probably a bit more bitchy/whiny than pithy. In fact, it’s hard to be pithy when you’re sick.

Anyway, it wasn’t one of my funnier posts. Unfortunately, it drew a record number of hits, apparently because a librarian stumbled upon it and tweeted it out, presumably to an audience of other librarians. And in case you hadn’t made the connection: librarians read.

The link was teed up as, “These posts make me so sad. Another lost library patron…” which left me scratching my head.

Did the tweet mean that the library had lost me as a patron or that I was a clueless human being? Was my post sad because of how it was written or because of the service I had received?

(I re-read my post and was embarrassed that my self-pity had come across as a mean-spirited assessment of the librarian’s mental capacity.)

Then I saw that this same tweeting librarian was playing with the idea of offering a reward for non-librarians to write something positive about libraries. And the thought that librarians feel like they have to pay for positive publicity made ME sad. Because the truth is, I love libraries.

As a toddler, the high point of my social schedule was story time at the library each week. In elementary school, I won the library’s summer reading contest by obsessively reading 250 books in three months. They had to invest in a second piece of posterboard and additional stars to track my results, because I was literally off the chart. (Lest you think I’m lying, take a look at the average length of books made for second graders. It’s completely possible.)

And the librarians… they were awesome, both at the public library and at school. One of our close family friends, Mrs. Thompson, was the high school librarian, and when she realized what a voracious reader I was, she began slipping me books from her personal collection every time she visited our home.

As an adult, I renewed my love affair with libraries when I moved to France in 2003. Thrust into a place where I couldn’t speak the language, I quickly plowed through the suitcase full of books I’d brought with me. Buying new books wasn’t an option because a) I was on a strict budget since I wasn’t working, and b) English-language novels were ridiculously expensive and hard to come by.

Instead, I explored the library. Because I wasn’t an official citizen, I couldn’t get a library card to check out books. SO I would go to the library each day and read for a couple hours, replacing my book back on the shelf when I was done, praying no other ex-pat would come in and borrow it over night.

When I returned to the States, it was a luxury to be able to actually leave the library with a bag full of books to read AT HOME, at my leisure. How novel!

And while I was gone, technology came to town. The DC library now has an online hold system that gives me the same rush as ordering a book off Amazon. But it’s free. They also have an MP3 system that allows me to download audiobooks to my iPhone – without hoofing it across town to complete the transaction in person.

So no, I’m not a lost patron. I love the library. So much, in fact, that I make my friends get library cards and I nag Alan when I learn he’s spent money on a book instead of borrowed it.

I may have had a bad encounter this week (made worse because I desperately had my hopes for healing pinned to a specific book), but it hasn’t turned me away from libraries.

Now that I think of it, I suppose I should probably have used quotation marks when I referred to the woman behind the desk as a “librarian.” Because I don’t think she actually was one. Had she been, she would’ve been more empathetic to my plight. Mrs. Thompson certainly wouldn’t have let me leave empty-handed. Not when I was sick.

And so the real lesson I’ve learned is this: there is a fine line between pithy and pissy. When I’m sick, you’re more likely to get the latter. You’ve been warned.

4 Responses to “News Flash: apparently when I’m sick, I’m cranky.”

  1. Pop February 5, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    The library sent you on a wild goose chase yesterday. The folks deserved to be exposed.

  2. Pcsweeney February 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Hi! Thanks for the response! I want to clarify that you should NEVER have bad service at a library! You pay us to do a good job. I was sad because you were given the run around and that you had less than the 100% positive experience that you should have received. I wanted to point to my fellow librarians that we should be doing a better job. That was all. I really enjoyed your open and honest account of your experience. These kinds of blogs help keep some librarians honest knowing that ou have a voice. It shouldn’t take that, but sometimes it does! Keep writing about your good or bad experiences, it keeps us informed! 🙂

    • pithypants February 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I actually enjoyed the reflection my paranoia provoked, because it made me realize I hadn’t painted the other side of the picture, and I’d hate for anyone who reads my blog to have any ammunition to NOT use the library. Side note: I find it absolutely heart-warming that there’s a sign at the checkout desk stating that my library records won’t be released to anyone without my written consent. It makes me feel like the library is fighting the good fight when it comes to privacy. 🙂

  3. Alicia February 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    AND you wrote something positive about libraries, here, just now, for FREE.

    You know I’m a big fan of libraries, too. I swear about every third time I’m there, I want to stand up on a table and shout, “We get ALL THIS for FREE?!! UNBELIEVABLE!!”

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