Ask the LibrarianPosted Thursday, April 28, 2011, at 6:31 PM
In the days before Google and Search Engines, the public library was a busy place for the reference librarian and for inquiring minds.
I worked in 1986 to 1987 at a public library in Northern Idaho. It was a great place to work and I loved every minute of it.
My job was being a reference librarian, working the circulation desk and calling patrons about overdue books.
Post Falls Public Library was small but busy. Many of our patrons were avid readers and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the library. There were great activities for children in the juvenile book section. And best of all, there were "characters" who challenged your tact, olfactory senses and reference abilities.
Because I was new to the area, I didn't know much about these "characters" but I was soon to find out their many "quirks."
Do you remember the picture with all of the dogs sitting around a poker table? I had a young man who came in wanting all the information that I could find about that picture. I was eager to comply and asked him if he was interested in that kind of art. No, he wasn't interested in art. He was going to sue everyone involved in the making of that picture and demand royalties for each sale for the last 100 years or so. He claimed that his relatives were the subject of that picture and they hadn't been compensated.
Every week, he would come in with another scheme or interest about collecting money for some obscure reason. He had many wild ideas about what was owed to him because of his "ancestors".
The next "character" challenged my sense of tact. I am used to odors that are not pleasant, but this poor man was pretty bad. He wore a cowhide leather vest and it had obviously gotten wet a few times over the years. Just imagine being in a pit with 20 dead cows and you will have a vague idea about the smell .
He was a very bright individual and asked many intelligent questions. If you could manage to stay upwind from him it was mostly bearable. But if he shifted positions, it was torture to carry on a conversation with him.
There was a gentleman who wore a band uniform every day and was writing a book for some obscure country in the Pacific. He kept me hopping in the inter-library loan requests for reference books.
Life is not dull in a library, no matter what you may think. The librarian for the Children's section kept things lively by having small animals on display for the kids. She brought in a hamster once, who promptly escaped. As you can imagine, the places to search for a hamster are endless!
In the days that followed, every spare moment was used to locate the escapee. But our first clue of his demise was the awful smell that seemed to be near the record section, but we were unable to find the source of the odor.
It seemed as though the most exciting things happened in the library on my days off. Apparently no one had told Virgie, our cleaner that the hamster was missing, so she called the police and told them to get to the library as soon as possible someone had been murdered and was probably buried under the floorboards.
The hamster was finally found in the record section when they were searching for the "dead" body.
Our Children's librarian was from Puerto Rico. She was tiny dramatic person. She was great with the kids and story-time was pretty popular in the community. She would always mispronounce the word berserk. It always came out bersek! The children loved her!
A moment of drama occurred on another one of my days off when a part-time worker began having an affair with someone's husband. The wronged wife came marching into the library on a Saturday morning and grabbed her by the throat, shoving her against a wall. She was dragged away by the police.
Many great people who came into the library and I loved discussing books and authors with them. My biggest test of personal knowledge of mysteries came with "Doris". She was an avid reader and challenged me to find her new books and new authors. She constantly told the director, that the book budget should consist of 90% mystery novels and the other 10% kids and non-fiction books.
My most embarrassing moment when I first started there and I was instructed to make phone calls to patrons to remind the about their overdue books. I went down the list of phone numbers diligently making each call and asking the patron if they were aware that "such & such book" was overdue. I dialed a number and an old man answered the telephone. He was very very old. I went into my spiel about the overdue book and before I thought about it, I had told him that the name of the book was "NO MORE HOT FLASHES". There was a long pause on the other end of the line and he finally said, I think that you have the wrong number.
I worked in libraries during my student years and I absolutely loved it. When I moved to Missouri, the opportunity to work at a library never came and I missed it terribly.
Now days, I imagine that the reference librarian is busy in a different way. In the age of the computer, most people can find their own information. Those quirky questions might never be asked in person again. Despite some of the personal difficulties of the patrons who came into the library, I loved to research obscure facts and and events for them.
I used to read several books a day from the time that I was 6 years old. It has only been in the past two years, that reading ceased to become like breathing for me. Upon reflection, every day is a research day on the web for me.
As adults we have trade-offs on our time. I have always found the time to read. I read so fast, that one book was not enough for me, I would need to read another one and another.
Someday, those books will be read and enjoyed by me. But my grandchildren have taken a special place in my heart and I don't want to miss a precious moment of their growing up.
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Walking the Fence Line
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Fixing fence is the one of the hardest jobs on a ranch. I no longer live on a ranch, but I do know what hard work is. Fences are everyone's concern, but nowadays,the "hole" is always your neighbor's side not your own. It used to be that you would respect your neighbor and mend the fence together. If their cows got in your field, a simple phone call resolved the problem. You might even saddle up your own horse and help them gather them up. We need more people who are willing to roll their sleeves up and fix the fence regardless of who your neighbor is. There are people in this country who need to be reminded that a fence is like the way you should conduct your life. Your posts should be straight and neat. The wire needs to be stretched tight and your gate might be closed, but can still be easily opened. And most of all, we can all saddle up together and ride the range, it won't matter if you have an Appaloosa, Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred. The cows still have to be gathered, fences have to be fixed, and the range is a wide open space of opportunity for us all.