How To Library

If you didn’t know, September is Library Card Sign-up Month.

This is the instructional/refresher I wish I could do for patrons because I feel like some people weren’t paying attention at all when using a library was discussed back in school and with some of the younger kids coming in, I’m wondering if that’s not one of the curriculum bits dropped due to lack of funding.

Yes. It is a bit snarky. I will not apologize for that.

Here we go. The absolute basics of How To Library:

  1. Have your library card with you if you want to check items out. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that, but it turns out the number of people who come into the library without their cards is staggering. If you lose it, let us know and we’ll replace it. If you left it at home accidentally because you switched out your purse or grabbed the wrong wallet, okay, I get that. That happens. Ways to combat forgetfulness? If your library has an app, use that. It should have your card on it. Or take a picture of your card’s barcode. We can scan that most of the time. Or we can use your ID. Don’t have your ID? What in the absolute fuck are you doing driving around then? How the hell will anyone ID your corpse when it’s found in a ditch somewhere? I do not understand you people at all.
  2. Return your items on time and undamaged. You are borrowing an item. BORROWING IT. Would you borrow something from your friend, keep it months after you agreed to give it back, and trash it in the process? If you would, I don’t want your ass in my library or as my friend. Some libraries still have fines. Mine doesn’t. That means you’re not penalized for not bringing your item back on time, but you should still endeavor to do so. If your item is going to be late, you can renew it. You might even be able to do that over the phone (we do that at our library) or online. And if something does happen to the item you’ve checked out, bring it to the circ desk and own up to it. Because we’re more likely to charge you if you ditch it in the dropbox and run away rather than showing it to us and explaining what happened to it. Think I’m lying? We’ve got a book in our collection with tired tread from a whole ass car on the title page (that person was having one hell of an interesting day). Some damage we can live with and we’ll be more likely to let you live with it too if you take responsibility.
  3. Learn your library’s shelving system. I can’t speak for every library, but when it comes to fiction, 9 times out of 10, the books are going to be shelved by author’s last name in alphabetical order. I don’t understand why this is a mystery to so many people. Non-fiction can be trickier. Some libraries still use Dewey Decimal, some don’t. Mine uses a subject based system, but guess what? The subjects are still in alphabetical order. Movies, TV shows, and music can be the same way. We organize ours by genre, but within the genres…alphabetical order. We use the alphabet a lot. It helps with finding things. Speaking of which…
  4. Learn how to use your library’s search. Some libraries may still have card catalogs. Mine doesn’t. Ours is now computer based. Either/or, spend some time learning how to use whatever your library uses. This includes any searching online in the comfort of your own home via whatever apps/sites your library might have. Our computer search can be done by title, author, keyword, etc. and then with a click you can find out the call number. We are happy to help you find whatever item your are looking for, but we are just as happy if you find that item yourself. Believe me. Our feelings will not be hurt if you find that book on your own.

The basic tips make my life as a library worker easier. These basic tips also make your life as a patron easier. Knowing where stuff is and how to find it makes the library more user-friendly and less intimidating. And that’s what we want! Of course, if you have any questions about anything in the library, ask a library worker. We will be happy to answer your questions because we want you to have a good library experience and that’s what the basics do -build a foundation for a good library experience.

I realize this is a bit of a snarky list (particularly the first two), but it’s these four things that haunt me the most. Honestly, the number of people who are indignant about the idea of having to have their library card with them to check items out is mind-boggling (the number of people rolling without their IDs more so). But I feel like a serious disservice is being done here by not properly educating people on the basics of librarying. I want to fix that.

So bring your damn library card and return your shit on time.

Sorry, That’s Not My Problem–Customer Service Edition

The other day at work, my coworker recounted an interaction she’d just had with a patron while I was away from the desk (I was on shelving duty that day and she was covering my supervisor’s lunch). She printed out a receipt for the patron -it’s low-stick paper with the due date printed on it that we can slap on the item if a patron wants it- and it got caught in the printer. It’s been doing this all summer with both receipt printers for reasons (I think it’s another disapproval sign from the ghost of Ms. Kent). It’s annoying as hell, but it takes less than 30 seconds for us to open it up and retrieve the receipt.

This happened to my coworker while she was waiting on a patron, who said, “Never mind if it’s going to take long. I’m in a hurry.” My coworker had the receipt free by the time the woman had finished her sentence, but it still bothered my coworker that the woman felt the urge to get so snippy with her about it.

When my coworker told me about the incident, I shrugged and said, “You being in a hurry is not my problem.”

My coworker was shook that I would approach the situation like that. I told her, “Your emergency is not my emergency. Your time-constraints are not my time constraints. You come in here, you’re on my time now. It takes however long it takes.”

This made an impression on my coworker because the very next day she dealt with another patron whom she was trying to help find a specific movie in what’s known as WorldCat, which covers the whole country. It can be involved. And when my coworker wasn’t finding the desired results fast enough, the woman said, “I’m in a hurry.”

My coworker later told me that she turned away from the woman, mouthed to herself “That’s not my problem”, turned back, and said, “This can take a few minutes. Would you like to come back later when you have more time?” The woman declined, my coworker finished searching for the movie (nobody has it, which baffled us both), and the woman went on her way.

She wasn’t rude, the request was completed, and the point was made.

That’s not my problem.

The thing about customer service is that customers or patrons frequently want to make their problems your problems. And I do not accept anyone else’s problems. I have enough of my own that I’m in no mood to deal with. I’m definitely not in the mood to deal with yours.

Telling me that you’re in a hurry does not make me go faster. The task takes as long as it takes and it’s eyebrow raising at how many people will tell me they’re in a hurry like that will somehow make searching for a book magically go quicker. It doesn’t. I’m looking for a title that might be wrong by an author you don’t remember. Settle in. This is going to take a beat. If you’re in a rush, come back later. No one’s life depends on you finding this book right stat now.

Likewise, I’m sorry you waited until the last minute to send this fax, but it’s not my fault that they turned their fax machine off and it’s not my problem that whatever you’re sending is going to be late. Also, I don’t care if our dollar per page fee is too high. Pay it or learn to work email. Regardless, it’s none of my concern.

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to adequate customer service; of course they are. But I think that many people do not (or don’t want to) understand that the people behind the counter can only do so much. We’re only responsible for so much. If you want better customer service, then be a better customer.

And if that pisses you off, well…

That’s not my problem.

There’s a Weight Limit on That

“I love it when girls wear white shorts.” Not if those shorts show off some cellulite. Then the best come on you can muster is a cow noise as you walk behind her.

“I love it when a girl eats.” Not if she’s got some meat on her bones and some rolls in her bakery. Then you have nothing but concern for her health that you spit out as snide comments.

“I love a girl in yoga pants.” Not if that pants size is in the double digits. Then she just looks like a slob because we all know she doesn’t actually do yoga, am I right?

When I hear comments like these which remark on a woman’s appearance (which are almost always made by a man), I automatically add the asterisk to it. Because there’s a weight limit on that comment, a footnote on it about the exceptions.

Because there are always exceptions.

Now of course these are generalized comments so they’re not necessarily supposed to include everyone. Most people are just speaking from their own attractions and I suppose there’s no harm in that. But when you take a closer look at the exclusions that apply to those statements, you start to see a pattern.

You see the weight limit.

Even people who claim to be body positive will put that kind of asterisk on their declarations.

“People can wear whatever they want.” “But are you sure you really want to wear that?”

“People can eat whatever they want.” “But are you sure you really want to eat that? All of it?”

These asterisks are so internalized that we don’t even notice them. It’s not something anyone has to say out loud. It’s just automatically understood that these statements don’t apply to those of us over the max weight. And, yes, we even apply those asterisks to ourselves.

These terms and conditions are established by society and just by being born into it, we click accept. Not that we would probably read them anyway. But they are pretty insidious. We agree to look a certain way and be a certain way. And when we violate those terms, we get removed from the privileges the agreement provides us. No seconds for us. Not without further consequences.

Sometimes I feel the urge to call out these comments. To point out the weight limit and watch the scramble to defend or justify or dismiss it. “You’re too sensitive!” Do you not see all of the asterisks spilling out of your mouth? They’re covering the floor like jacks. Have you ever stepped on a jack?! You’d be feeling sensitive, too. Downright sore, even. That shit is harmful.

People don’t like to be called to the carpet over things like that, the internalized bits of societal rhetoric that they blindly adhere too without questioning. They don’t like to think about the harm that they’ve been inflicting on others -or on themselves. They don’t like to take responsibility for a wrong they didn’t realize they were committing.

And that’s why their scales tip when I wear the white shorts.

Max weight indeed.

I Cannot Absorb Anymore Bad, Thank You

There are times when everything is bad. The whole world is bad. The news is nothing but bad. The personal circumstances of existence are bad. The pettiest of petties are bad. The smallest, most insignificant things are bad.

And it is in those times that my psyche sponge cannot absorb anymore and I have to be done for a while. I need to ring out, dry out, so I can once again face the bad of my continued existence.

On those days, I opt out.

“But, Christin!” you cry, “that’s a privileged thing to do!”

You know what, fine. I don’t care. I claim my privilege to opt out for a day or two when I can no longer wade through the shit that floods this reality. As someone who is no stranger to unaliving thoughts, I prefer not to actively court hopelessness. And sometimes, I need to step away for a breath or two of fresh air to do that.

It is not wise to expect me (or anyone else) to be able to function like the world is not heavy during the moments that the world is actually crushing us. Sometimes it’s all too much –knowing is too much, feeling is too much, being is too much- and quite frankly, I’d much rather lie of the floor and hope to become one with the carpet. How am I supposed to go to work when the world’s on fire? How am I supposed to look forward to anything when my rights are being taken away? When other people’s rights are being taken away? How am I supposed to carry on like everything is normal when it’s not? How am I supposed to be a good little cog in the capitalist machine when I absolutely don’t want to turn because the turning is pointless? How in the fuck am I supposed to continue when I know that the people who could actually make a difference in all of this have absolutely no interest in doing so and it’s somehow my fault that they don’t because I didn’t vote hard enough or something?

“Christin, you’re being dramatic!”

Well, call me a theatrical bitch then. Because sometimes it feels like that. Sometimes it is like that. I know that I’m not exempt and I resent the fact there’s anything to be exempt from. It’s quite frankly bullshit and whoever is in charge needs to fix it. But they won’t. We all know they won’t. They have too much to gain and keep hold of by not fixing things. By letting the status quo remain and soothingly cooing to us that it’s actually fine, situation normal.

I would love to give the bigger picture the finger and get lost in the minutiae of life. To go through life acting as though none of it will touch me. That it doesn’t pertain to me.

But it does. I’m aware of it and I can’t stop being aware of it.

I can only hope to tune it out for a bit periodically so I can ring myself out.

Because there’s always more bad for me to absorb.

Stop Infringing On My Right To Be Cranky

Blame it on hormones, my brain’s inability to chemical correctly, or getting up on the wrong side of the bed, but sometimes I’m just cranky.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Make no mistake. I’m not a fan of being cranky. I don’t like existing in the realm in which my senses are heightened to the extent that I can hear you scratching your arm across the room and it makes me want to puncture my eardrums and then you. I don’t like having days in which everything, without fail, pisses me the fuck off.

But I have made peace with the fact that I will have those days. And I need you to accept that, too.

I try very hard not to take my crankiness out on others. This is why more people are not walking around punctured. I try to regulate my words and my eye rolls and my heavy sighs and my tone. I do not always succeed. Sometimes I snap at people despite my best efforts. Even though I am cranky, I try to keep that to myself. My crankiness should be no one’s hang-up but mine.

However.

There seems to be a miscommunication here. People tend to conflate my attempts to not expose them to my crankiness as an invitation to exacerbate it. And then get mad when I whip the shit out of them with my last nerve.

When I encounter someone in my life who is cranky, I leave them alone. Their crankiness has nothing to do with me. Even if it’s only perceived on my part, I’m going to err on the side of caution and give that person some space. Because I don’t want to make their mood worse.

I find it baffling that not everyone feels this way.

I may try to keep my crankiness to myself as much as possible, but even on the days I warn people of my crankiness, to let them know to steer clear, they steer closer. And then get angry with me when I fail to keep my mood in check for their benefit.

There’s this odd idea that unpleasant emotions are not to be had. That people are not entitled to have bad days or off days or just be plain ol’ cranky. That anything that makes a person less accessible is unfair and offensive. That to be in anyway off-putting is a crime, even if only for a day. People insist upon that accessibility from others no matter what their mood or mental state, but then get uptight when people insist upon that same accessibility from them during their cranky days. The same people I leave alone are the ones who pester the shit out of me. And then act shocked when I finally snap at them.

That’s the really wild part of all of this. I can expressly state that I’m in a mood and it would be in everyone’s best interest to leave me alone until the black clouds pass. Yet, when that warning is ignored and that boundary violated, feelings get hurt and I’m the one in the wrong.

But being cranky is my right.

Happy Holidays and All That Jazz

If you’re one of those people who insist that it’s “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays”, then I want to let you in on a little secret.

People in customer service, particularly retail, hate you. Straight up loathe.

Here’s why.

“It’s ‘Merry Christmas’, not ‘Happy Holidays'” is never not said in anything but a condescending, snotty tone. And let me tell you, customer service people love that tone. Probably because we get a lot of it. But it’s so special at this time of year. Really holly fucking jolly.

Furthermore, you’ve chosen the most stressful time of year in which we are already straining to maintain any shred of professionalism to debate theology with us. Now is not the time to pretend that your Christianity is under attack and you’re being oppressed. You’re buying overpriced electronics and toys your children will break in a few months, you’re not being martyred. Instead, you’re aggravating an underpaid employee who’s probably already dealt with six of you that shift. There are something like 25 holidays and observances in December. Yours is not special just because it’s been commercialized.

Now, I can’t speak for all customer service employees, but I can speak from my own experience when I say that I’ve never been told that I MUST say “Happy Holidays”. And I’d wager sick time that I’m in the majority on that one. Except I’m part-time and I don’t get sick time.

My own “Happy Holidays” rule is very simple: I say to you what you say to me. That’s right. I’m a parrot. If you say “Happy Holidays”, that’s what I say. If you say “Merry Christmas”, that’s what I say. And if you don’t say jack shit, then I tell you to have a good night and get on with my life. I no longer make an effort to “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” anyone anymore because one too many people took my holiday cheer as an offense.

Which is really the point of this whole post.

There’s a whole song about how this is the most wonderful time of the year, but some people have decided it’s only THEIR time of the year and they will ruin it for the rest of us because we refuse to accept that. Sadly these nativity scene erectors don’t seem to realize that the whole “good will toward men” thing includes them as givers as well as receivers and there’s no exemption just because they monetized a holiday that was created by cannibalizing the rituals and celebrations of other religions.

So keep in mind the next time you insist that it’s “Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays” the person you’re insisting that to would much rather tell you to go fuck yourself instead.

Ho ho ho.

What I Mean When I Say I Don’t Have the Energy

The library has a holiday outing every year. We go out to dinner at one of the local places and then we go to the CH Moore Homestead for the candlelight tour of the mansion. It’s really pretty. We did it the first year that I worked for the library. Last year’s was cancelled due to Covid. This year we’re going again.

I’m not going. I don’t have the energy.

When I say this, people assume that means I’m tired and how can I possibly be tired weeks in advance? That’s ridiculous! Come on! You should go! It’ll be so much fun!

First of all, never pester me about something. It will activate my spite and that’s a great way to make sure I never do it.

Second of all, I’ve been tired since 1994. It’s a permanent condition at this point.

And lastly, what I mean when I say that I don’t have the energy is that I don’t have the energy necessary to do sufficient battle with my anxiety and/or depression in order to allow myself to have a good time.

I’m using this specific example of the library’s holiday outing because as I’ve written many times, this is my least favorite time of the year. It tends to be hectic. Even not having to split my time between multiple family holiday gatherings anymore, I still find myself stressed out over presents and baking and cards and mailing. This is the time of year that my mental illnesses can be more affected due to that whole lack of daylight thing combined with the need to go out more.

Even during with ideal conditions, my energy reserves in December are low.

But I’ve spent the last year plus in a pandemic, keeping up with the changing library policies regarding Covid safety and arguing with people who walk past THREE signs that say masks are required because they don’t want to wear a mask.

I barely have enough energy to get through the requirements of my day. I do not have the energy to do anything extra.

Some people refer to this as not having enough spoons. If that is the metaphor you require to understand me, then that is the one I’ll use. I have no extra spoons. I rarely have any at this time of year. I’d say they get lost in the dishwasher, but we don’t have one.

I know some people feel like this is bullshit. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a full-time job (and if my job at the library was full-time, it’s minimum wage, so it wouldn’t count as a real job anyway). In their opinion, there’s nothing depleting my energy. I should have a plethora of spoons. I’m just lazy.

And to them, I say…I am, as a rule, fucking exhausting to deal with. Even in small doses. Imagine putting up with me all the damn time.

In conclusion, I have no extra energy to accommodate any more requests at this time. Thank you.

I’m Not Paid to Be Nice

As someone who’s spent most of their working life employed in minimum wage customer service jobs, I feel there’s some insights that I can offer about the industry, particularly retail.

Here’s a very important one.

I’m not paid to be nice.

This is a very common misconception that most likely took hold due to the popularization of the inaccurate and unofficial policy that the customer is always right.

For the record, they’re not. There will never be a wronger group of humans to ever shamble through a set of automatic doors. Embrace that truth and the rest is easy.

But for those customers who continue to insist that they’re always right, allow me to explain what I mean when I say that I’m not paid to be nice.

The objective in customer service is to obviously serve the customer. In that we are trained to be professional and to be courteous. Not nice. Being professional is following protocols and policies and solving customer issues as efficiently as possible. Courteous is using your manners. Nice is being pleasing and agreeable. I’m paid to do the first two. The third is a bonus. It’s not owed to you. And it will definitely not be bestowed upon you if you choose to be an abusive yahoo.

See, I can totally do my job without being nice. I can be professional and courteous without being nice. I can also be professional and courteous while you’re being a raging whirlwind of entitlement about whatever has displeased you and make “I’m sorry” sound like “fuck you” without being overtly rude. I don’t have to call you the result of an illicit love affair between a drunken used dildo sniffer and a scabie-infested two-dollar drama queen, but I can certainly get that point across when I say “Have a nice day” as you storm out.

Do you see what I’m saying here?

Because the people who believe that the customer is always right also seem to believe that the customer is also right to abuse the employees. Now, here’s the thing…and I really want you to consider this…when you get on your entitled customer is always right horse and go charging across that battlefield to get your whims whimmed, you’re typically engaging with the lowest level employees in the establishment. We control absolutely nothing. Your attitude is wasted. We don’t care. Fuck off.

There’s also the little thing of being a raging troglodyte that guarantees that we will not be nearly as helpful as we can be. We will give you the bare minimum of what it takes to get you out of the building. And you swearing that you’ll never return is our wish that you never really grant us. Because you always come back.

This sort of tomfuckery has been amplified with the advent of anti-maskers. Nobody throws a fit like a grown ass toddler told that it’s an establishment’s policy to wear a mask while inside of said establishment. To save anyone further embarrassment, allow me to clarify: if an establishment says that you need to wear a Santa hat to enter, you’d better be be saying “Ho ho ho” when you walk through the door. It’s the same reason you’re wearing shoes and your naughty bits are covered upon entry (though I will admit some folks even argue that).

The pandemic has definitely made tempers shorter and that’s not just the customers. It’s the employees, too. We’ve been dealing with high volumes of abusive bullshit lately. We’re to the point that not only are we not paid to be nice, but we’re willing to take a pay cut not to be courteous, even though we should get a raise for dealing with such a constant flow of exasperating humans.

So just remember that if you wouldn’t tolerate three minutes of someone screaming in your face for $7.25, don’t expect that employee you’re screaming at to do it for $7.25 an hour.

‘Cause we’re not paid to be nice.

And nowadays, you might just get your shit rocked.

I Am Not Tolerant

You know how that roundabout goes.

You call out some jackass with a bigot complex for their blatant hate-braying and they get cute and say “You’re not being very tolerant.”

Well, joke’s on you, sport. I’m not tolerant.

Tolerance implies putting up with something or someone. But I’m not putting up with a bigot’s shit anymore than I’m putting up with, say, a trans person’s existence. I am not tolerant.

I am accepting.

I accept a trans person’s existence. I accept a non-white person’s reality of dealing with racism. I accept my fellow bisexuals’ experience of bi-erasure. I accept an immigrant’s existence. I accept a non-bianary person’s pronouns. I accept the realities that the poor in this country experience. I accept the need for body autonomy. I accept the existence and experiences of the disabled. I accept the neurodivergent. I accept furries.

I also accept those who choose to be bigoted. I accept those who invoke a religious exemption from kindness. I accept those who deny their privilege while also wielding it in a harmful way. I accept those who prioritize their convenience and comfort over the health and well-being of others.

And I treat them all accordingly.

I accept the reality and truths that are presented to me.

Because I am accepting, not tolerant.

I accept that you want to be a hateful waste of space and I will not allow you in mine. I accept that you had a wide variety of personalities to choose from and you chose to be as unpleasant as possible and that choice is incompatible with my personality. I accept that you chose to be a piece of shit and I will scrape you from my shoe as needed.

Because I am accepting, not tolerant.

I don’t have to put up with your “opposing views”. I don’t have to put up with your wrong-ass opinions. I don’t have to put up with your conspiracy theories and mangled facts and warped religious beliefs and anti-science screeds typed up on a science machine. I don’t have to put up with your hate and violence and general tomfuckery.

I don’t have to put up with any of it.

Because I’m accepting, not tolerant.

Keep that in mind the next time you want to get cute.

Schrodinger’s Fatphobe

Last week some unfortunate DNA construct posted this embarrassingly bad take on Twitter. And as absolutely fetid as it is, it’s not at all an anomaly.

You see this sort of hostile bullshit is actually pretty typical. Now, I went into it in a Twitter thread when this bebop posted this, but I’m going to do it here again for easy reference, thoroughness, and posterity.

Dollars to donuts says that this human equivalent of megaphone feedback would also trip over themselves to tell a fat person they saw in public that they need to “put down the fork and get in the gym.” And yet, should a fat person have the audacity to utilize gym facilities for the purpose of fitness, well, it’s too fucking late and what the fuck are they doing there aside from embarrassing themselves.

This is Schrodinger’s Fatphobe.

You need to stop being fat, but also how dare you try to stop being fat.

You see the main problem this person has, that all fatphobes have, that most people who wouldn’t even call themselves fatphobic, but it’s a rhetoric so baked into society that no one can avoid it have is that fat people should not be seen in any context. Period. Society absolutely wants you to not be fat, but even in that context they want you to fix the moral failing that is your excessive weight in the solitude of your own home or some forgotten cave until you are fit to re-enter society a beautiful butterfly freed of your fat cocoon. Should you choose to remain a squishy caterpillar of a person, then it’s your own fault for daring to allow your existence to encroach upon public spaces and you deserve the ridicule you get.

Do you not see the conundrum?

Fat people exist. We exist in public. And we exist in various states of health with various fitness and/or weight loss goals. Some choose to pursue their goals in a gym. Some people take that walk around the block that fatphobes are so eager to insist upon. And some have no interest in this sort of thing, they simply leave their houses from time to time to do things, and that’s fine, too.

The point is that at no time do any of us need to be exposed to whatever dogshit opinions a fatphobe might be steaming in that rotten cantaloupe of a head of theirs. Shutting the fuck up is free and minding your business comes at no charge.

Let that last bit be a general reminder.

***

Full disclosure: My 255 pound self exercises, but I do not go to the gym. This has nothing to do with the worry about encountering some fatphobe with mouth-control issues. As you can see, I also have mouth-control issues. Somebody’s gonna cry and it ain’t gonna be me.

No, I don’t go to the gym because leaving the house to exercise gives me one more excuse not to exercise on the days I’m feeling unmotivated. It’s a hell of a lot easier for me to force myself to put on the ol’ sports bra if that’s ALL I have to do. Gotta work with your laziness, kids.