Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I'm Well Known for My Discretion

There's attorney/client privelege. You've got your doctor/patient confidentiality. Secrets told in the confessional are shared only with the priest and, presumably, God.

My job's like that too.

Some say people's innermost truths are revealed by unconscious non-verbal cues or the friends they choose or the clothes they wear. A far more revealing and fascinating barometer is their choice of library materials, a private matter shared only with a discreet Circulation Clerk (and, of course, God, and whoever else is in position to apply the Patriot Act to one's library records).

One of our regular patrons is a friendly old fellow with a taste for car repair manuals and World War II aviation history. Inevitably mixed in with those obvious totems of manhood, however, have been a steady stream of titles along the lines of Reclaim Your Virility and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Erectile Dysfunction. One might begin to suspect his interest in war stories and spark plugs is more of a decoy or overcompensation if one were dabbling in Freudian psychoanalysis, as I assuredly am not.

Another interesting case is the meek, demure, slightly overweight young Hispanic woman who for the last several months has been renewing her copy of The Kama Sutra along with reserving the complete works of Sue Johanson. The fact that she also cultivates an abiding curiosity for all materials related to the Virgin Mary is a matter perhaps best resolved between her and her priest, but I too am there to serve her informational needs.

I'm most fascinated by a middle-aged gentleman who for at least a year and a half has been reserving every possible How to Write and Publish Your Novel-type book in our library system, not to mention loading up on dozens of interlibrary loans on that topic. The interesting thing, though, is seeing what other types of materials he checks out. Judging by the detailed manuals on explosives, the psychological treatises on criminal minds, and other lurid titles, I assume he's working on a gritty, realistic crime novel. However, there will be other weeks when he'll have dozens of books on medieval Persian love poetry or a pile of anatomy/physiology textbooks. So far I've beaten down my insanely curious compulsion to just blurt out, "What the hell are you writing about, man?! I have to know!"

This brings up another concern with which I often struggle. Namely, when is it appropriate for me to comment on the materials that a patron is looking for or having me check out? About 98% of the time I just keep things quick, professional, and comment-free. I often try to obviously avoid even looking at a patron's materials, particularly if they're along the lines of Herpes and You or A Girl's Guide to Menstruation or anything by Ann Coulter. Sometimes, though, I just can't help it. If anybody ever checks out "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" or a novel by T.C. Boyle or a Lucinda Williams CD, I try to give them my most sincere expression and a mostly discreet comment along the lines of, "Oh man, this totally rules." I've haven't yet had anybody say, "Hey, get your damn prying eyes off my books, nosy man!" I'd like to think they might even appreciate a cool guy like me ratifying their good taste.

On the other hand, there is something sacred about the quiet discretion of an anonymous, comment-free transaction of this sort, especially if the above T.C.Boyle fan is going to have to come back next week to pick up How to Deal with 1001 Embarassing Itches. With that in mind, I really have to finish that master's degree before the automated checkout machines put me out of a job.

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"Libraries are brothels for the mind. Which means that librarians are the madams, greeting punters, understanding their strange tastes and needs, and pimping their books."

--Guy Browning

2 Comments:

Blogger Adjective Queen said...

Great quote, DoOL! I've always wondered how Circ clerks were able to keep their curiosity in check while processing customer reserves. I shudder to think what kind of discussion my latest lot of reserves have sparked.

6:12 AM  
Blogger Tara (aka) Fu Manchu said...

I'm totally jealous of your blog. It's just so good and funny. Mine is going downhill fast, which is crazy, because I already started at the bottom. It must be that my blog has decided to visit Hel, and be eaten up and reborn as something better. Well, we'll see. I tried out putting in a link today -- to your blog. If anybody *ever* visits my blog (which it doesn't look like they will) then maybe you'll get an extra hit or or. I dunno. But keep me inspired!

9:05 AM  

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