Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Library Tourism

Among the regular visitors to our small library is an extremely friendly elderly couple, probably no more than 130 to 140 years old each. The husband and wife both have the miniature, elfin appearance of incognito leprechauns, cleverly disguised in thrift store coats and ill-fitting overalls. They are just pudgy enough to pass for Mr. and Mrs. Claus on an off-season scouting mission for naughty kids to strike from their gift list (in which case they've no doubt found a quota-filling selection here).

In reality they fall into one of my favorite categories of library visitors: the Tourists. These particular ancient travelers are on a county-wide circuit, stopping in at each of our system's 17 branches every few days in their beat-to-hell, once luxurious, mid-70's, 8-cylinder road yacht, the backseat of which is no doubt littered with used bookmarks and yellowed, crumpled library receipts.

In all seriousness, I swear the Husband/Elf/Tourist literally has a twinkle in his eye each time he stops by the front desk to drop off a load of materials from the previous library on their tour. I always like to ask them where they're headed next before they give an obligatory, slightly sad mention of how nice our little library is. I'm well aware this is one of the more grim stops on the circuit, thanks to our cramped vintage 1950s shelves, depressingly peeling formica surfaces, and generally surly front desk staff.

Recently the Days of Our Library Executive Editorial, Writing and Marketing Staff took a brief but extremely welcome vacation of our own to the extreme southwestern corner of this state. This is a bleak, half-civilized destination on the prairie where it still appears that a buffalo stampede or Old West shootout could occur at any moment. Naturally, I was greatly looking forward to checking out the library situation in this isolated zone.

The one I wandered into was actually depressingly sweet. Somehow even the backwoods yokels of West Bumblefool have endowed their public library about ten times more nicely than the one in which I currently man the front desk. After a few minutes of checking out the facilities and trying to ramp down my professional jealousy, I talked to my Bizarro counterpart at their front desk to get the lowdown on the local situation. I love introducing myself as one of the Elite Brotherhood of Library Professionals and getting the insider treatment; it's like wielding a Masonic ring or giving the secret handshake at a Skull and Bonesy club. Except super-nerdy.

I learned that folks come from miles around, even from across the Texas state border dozens of miles away, to use this cool little library. For a mere ten bucks a year, anybody can get a card and reap the rewards of their very decent collection and speedy internet connection. As I was getting all idealistic and picturing this place as the total cultural oasis of the southwestern prairie and reflecting on how a good library really mirrors the values of its community, I also noticed one of the popular community programs this library offers its visitors, prominently advertised:

"For Women Only: Hands-On Firearm Safety Classes--Three Nights a Week"

So I figured they probably have their own issues with keeping the library quiet in the evenings, just like we do.

6 Comments:

Blogger queenbee said...

After reading your entry, I'm lead to believe that politics have played a part in why your library has not had any renovations in over 50 years. Having worked in that building, I know firsthand how frustrating it is to see other facilities that are much nicer and serve less people. I wonder if the clientele have something to do with it also. I'm sure if that library was in another part of the city, it would have been renovated way back when. I live in a town much smaller and our public library is great. Get your customers to protest!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Adjective Queen said...

Super nerdy, indeed! I love to visit libraries when I'm out of town and introduce myself as a fellow professional. How their eyes light up. How thrilled they are to talk about their cataloging procedures.

Queenbee, I wish the customers would rise up and stage some kind of coup, but their eyes are too fixed on the internet screens. Maybe if the power went down for days on end, they'd discover just how antiquated the library is. But as long as those computers are working, it's a lost cause.

11:42 AM  
Blogger GypsyFolklorist said...

Ah an oasis in an otherwise desert of ingorance. That is how the library in my small home town was. Except I don't reall actually having a library until I was in middle school. The funny thing is - the library only had two computers and the rest of the somatic collection consisted of used Nora Robert's paperbacks. Yay - for small town that actually have books!!

4:01 PM  
Blogger craftyminx said...

I think I channeled you on my most recent post. It has a certain DoOL feel to it. I've never been in a small town public library, I should try out library tourism sometime.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Zena said...

LMAO! Luv ur descriptions! But aren't you slated to get a 'home improvement' in the near future? Zena

3:55 PM  
Blogger Zena said...

P.S. Classes on handgun safety is 'invaluable'! Smart people.

3:58 PM  

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