Saturday, November 29, 2014

Suitable Punishments

These are the secrets we librarians will not tell you.

It takes a very particular sort of person to be attracted to the proud profession of Librarian, the sort of person, for example, who naturally gravitates towards draconian rules and finicky organization systems. Librarians who may be fun-loving and slightly disorganized people at home become dictators when it comes to library rules. We process the books just so. We follow these procedures in just this way. We do not deviate. Ever.

It shocks and amazes us that other people can use the library with such callous disregard for the rules. When people return our books – our books, mind you! – in poor shape or several weeks late, we judge them. We sit in silent censure, dreaming of suitable punishments…

We dream that someday, when we are in charge, people who underline in their library books will be marked. It will be an unflattering tattoo, in a prominent place, and so their sins shall be known to all.

We bristle at the people who place twenty holds on books that are in, forcing us to hunt for them on the shelves before the library opens in the morning, and we imagine telling these people they can only have the books if they can cross the room with all twenty balanced on their heads.

We debate the proper penance for people who dog-ear pages: Do we make them walk a mile, doubled over with wrists tied to ankles OR give them an unflattering haircut?

We seethe at the people who circle all the items in the I Spy books and we picture them locked in a windowless room wall-papered with Where's Waldo pages. We’ll tell them they get to come out when they find the purple hat. (We do not tell them there may or may not actually BE a purple hat.)

We may pray our immune systems hold as we greet the obviously contagious people, the coughing people, the people with sick children who should have stayed home, but inside we imagine such people being dunked in sanitizing solution and made to breath deep.

We imagine telling people who use something gross as a bookmark that it's fine. We'll even take it out for them if they forget to do so before they turn in the book. But they have to eat that bookmark.

When people don't put the audiobook CDs back in the case in the proper order, we want those people to know: We are coming to your house. We are taking every individual thing you own - every single item - and putting each one in its own unlabeled box. And we'll stack the boxes in your garage. In no particular order.

We curse people who complain about small late fees, curse them to NEVER have exact change for any transaction EVER AGAIN, curse them to a lifetime of asking “Can you break a larger bill?” and being told they’ll have to wait for management approval, and we dream of the day, not far off, when our curses will WORK.

We dream of a dystopian future where we sit in prominent thrones at the races where inconsiderate people – such as those who checkout bestsellers and keep them for THREE MONTHS even though there are WAITING LISTS and the other patrons COMPLAIN – are made to run twice around a large and dusty track as they are chased by rather small but exceedingly angry dogs with shrill, yipping barks and with very pointy teeth.

We believe in the just and perfect world we will shape, of the favors we will grant to our favorite patrons (the nice ones, who either return their books on time or promptly pay their late fees). We continue to smile as we serve the guilty and innocent alike, but you will know if you look into our eyes that we are dreaming (silently, because this is a library after all) secret dreams of suitable punishments.

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