Thursday, May 30, 2019

Overdue Book Blues

The other day I walked up the alley next to our house and found the wild foxglove in fine form, next to our unused barbecue grill and some extra rubbish bins. We almost never even enter this part of the yard, so it's always a special surprise to find such a beautiful plant, growing all on its own. There's barely any soil -- just a crack in the pavement -- but a foxglove has appeared here almost every year since we moved in.

It's only Thursday, and I didn't even work Monday, but this already feels like the longest week in the year. At work, literally everything is making me cranky.

For one thing, all the kids are doing projects and papers and they're coming in a steady stream to my desk to borrow computer chargers. The monotony of checking out computer chargers makes me crazy. I really can't explain why, but it does. Sometimes the same kids come back twice in one day, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from challenging them about whether they really need to charge their computer again so soon and WHY DON'T THEY JUST BRING THEIR OWN CHARGER TO SCHOOL?!?!

I realize this is completely irrational because I'm paid to check out chargers along with books. Chargers are just so boring, and because the kids can't keep them out overnight, there's a lot of churn. And I suppose, to me, they seem symptomatic of the younger generation's sad technology dependence and obsession.

It's also the time of year when I'm trying to get all our materials back, and this always seems like a Herculean task. I've set the computer to send daily e-mails about overdue books -- and pretty much everything is overdue at this point -- but a lot of students don't even read their e-mail. So I also have to lock down everyone's library account -- no summer checkouts until they've brought back their stuff. Coercion, basically. (We don't charge overdue fees.)

The fifth and sixth graders are away on school trips, so yesterday I combed through their classrooms and lockers and I found four armloads of books, all overdue. One of them was months overdue, and had been the subject of discussion between me and the kid in question. WHY ON EARTH, if it was in his locker, DIDN'T HE JUST BRING IT BACK TO ME RIGHT AWAY?!?!

Another kid still has a book that was due in January. He doesn't know where it is. His account has been suspended for months and I have been in back-and-forth communication with the parents to get the problem resolved. Problem is, nothing happens. I suspect the parents are trying to get him to pay for it himself, but honestly, I just need a solution. I am running out of time.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- librarians have a reputation for being cranky, and I completely understand why. It's because people just don't do what they're supposed to do. Perhaps it's quixotic to even expect it. Humans are messy by nature.

On the plus side, I had a high schooler come to me yesterday looking for book recommendations for summer reading. That almost never happens. He went away with four books, a few classics and a few lighter reads, and that made me feel helpful, at least.


  1. possibly they are charging and using instead of charging when switched off..
    and the one with the overdue book doesn't know how to handle returning it and is scared of being told off....

    on another point have you thought of reviewing comments before publishing? the spam comment above has been appearing on quite a few blogs

  2. I'm not going to comment on your grumpiness because I'm sure in real life you are not like that, lol but I am going to say that the Foxglove is beautiful. I would love these in the Bijou Garden but I think they are toxic to cats.

  3. If it was easy to buy guns in England, I suspect that a school shooting would have already happened in St John's wood. The perpetrator would not have been a computer-game-crazed teenage loner but a respectable fifty something gentleman - a lover of books, seedlings, squirrels and stuff that other people throw away. When forced into the waiting police van he would have been heard yelling. "I TOLD THEM THEIR BOOKS WERE OVERDUE!"

  4. Yes, your frustration is showing and I share your somewhat jaundiced view of certain sections of the human race! But this is your blog and you have our permission to vent anytime you want to. And us readers can all reply, as we gently pat the back of your hand, "Yes, we hear you. There, there now. This too will pass." LOL

  5. This must be SO frustrating. Kids. Although I seriously doubt that adults would be much better.
    And then it will be summer and won't that be a relief?
    Your foxglove is so hearty looking.

  6. I think every job has some very negative aspects. Chasing down books is not a nice part of being a librarian. But i know you'll get most of it back.

  7. Foxglove grows all over the Pacific Northwest. We are always impressed at the design inside the flower. When they get sun they're huge - 5 feet sometimes. Trying to get other people to do anything is frustrating.

  8. I had no idea that a librarian's job was so fraught with frustration. It's a good thing there are kids who come looking for good books to read over summer. Balances all the rest. It amazes me how plants will rise up almost anywhere, resilient with a beautiful passion to live.

  9. I'm happy for the youngster who WANTS to do some summer reading. Love the hearty foxglove.

  10. LOL, i think your school has the exact right person in the job of tracking down missing books. The foxglove is beautiful, all the more so for its hardiness.

  11. Oh, so you're becoming one of THOSE librarians, are you? Perhaps you'd better spend more time in the alley, communicating with the foxglove. :^>

  12. Even the most patient person would be driven to distraction by those behaviors. The teen years are, I think, the worst for that kind of thing. They are past the stage when they want to please adults, they can't yet keep focussed on anything, and their hormones are making them crazy :) There's a reason why parents and their teens often clash, and it's got a lot to do with those three things. Once we stop expecting adult behavior from them, it's easier to just work around it - as you found by collecting the books yourself. My complete sympathy, and may I just remind you that blogging is therapeutic. lol

    The foxglove is beautiful. Gotta love something beautiful that thrives in the cracks in the cement. Except for bad stuff like Japanese knotweed. Ha ha

  13. I don't think it's fair to get annoyed with the kids needing the chargers when it's the teachers that require all papers and schoolwork be done on computers. of course, they could be playing games instead of doing their work. I love foxglove but they are annuals here. sometimes I plant them, sometimes not. and hang in there, school is almost done and you won't have to deal with the library for months.

  14. GZ: I find it easier to just allow commenting and then delete the spam. I usually don't let it stay very long! Yes, I'm sure you're right that the kids with lost or overdue books are just afraid of being scolded. I try not to scold, but to be positive when they take care of the problem.

    Briony: Yes, foxglove is apparently quite poisonous, to people too.

    YP: Well, I'm not quite THAT cranky.

    David: Nothing is permanent, right? Especially a bad mood. Fortunately!

    Ms Moon: I would have even LESS patience with adults! Part of what makes me crazy is when I go to the parents to solve a problem and and they fail to promptly act!

    Red: Yeah, it's not like the kids WANT to keep these books. They're just not remembering to bring them back!

    Allison: They ARE beautiful inside! The bees like them, too.

    Robin: A huge part of working in a library is trying to get people to do (or not do) things -- return books or be quiet or not eat or any one of a number of things. You can imagine that leads to frustration!

    Colette: Me too! I was so happy to help him out.

    37P: It IS weirdly challenging. I kind of get a kick out of it. It's like being presented with a problem and working out a solution.

    Catalyst: Ha! We ALL become one of THOSE librarians. It's the nature of the job!

    Jenny-O: Yeah, I have to remind myself what I was like as a teenager. I think I was pretty careful with library books, but I definitely remember being loud/disruptive with my friends when we were all in a group.

    Ellen: Oh, it's not fair at all! I totally admit that. There IS a fair amount of game-playing going on, though, at least at break time. They used to get together in big groups and play Fortnite, though I haven't seen that recently. Foxgloves here are biennials, although sometimes they keep coming up beyond two years. I don't know whether this one in the alley is a new plant every few years or the same plant over and over.