Saturday, May 6, 2017

The returners

At my library there is a little door in a wall in the front lobby. It is just big enough to fit a large book. Above this door is a sign that says "Book Return". One places a book in front of the door and it automatically opens. One puts the book inside and a moving belt whisks it away on a Disneyland-like journey, or a Modern Times-like journey, or a Willy Wonka-like journey, up to near the ceiling, through hidden darkness, out across the roof of the work room, where it turns and then heads back down a steep, belt covered drop I like to think of as "The Waterfall". There the book continues into the main body of our check in machine where it is automatically checked in and sorted. This book return door is where all of our patrons in the library return their materials.

Except when they don't.

There are a lot of reasons for patrons not to return in that lobby door. I would describe most of those reasons as bad, a few, at best, as mediocre, and, grudgingly, a couple, as sensible.

The sensible or mediocre reasons include the door not opening, the patron personally wanting to show us a problem with the item, wanting to pay late charges on the item right away, or even a new user's confusion as to where to return things. Bad reasons include wanting to "make sure" the item is properly checked in, not wanting machines to take our jobs, or because someone was returning items in front of them and they got tired of waiting. 

Today, when I first went out to the front desk I was handed two CDs and given a new bad reason for returning to me at the desk that I'd never heard before. The woman said "I didn't want to put these items on the machine because they open."

I try to keep a level head and a certain amount of indulgence when it comes to what amounts to the minor peccadilloes of our library patrons. So, as I accepted these items, I only thought, and did not say "All of our items open. That is how one gets at what's inside."

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