Saturday, October 13, 2018
Our weird request
After all these decades working at a library there are few common behaviors of our patrons that still surprise me. But after so many years, after encountering it probably a thousand times, this one still throws me. It goes something like this:
A patron calls to renew a book. I say "Sure, I just need the barcode number off your library card."
And they are stunned. Breathless. Completely flabbergasted.
They never in a million years imagined this eventuality.
It is a totally unanticipatable event and they have to totally reorient the entire renewal process. They fall silent in a kind of wounded shock. They mutter something like "It's in my upstairs cabinet" or "I think it's out in the glove compartment of the card". They then add "Do you really need it?"
"Yes." I answer brightly. Sometimes I add in all the bits about data privacy and why I need it.
They usually groan, then, in a very put upon voice they say "I'll go get it." Often, after that, they yell at someone "They need the library card!" Like we're crazy. "Will you get it from out the bathroom soap dispenser?"
Then there's a pause.
Then really loud "THE BATHROOM SOAP DISPENSER!"
Well, it's not usually the bathroom soap dispenser, but it's often something surprisingly like it.
Why do they think they don't need a library card to do something on their library record over the phone? They don't tend to think this way about their card in person. Do they think we'll recognize their voice?
Do they think the conversation is supposed to go like this:
Me: Good evening, this is the library. How may I help you?
Them: I have some books I'd like to renew.
Me: They are now due on November 4th.
Them: That was easy.
Me: I'm glad. We've had a lot of time to get the process just right.
Them: Well, thank you. Bye.
Yes, that is pretty much exactly what they think.
We should probably work on that.