Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Currently at my library you can request things online, or over the phone. You are notified when it comes in for you. And then, during any of our many open hours, you can come in, pick up your holds off of the request shelves, and check them out at a self check out or with a plexiglass protected library worker. There is no browsing collection. There is nowhere to roam. There is nowhere to hang out. There are just lots and lots of requested items that you can come in and pick up.
When people come to pick up their holds, even though the area for it is fairly large and spread out, we limit capacity to five at a time. A couple or even a family merely counts as one for our purposes in this method. And though we have a steady flow of library patrons, we almost never reach our capacity of five. Sometimes we'll have a busy run, but it is not uncommon for a day or two to go by without ever having to tell a patron to wait at the gates for another patron to exit.
So when I was in the front lobby this evening, and the library was growing quiet, it did not seem at all likely I would have to pay much attention to how many people were in the library.
Someone came in and I explained the hold system and sent them through. Another came and knew the system well already. A mother and child came through. Someone wanted a library card and I sent them to the front desk. It was getting exciting. No one was leaving yet. A couple came and knew the routine. We were at capacity!
If only someone would come.
I was on the edge of my seat.
Then someone arrived. It was a miracle.
"Unfortunately we're at our maximum capacity. If you'd please just wait on the circle at the gate you can go in when the next person leaves." I said.
The patron took it pretty phlegmatically.
"This almost never happens." I added. "It's like you've won a reverse lottery."
"I've got time." The person replied peaceably.
I guess there are a lot worse reverse lotteries a person could win these days.