Friday, January 6, 2023

Helping library patrons, all of them


To be honest I'm not sure the peculiarities of today's topic is of a general interest. It doesn't even seem to be of interest to my co-workers that I've tried to discuss it with, and they are as affected by it as I am. But on the other hand, I'm not sure that in the many thousands of blog posts I have written, I have ever, ever, written anything of general interest.

Yet I soldier on, a highly boutique blog!

So here's the deal today:

On the large main floor of my library, with me sitting at the front desk, I can currently look out and see eight total library visitors. That is a tiny number for my library! The reason it is so tiny is because it has been snowing here for a day and a half. My city is covered in snow! This has half-closed all of Saint Minneapolis. 

But here's where it gets interesting, albeit to a rarified group of boutique blog connoisseurs. 

There are but eight people here, and yet...

I am busy!

I have helped every single one of these eight patrons.

This is not normal! But today it has been.

And there is no rhyme or reason to this help. One wanted a library card. One didn't know how to find their library book on hold. One wanted to know all about how the interlibrary loan system worked. One wanted to know how late we were open and then wanted to stay and discuss the inadequacy of our signage. One forgot their library card and needed me to check out their stack of materials. One just sort of leaned on the desk and wanted to talk about... Winter? One wondered if we secretly had Chicago Fire Season Seven (we did! In the back). And one needed a guest log in for the computers and didn't know they could just grab one from the desk.

All of these issues are normal enough for the library. What is unusual is the ratio. The normal ratio is that for maybe ten people here I will need to help possibly one or two. That's a rough estimate, but okay, 15% of the people that come here need my direct help. So one can see that something close to 100% of people needing help is a statistical anomaly of epic proportions.

Monday, before the snow, it was extremely busy here. If 100% of the library patrons needed help on that day we would have had lines of ten or 15 people all day long! We would have been swamped! It would have been unmanageable, insane.

So it is fortunate that we are not busy. It is snowing out still. Only the heartiest of patrons are here. Only people physically daring, highly capable, and willing to brave the most treacherous of road conditions have made their way through cunning and will to our library. These people are intrepid!

And yet oddly, once they get here, they are helpless.

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