Thursday, March 23, 2023

The ol' soft shoe


I believe in breaking rules for patrons at the library. Indeed in our fine-free, licentious era there are few gifts, subversions, and exceptions I won't make for people. And I support my colleagues in doing the same at their own discretion. But I do believe in one thing: 

It always must come with a little soft shoe.

I will provide a simple example. A library patron comes to my front desk with five books. "Can I return these here?" They ask.


No, they can't return them here. We have a million-dollar machine that I'm quite fond of, and that has a little feeder door they walked right past, for whatever varied reason, to give me their books. If people all returned their books to us, personally, at the desk, my library's circulation department would grind to a halt, or maybe it would simply return to how it was before we got the big check in machine (that I'm quite fond of), at which point, eschewing as we are all the fine advances of civilization, we might as well skip the whole library thing and live around campfires in the snow telling each other stories and chewing on dried buffalo.

Which is fine, as a solution. But as far as I'm concerned, it's all one or the other. 

One, or the other.

And so, since we have libraries I say:

"No, sorry, all our returns go in the slot in the lobby, to the right," And then, as they are crushed, defeated, and their whole day is ruined because they have to walk back 15 feet the way they just came, I relent. "But just for you today, I'll take them here and throw them on the machine in the back."

The patron is suffused in relief.

An exception is made.

But the ol' soft shoe strikes again. The desired result for the patron has occurred, but I have danced my little dance upon it, and their act has been marked.

And everything will run beautifully in the future. 

At least until we can hunt the buffalo again.

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