Saturday, August 19, 2023


We all just want to be helpful.

Well, some of us want to be helpful. 

And sometimes we're good at it, but sometimes we aren't.

A woman brings a book up to me at the front desk of the library. "This book is on hold for me, but I don't need it." She says. "I already got it through interlibrary loan."

Setting aside the curiosity of the fact that an interlibrary loan book is only requested for items that we don't have in the system, so how did she get that interlibrary version, all I need from her now is a last name.

Why, you ask, do I need her last name?

Thank you for your interest in library procedure!

Her last name is the simplest possible verification to assure that she hasn't pulled someone else's hold off the shelf, which happens enough to make it worth it to add a three-second question to make sure it doesn't. Except, alas, sometimes a surfeit of helpfulness takes this a bit off the "Three-second" tracks.

"What is your last name?" I ask.

"I, um." The lady responds. "Let me just get..." And she starts rifling through her purse, possibly for a library card, or identification.

"I just need to know your last name. Verbally" I interject.

She stops combing through her purse, frozen. In her eyes I can see the desire to do the right thing, to be helpful in this situation, but she is thrown. She doesn't know what to do! "I, uh." She says. Then she sort of understands. "W-A-T-S-O-N?" She spells out slowly.

It's a match! "Thank you." I say.

She stands eagerly ready for the next steps that aren't coming.

"We're all done." I tell her.

"Oh." She says.

Then she scurries off.

Well, we got it done.

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