Thursday, March 19, 2009

Library Day

Well, things are looking up. Everyone is still hacking and noses are still dripping, but I think we're on the upside of this cold. We took advantage of this wettest of final winter days -- wet from melting snow (well, and noses) -- to dash into our local teensy weensy library instead of the just as local la grande enchilada branch.


Don't get me wrong. The big library is fantastic. Granted, you do have to pay $45 to be given the privilege of paying late fees becoming a member, but it's so fun to walk around. They have animal skins and heads and an incredible encased-in-glass dollhouse with miniature everything that local Helenans have made  -- miniature secretary's desk made by the senator, miniature curtains by a Helena seamstress, miniature afghan by a local crocheter .  . .


It's cute as the dickens.


But man, are they nasty.


We've always felt a little strange going in, and we've tried to divide the group into two so that we don't look quite so much like a litter of . . . whatever. Even though I *have* seen other children at this library and there *is* a whole section devoted to children, it never fails: Every. Single. Librarian follows our crowd from the time we come in until we round the corner into the children's section.


But beyond this, a month ago, I paid them for damage done to a "Bob the Builder" video. Part of the outside casing was ripped, and I had to pay for them to fix it plus a "processing fee." Please. You're big . . . but only for here. You're not so big that the processing involved anything more than walking into the back room and sticking a piece of tape on the dang thing. You probably didn't even have to go into the back. Hey, I'm willing to wager there's a roll of tape right there on that front desk. Right next to the Book Drop.


That was irritating enough. Honestly, I'm not sure that we didn't create that rip; it's entirely feasible. In fact, I can think of more than one of my children who would have enjoyed peeling that clear plastic back. But then when I walked to the kiddo video section? A good 5-10 of the videos have similar rips. And they were videos we never checked out. So somewhere, there is another Ripper . . . one who has not been paying fees for them to grab a piece of tape and slap it onto the rip (on top of the fee to fix it. . . . how are these fees different?).


But Ethan drew the line when they called saying we owe $24 (price of book plus processing fee) for a children's book that was returned so water-damaged they can't use it (but we do get to keep the book when we pay! Oh, joy!).


I know water damage. We realized early on that it was dangerous to let children read books in the van when a foot below their reading level were two very wet, snowy boots. Added to this is the danger of the book falling . . . and then being left, forgotten, to die a slow, dirty, page-curling death by trampeling and drowning when the inevitable dropped drink lands on it.


So no library books in the van, unless it is a very unusual circumstance.


We learned this lesson BEFORE the damaged book in question.


And in fact, I remember returning that book. We used the drop-box at our local convenience store (I know, Montana -- don't you love it?). The drop-off is shaped exactly like a post-office mailing drop-box. It looks so much like one that I am convinced it's just refurbished. It's blue and it says, "Lewis and Clark Library Drop Box. CLANCY LIBRARY DROP-BOX IS INSIDE!" I can almost hear the pinched-nose librarians shrieking, "DON'T PUT CLANCY BOOKS IN HERE!"


And one day, I gathered the books from the library bag and Ethan separated them into the Big Library piles and the Little Library piles and put them in the appropriate boxes. There was no water involved.


But come on, people. The weather fluctuates between wet and snowy here. How difficult is it to believe that the courier dropped the book into the mud?  The drop box is outside. Or that a teenager (because they're the evil ones) thought it would be funny to drop his drink in there?


So Ethan has pretty much banned us from going back there. This is probably more for their protection than for any other reason. I don't think I would be able to refrain from asking, "So which bison head did MY $45 member fee help buy?"


I know it's hopeless to argue with them. They will take one unsympathetic look at my crowd (which, right now, looks even guiltier with the snotty noses) before they stretch their surgical-gloved hands for my money. After which, I am sure, they will straightaway grab the Purell ("Imagine a Touchable World" !!!) and go back to their . . . processing.


So we stick with the teensy-weensy library. The one that only has paper cards (no barcodes!), but you don't even need that because the librarian knows our name. She's never even asked except for when we initially got the library card. She smiles at the children, tells us to take our time and enjoy ourselves even when we dash in ten minutes before closing, and flagrantly waives fees left and right.


We have to beg her to let us pay our late fee.


And some day, we'll pay the fee to the Big Guys. But I can't promise there won't be a Post-it attached: "Librarian is a service occupation.  Gas station attendant of the mind."~Richard Powers


And then we'll send our teensy-weensy library lady flowers.


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