I went back to my old job a week or so ago. I was once a proud librarian/librarymans, working basically weekends at this job that offered me my first real experience at a position I sought myself (I was promoted from page to library clerk during my stay there). It was the first time I dealt with the public, dealing with problem patrons and the library fines they incurred over time. It’s been about 18 months since I had the job. I had stayed away for being bitter for being laid off. There were a lot of things I didn’t agree with, especially in upper management. I had plans to lash out at them, but with some time quietly gave me the chance to ponder the choice and decide against it. So on my day off, running errands had me passing by my previous job. I went in and visited the library and my former coworkers. There were previous visits, sure, but this day, I spent a considerable time talking to people and observing my former workplace in a different light- from a workplace to a patron. And its as if nothing has changed. Well sure, it’s only been about 18 months, but I had expected to see something… more to be changed since I was laid off. It’s as if it lived in a snapshot of time, and I was simply revisiting the snapshot, looking into it as if I were Alice peering into the looking mirror.. It felt like I had been laid off only a few days beforehand. It felt eerie, in a sense, to see the regulars still visiting the library, the same people picking up books, reading magazines, or using the computers there. As if nothing happened recently. Children I remember seeing had grown older- but the same patrons still were there, greeting me as if nothing had happened. I went back to visit a chapter of my life that never changed, or if it had, I couldn’t see it my brief time visiting there. And I still don’t know how i feel about it, to be honest. It’s frustrating to see what was a huge part of my life stagnating, but at the same time, almost welcoming to see it never change. I went through the stacks I used to organize as a page, getting a sudden urge to organize a western book that had been placed in the fiction section. I ultimately did, out of courtesy, but it was ultimately my own mind reverting to a much quieter time in my life. In the end, visiting the library so far out gave me closure. I came into work the next day eager to tackle the day’s challenges, knowing that in some way, the previous chapter of my life will always be there in one form or another. Because, in the end, it’s rare for changes to occur in such a sleepy little place.
For the past two and a half years, I have been what I affectionally refer to as a “libraryman”, or better yet, a man who works at a library (the name stems from a Penny Arcade comic which i became rather fond of once I got the job). Okay, so I didn’t have a library science degree (something required to be a librarian) and my nametag title was “Library clerk”- but I wholeheartedly disagree. I was a librarymans through and through- having to work with the public directly at the front desk, answer questions, check out books, look up when movies were to be returned and answer the phone- all at the same time, usually. It was a job I loved, a job I was happy to do time and time again. A job that I seriously considered pursing for a career. I speak with all of this in the past tense, because as of today, I am no longer a librarymans. I was laid off of my job yesterday. While this didn’t come as a shock (as I had my own gut feeling this would have been happening sooner or later, as rumors spread about the possibility of such a thing occurring had been reverberating around the library for a month or two beforehand), I’m sad to lose this job. Part of me thought that I could have kept that job until I graduate from college, at least. It was a job where I had coworkers that I considered to be another family in itself. A family of nutjobs, to be honest, and I say this in the happiest way possible. The family supported one another through thick and thin. When someone was feeling a bit under the weather, others would come in to help them out. When someone was hungry, we’d share food to keep them sated until the end of the day. We all really do care for one another, and do our best to help out the patrons there. This was a group of (mostly) women that would be there to help patrons however they could. Hell, even the patrons were amazing. There were regulars that would come on a certain basis- bi-weekly, weekly, even daily- to chat with about how their lives were. There was a history professor who knew how my school project were coming along and asked me how they were coming along as he checked out his mystery (and history) books for the week. The father of two girls who always came up to talk shop about the latest Apple news. The ex-gangbanger who would check out the biggest stack of films he could laughing as i told him my usually obtuse and random opinions on the films. The teacher who always struggled to get books back from her reading-frienzied students. They were all regulars I can remember looking forward to seeing day in, and day out. It all felt right to me. I’m writing this as a sort of catharsis for letting my emotions out. When I was finally able to tell people about my impending last day, there were looks of shock, looks of anger as i realized that I was a part of the patron’s lives as they were of mine. And that made the shortening time I working there even harder. I had so many memories from working there- the good, the bad, and those that made the job all the better. I held on to working there for as long as possible. And now that that last day is passed, I feel as if a chapter of my life has closed. One I wish could have lasted longer, or not have been closed before I had a chance to end it myself, on my own terms. When I read a recent piece at a Chicago FOX subsidiary contesting the usefulness of libraries, I recoiled and balked in horror. In the din of the everyday craziness that is modern life, to have a place of knowledge and quiet serenity such as the library should be considered to be a welcome haven for many. There were families who couldn’t afford to go to Blockbuster to check out movies, so they’d come in every week for free rentals from the library. Regulars from all sorts of race and age who would come in to enjoy books, CDs, and DVDs. If you wanted to see how much of a melting pot Southern California really was, you could just sit at the library and watch the commotion such a quiet place brings. There wasn’t a day when we didn’t have lines of people checking out books or getting new library cards. Having someone getting angry at me for the littlest thing. If you had an excuse for why the books you checked out were late, chances are, I’d heard it already from someone else. And i enjoyed that. I truly did. (if that doesn’t show how crazy I already am, I don’t know what does) (by the way- the followup from the Library Commissioner from Chicago to that Fox reporter is the best reaction to such sensationalist piece of journalism. The library is still a wonderful place, and even more so a resource more should use.) Yeah, I’m incredibly sad about what has gone on and where I plan to go in the future, but I suppose it’s for the best. I plan to shoot some short films while I get ready to apply for transfer to art schools- have a portfolio readied for the fall. Madness, considering I have about a month and a half to do so. (Anyone want to help?) But I’ll miss being a librarymans. Through thick and thin, it was a job I cared about. I was a proud librarymans.
Sometimes, it drives me insane- the crowds, the complaints, the sheer amount of work- but through it all, I love working at a library.
Take today, for example. A mother and her son walked into the library today, making a beeline for the video section. I took no notice when they first walked in, until i noticed a flowing cape behind the son- he was dressed as Superman.
They took no time to pick out an individual VHS copy of Thomas the Tank Engine. He bounded towards my counter, sliding the VHS onto the counter as best as he could, standing on his tiptoes as his mother shuffled through her cards to find her library card. She found the card moments later, and I quickly checked out the movie. As per policy, I walked past the security gates to hand the VHS to the patron- but i leaned over to the child’s level, over the counter.
The joy on his face as he bounded around the corner and to me was one I can describe in a limited scope- he hopped and skipped over to me with cape flowing, he looked like a small, latino version of Superman as he took the VHS from my hands, a big grin crossing his face. He thank me, and scampered down the stairs. The last thing I saw of him was his crew cut hair being hidden away by the cape. The joy and utter pleasure he took at something i grew up with made me smile. It helped that he was dressed as Superman, though.
It’s moments like these I love working at a library.
So yeah, my big catch of the week- I was able to pick up this copy of the Fifth Element from my work due to the fact that the staff at the library were tired to take care of so many people kept checking it out not knowing it can’t be played in DVD players and how so many people complained. I’m sure as hell not complaining about this though.
In between doing finals, random work on my sites and my actual job, I’ve been attempting a new little exercise for myself- read a new book every week. The book can be of any genre, it just has to be a book that can get me reading and relaxing for a bit. It helps to sit outside and read for a little bit after doing heavy work on the computer and i need to get my eyes away from the computer every so often. It helps to work in a library- more often than not, I will spot books that I want to read, stash them away, and check them out at the end of the work day. I don’t get any late fees working at the library, so I accumulate more than twenty books at a time on my account. My family is aware of this, and constantly hound me to check out books for them, knowing that there wouldn’t be any consequences if they were late. My library is also an excellent source for DVDs and documentaries- there aren’t any fees associated with the checkout themselves, I can’t help myself to check out Ken Burns documentaries when they’re available. But anyways! Here’s some of the books that I have read or are on my list: Jokes My Father Never Taught Me by Rain Pryor – This is a book written by one of Richard Pryor’s daughters and her life growing up as a half Jewish, half Black girl with half brothers and half sisters all over the place, bringing in an interesting view of the famous black comedian and his own personal life. It was well known that his own life was tumultuous- being the son of a prostitute and his grandmother the madam of a string of whorehouses- but to find it through the eyes of his daughter and her own story makes it utterly fascinating to me. The book was rather short to me, but it’s damn interesting to read, especially Rain’s experience with her father in his later years. *A Practical Guide to Racism * by C.H. Dalton – As serious as this book sounds (and looks, just click on the link to see the front page), the overblown racism and insults found in this book can only be taken as a farce to regular textbooks, with the explanation of the mexican mind shown as a soccer ball. Nothing for this should be taken seriously in this book- but it’s fun to read a book so deep in sarcastic humor. Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk – I mentioned this book briefly before, but I’ve gotten to read the book a bit more in depth now, and i have to say, Palahniuk’s depth of grotesque knows no bounds. Different chapters are told through the eyes of each one of the perspective members of the gangbang, varying in age and purpose to coming to the event. I had a laughing fit just reading the parts of the book that describes the pornstar’s previous works as if they were paintings in the Louvre. I have no clue where the book is going, but hell, I’m going to keep reading it. The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness by Steven Levy – being a budding mac fan, this book was my interesting insight in how the company works, pertaining to the development and the interest to which the iPod first recieved upon its release. Levy writes the book often as a first-person dialouge, as he was one of the first to recieve the small white mp3 player when it was first released in November of 2001. Parts of the book feel at first to be filler for the real content- Levy’s experience with 9/11 and the iPod seems weird at first to read, but as the book goes on, he does an excellent work of tying it all together.