A modest proposal, library style

TeenPatron:  I, ummm… I need to find a book.

Me:  Do you know the title? (thinking dewd needed me to look it up on our handy-dandy computers)

TPatron: No. (laugh) Umm… I need to find a book because… (pause, looking to sky for answer) something that won't make me drift off, because I can't pay attention when I read.

Me: (blink – turns to real reference librarian, quickly passing buck) Doyouhaveanyideas? (I dared not take a breath, lest he pass the buck back)

RRL: (with a look that said either "Thank you!" or something unprintable) Well… What kinds of books do you like?

TPatron: Umm. I don't know. Maybe military? I just can't pay attention when I read…

RRL: I can't help you with that.

RRL took dewd back to the military books. He started in Vietnam, moved on to World War II, then wound up in books about gangs. The last I saw he was back in one of the military genres, after RRL left him to browse around on his own.

You have to wonder, was this a teenager who had to do a book report and was desperate to find something easy to read, or did he genuinely have an attention problem and want to remedy it? If the latter, how did he get so far in school without someone seeing he needed help?

Is this dewd our future? Scary.

I soon lost sight of him, getting busy with other things. I'll never know if he found a book he could read without drifting off. I'm torn between aggravation and pity. It takes some guts to say "I can't read books," but it could imply a potential lazyness, too. I tend to assume the latter, but the more I thought about it the more I wasn't so sure.

Hopefully he found something, regardless of his intentions.

6 thoughts on “A modest proposal, library style

  1. When I read a book I’m aware of the ink on paper which forms words, but those words flow into my imagination and take shape, like a movie playing on a screen. Sometimes it surprises me that not everyone experiences books that way.

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  2. I think your colleague could have asked a better question when it seemed the patron wasn’t particularly keen on reading. “What are you interested in?” or “What do you like to do in your spare time?” are questions I’ve found more helpful when I’m trying to direct teens to books I hope they’ll actually like.
    My husband suggests that this kid might not have had an attention problem but a reading problem, possibly vision, possibly dyslexia or similar reading problems. Does anyone at your library do reading tests with students?

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  3. I’ve had this type of conversation so many times at my library. My favorite is “I’m looking for that book with the cow on the cover.” Don’t you love it when patrons act like you should know every book that is in the library and you should know everything in the Universe?

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  4. As a future librarian, I would be thrilled to be able to help this “dewd” find something… I mean, isn’t that part our job? There are plenty of exciting new non-fiction titles out there today. I may have recommended some narrative non-fiction, like Ira Glass’ collection “The New Kings of Non-Fiction” or Dave Eggers’ collections of Non-Required Reading. There are also some exciting titles about psychological war-fare like “The Men Who Stare at Goats” by Jon Ronson. Or maybe, a movie he liked that was based on a book. The possibilities are endless, if someone was willing to put in the effort–regardless of the patron’s “intentions.”
    I hope beyond anything that if I end up in a public library/reference situation one day, I won’t be one of those stereotypical, eye-rolling, unapproachable, bitter, behind the desk librarians, who acts like they have better things to do.

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