Friday, May 27, 2011

Librarians do not only help you research your school papers

When travelling somewhere drear and rainful,
Pack extra socks - it's far less painful.

Today I am in Adelaide, visiting friends and seeing a doctor for a post-surgery check up.  It's wet here in Adelaide today.
            In the afternoon I had an hour to kill between engagements, and I took myself to the library. The library on North Terrace has four deep window embrasures on the west wall, for which the management has invested in large blue plastic bean bags, and which they have stuffed into the cavities to make them more uncomfortable to sit in. I prefer not to sprawl (slightly sideways and legs akimbo) in front of other library patrons, so when I find an embrasure empty, I push the beanbag out and squeeze into the window behind it.  Usually someone else will sit on the beanbag and there will be two of us curled up there, reading cozily and watching the winter rains dancing on the glass.
            This afternoon there was no beanbag at all in the third window. I settled in for a comfy hour of bad science fiction paperbacks and free wi-fi, but after only ten minutes, a librarian came up to me and put her hand right in front of my computer screen.
            "This window is only for beanbags," she said.  "You have to get up and sit somewhere else."
            I was mildly bewildered.  The beanbag in question was a few feet away from the window, being used by a reading circle.  But she looked at me disapprovingly till I stood up, and once I did, events moved swiftly.  While I was bending down to collect my bags and my jacket, she was stamping over to the children’s corner to rain down an afternoon of pure hell on a family sharing a picture book.
            "Excuse me," she said, not very nicely. 
            A mother, a father and two very small children looked up at her.
            "Those beanbags may only be used by one person at a time."  The librarian said. "One of those children will have to get off."
            "But they’re small children," the mother said.  "Can’t they share the bag?"
            "Rules are rules."  The lady said, and crossed her arms.  "And the rules say adults aren’t allowed to sit on the floor.  You have to stand up."
            Bowing with the wind, the parents stood up and relocated themselves and one of the children to a set of small red chairs. The mother picked up a book and turned to face the children.  
            "It was a VERY fat caterpillar," she said. "What do you think of that?"
            "Excuse me," the librarian said again.  "Adults aren't allowed to sit on the children's chairs either. you have to stand.  I told you that."
            "How are we supposed to have a reading circle if we’re standing?" The father said.
            "Rules are rules." The lady said. "You can have a reading circle, but only children have permission to sit on the chairs."
            The father stood up again, and breathing deeply through his nose, went to collect a chair from the adult reading area.  He was stopped by a hand on his arm.   
            "Bringing chairs from other areas," the librarian said, "is not permitted."
            "I think," the father ground out, "you are being very unfriendly."
             Rules are rules." She said. "Incidentally, the beanbags are only to be used in the window seats. The other child will have to get off too. What made you think you’re allowed to sit on it over here?"
            The mother stared at her, bewildered. "Over here?  The window is all of three feet away! How could this possibly be a problem?"
            "Rules are rules."  The librarian said.  "Incidentally, your children are far too small for the children’s chairs. They’ll have to stand up as well.  And this is a library. Libraries have to be quiet.  We don’t permit reading aloud."
            The mother and the father opened their mouths, and shut their mouths, and opened their mouths and looked around at the rest of the library, where patrons sprawled across chairs, beanbags, cushions, and even their backpacks.  At the circulation desk, bells chimed and conversations were going on at all sorts of volumes.  On the far side of the room a stereo played Caribbean jazz.  And right behind the librarian, two small girls lay on their stomachs, swinging their feet and reading Doctor Seuss to each other.
            The mother recovered first.  Seizing her small daughter by the hand, she hauled the child to her feet.   
            "Come on darlings," she said in a trembling voice. "We are going to go and find a bookshop and buy some books.  Doesn’t that sound fun?"
            The father and the mother and the two small children stormed off.  Thirty seconds later, I heard seven kinds of hell being raised over at the circulation desk, and a book about a very fat caterpillar landed in the re-shelving cart with some volume.
            As I write this now, there is a very large man in a very wet raincoat sitting on a small red chair and reading a newspaper. Nobody has taken even one small bit of notice.
           That librarian needs a spanking, and there's a hardcover children's story book in the re-shelving cart that would do the job nicely, I think.

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