Check Out: The Patrons
The library isn't just a building, but it's the hub for information. Information isn't the only thing that brings a make a library come to life. The people who patronize the libraries also bring them to life. Without the patrons, the library would be an empty shell. The library wouldn't have any life, vibrancy or character. The patrons that come into the library come from all walks of life. As I wrote in my previous hub, "Check Out: How I Got Started", the patrons "can be the nicest people you've ever met or some of the biggest assholes on the planet. Some are the most intelligent people, some people who think they are the most intelligent but are some of the dumbest people in captivity." Library employees aren't limited to the position that they're hired for, they go beyond the call of duty. Sometimes we have to be parent, counselor, computer expert, teacher, babysitter, tutor and even parent.
You can never anticipate what kind of people may walk through the door. It's interesting to meet people from all walks of life, the library is its own melting pot. There are patrons who come into the library that you enjoying assisting. When I reach out to them, I can feel them reaching back. Especially when they reach back to me with food. That's one of the perks of giving good customer service. The reward is when you make a patron feel like they are welcomed in your library, and you want them to keep coming back. The same reasons you keep going to restaurants, you don't just go for the food; it's the service. They may even tell a few friends about the library and the staff that works there for them to coming to the library. But, there are other patrons that I try your to avoid like they were Jehovah Witness knocking at my door if I can. But, I know there are patrons you just can't avoid because you don't know what bag they might come out of.
This patron experience I'll never forget as long as I live. I had just started working at the Sterling Branch in the Central neighborhood on Cleveland's East Side in the summer of 2005; this lady approached me at the front counter. She wanted me to look up her record for any fines or overdue items. It showed on her record that she was over the fine limit or "threshold" as we call it at the library (which was $10 at the time) because she had overdue movies. I informed her about her fine and the reason why she was fined. Her excuse was, "I did check those out because I was at a kid's birthday party." I kept on telling her that it was showing on her records, and she still tried to persuade me to believe her. She also wanted me to remove the fines from her card. Now, I know some patrons may get wrongfully charged for items they have returned. But, she could've came up with a better excuse than she was at a kid's birthday party. She left the library very upset with me. But, I would learn that troublesome patrons comes in all ages, shapes and sizes.
A little girl, who couldn't have been no more than 11-years-old, used to come into Sterling always causing trouble. Our troublemaker lived right next door in the projects. She would always talk loud, cursing at other kids and staff members. There was many times where she was constantly kicked out of the library. There was even a time I had to kick her out the library. One Saturday, I was at the front desk on the computer. The little girl was on at one of her siblings' computer, they were playing a game or on a website. She was being rude, talking loud and cursing throughout the library. So, I approached her at the computer, and told her, "You have to leave." The little girl proceeded to curse at me, "You can't tell me what the fuck to do. I don't give a fuck about this library! Fuck this library!" as she was walking out door. The little girl would constantly get kicked out, and would have to bring her mother to the library. The mother wasn't any better because her excuse was, "The people at the library always lyin' on my baby." She made it like that we were always persecuting her daughter and out to get her. But, this little girl would get her comeuppance.
One afternoon, the security guard and I were in the back talking about the Cavaliers. Next thing, I know I was looking through the small window by the circ (circulation) desk, and seen this rumbling in the Children's Area. We didn't think anything of it at first, we thought it was just little kids being silly. We peaked over there again, and we saw another another little girl swinging arms and punching fists. "That looks a fight over there," I informed the security guard. So, we ran over to the Children's Area to see what was going on. It was another little girl beating up our troublemaker on one of the little tables in the area. The reason why the fight happened because our troublemaker was picking on her and she got fed up. Not to say the girl who beat hear up was an angel; there were times she would be rowdy in the library, too. Maybe I should be saying this but I was glad to see the troublemaker reap what she sowed. It didn't help none because she ended up getting beat up by another girl a few months later in the near Sterling's parking lot. But, I would be transferred to the Eastman Branch in the Lorain neighborhood on Cleveland's West Side in 2010 due to the library downsizing staff at certain East Side branches. There I would encounter the most offensive experience of my library career.
One morning, an Asian female approached my counter to check for any fines on her record. She handed me her State ID for me to look up her record on the computer, where there wasn't any fines on her record. The lady walked away from the counter to talk to the branch manager. She came back to the counter to pick up her ID. "I was testing you to see if you were going to steal it," she quipped to me in a snarky tone. I was not only offended by her remark, I was pissed. My coworkers were shocked that they heard her say that. How can another person of color make such a racially stereotypical comment like that?, I pondered to myself. I couldn't pass myself off as a short, frumpy Asian woman. I remarked to one of my coworkers, "I would've been wrong if I told her to get eat some rice and practice some kung-fu." But, the other clerk that worked at the front desk with me informed me that she had mental issues. But, I can't say that my experiences with the patrons of CPL have been all bad.
There are patrons who I've encountered at various branches over the years that I've enjoyed assisting. The Mt. Pleasant Branch, the branch I currently work at now, I've enjoyed assisting various patrons. For example, Mrs. Reed, an elderly lady who is the mother of a Cleveland councilman, is the most sweetest lady you'll ever meet. She always has to come in and get her "Love Inspired" books. Or, Mindy, our resident commentator, she comes into the library to get her TV Guide, give us all the info of what's going on in the neighborhood and requests CDs. I feel like when I reach out to them, they reach back. I feel there is a strong reward in serving the people of the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio. And, I do get rewarded back with patrons coming back to the library, a friendly conversation and even food (which I wish I could get rewarded more of so I can save money on lunch). Sometimes I do complain about certain patrons whether I'm being asked a dumb question or having a bad day. Or, when they ring the damn doorbell for the bathroom too many times a day, and I shout to myself, "Use the bathroom at your own house." But, I wouldn't trade it for anything because I've met some good and interesting people throughout my 11 years working for the Cleveland Public Library. As I said before, without the patrons, the library would be an empty shell.