Summer Stories: In which Miss Molly feels like Conan the Librarian

I always take stolen books as a personal insult–as if patrons are stealing from me, instead of the town. Still, it’s the principle of stealing with which I have an issue. I can definitely understand the stealing mentality; the needing something so desperately to survive that a person takes any means to get it. That I usually reserve for food or clothing, in other words, the essentials. I do not justify, nor condone, stealing of any kind, but especially not something frivolous. I also I cannot understand why people feel the need to steal things that are ‘free’ in the first place. Especially from the public library. Sure, public libraries are all funded by tax payers…but that doesn’t mean that an individual can rock on up and be like, “Oh, my taxes went toward this DVD. I think I’ll keep it. FOREVER.” That’s not just stealing from the town, that’s stealing from every person in the town.

I, again this is my personal opinion, feel that that type of outlook and attitude is selfish. Each one of us, as tax-paying Americans, contributes to the funding for the collection development and maintenance of the public library. To think that any one person has more of a right to any of the materials flies in the face of what public libraries stand for: ACCESS FOR ALL. Public libraries are (supposed to be) the great equalizer and are trying to close the informational and digital gap. But that becomes increasingly difficult to do when we can’t keep materials in the library.

I also have a hard time understanding why people refuse to return things to the library. I mean, I can definitely understand that things get lost, especially when multitudes of small children are involved. But, when people just DON’T bring things back, it drives me to drink (glasses of very nice red wine, or on particularly hard days–good whiskey*).

And allow me to make a broad generalization here, and use responsible language while doing so, but it has been MY personal observation that it is the people who use the library as their own personal bookshelf and keep materials indefinitely who complain the loudest when the library requests more funding.

I’m sorry. Excuse me? You don’t like that we’re asking for a bigger materials budget to develop our fiction collection and our DVD collection? You are the one stealing all our sh*t and then not paying for it when we call you out on your shenanigans. If we didn’t have replace Saw XVII DVD three times, or Fifty Shades of Grey seventeen times, we wouldn’t NEED more funding for the regular stuff. Because we would already have it. Because we wouldn’t have blown it replacing stuff that shouldn’t need to be replaced because we already bought it once!

What makes it worse is that a lot of the materials stolen are not checked out to any patron, which means we can’t charge for the lost item, which means we can’t recoup the lost money or replace said item. This means, if we want to replace the item stolen (and I can assure you, the popular stuff is being stolen and bears replacement) then we have to take more money out of the regular fund to replace it. This decreases the amount of actual NEW titles the library can buy. This makes people unhappy because we aren’t as up-to-date as they want us to be. This makes for a very frustrating environment.

It makes me feel like Conan the Librarian. You know, the character from the Weird Al movie UHF? If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, it spoofs on a lot of pop culture and the like and is still relevant today…shut up. It’s ridiculous and wonderful. But in the mean time, here’s a clip of how ridiculously overdue books make me feel (and how some librarians made ME feel in university [before I was an actual librarian]).

I. of course, keep my broad sword sheathed, as I am a proper lady librarian and have goodwill toward patrons (mostly).

What? After reading the above rant, do you DOUBT my sincerity and goodwill toward mankind? Well, read on, dear doubters! I love (most) of my patrons.

You may well ask, Miss Molly, why do I have such a forgiving nature and good will toward men (women, and children)? It is because of the redeeming power of the summer season…people return those ridiculously overdue (and stolen) books. Maybe they remember, in their last minute oh-my-god-I-have-to do-summer-reading-AGAIN panic that they hadn’t returned LAST YEARS book. And the reason they remember this is because they get their summer reading list from school and see that it is the same this year as it was last year and they get a little chime in the back of their head that says “Hey, that title is familiar. I think I’ve read that before. I’ll just read it again and write about it. Easy.” And they go to their book shelf to look for the familiar sounding book. And, lo and behold, there it is. Awesome, they think, I don’t have to get any extra books to complete this assignment. But then they notice the barcode, and the “Southington Public Library” stamped that’s on the cover and the sides, and the front pages….ooops,  they say to themselves. I guess I’ll go return this to the library…and get something else while I’m there. So what if it’s 458 days overdue. I’m good.

While subbing at the Circ desk, I get at least 20 books with statuses that are either Billed or Missing. That means we have given up hope of ever getting the materials back, and now just hope to be reimbursed…which is a far-fetched fantasy on its own.

However, with this glorious Summer Season, I’ve gotten a few books that have been missing for YEARS. They had never been checked out; they were just taken and then, miraculously, returned. It boggles my mind, but, if it clears the ‘missing’, ‘billed’, or ‘stolen’ status, then I am happy. And when Miss Molly the Librarian is happy,  all is right with the library world.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think?

*This comment was posted mostly in jest. I do drink occasionally, but being that I am of age and drink responsibly, I see no issues with it. I do not condone drinking to fix frustrations.*


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