Librarians really don't get paid enough to deal with the shit they put up with.
This was proven all too true for me last week. I was off work on Friday, so I used my off day to pretend like I'm a full-time writer. That meant getting up early, going to the gym, and spending the rest of the day at the library writing my novel.
I was having a lovely day at my local branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library until two guys––we'll call them Doofus and Dickwad––decided to get into an argument over a computer. Dickwad (who looks to be in his late 40s) had been sitting at the computer for awhile but decided to leave. 15-30 minutes later, Doofus (who looks to be in his early 30s) sits down at the same computer. Dickwad returns from whatever he was doing for 30+ minutes and is mad that Doofus "stole his computer."
The conversation went roughly as follows:
Dickwad: "That's my computer!"
Doofus: "I have a reservation."
Dickwad: "I had 12 minutes left on my reservation. You think it's okay to just steal someone's computer?"
Doofus: "The librarian said I could sit here since no one was sitting here."
Dickwad: "You didn't see my stuff?" [picks up a library book off the table next to the computer]
Doofus: "I thought someone left the book there because they didn't want it anymore."
Dickwad: "Yeah, I left the book because it's MY seat! Give me back my computer."
Doofus: "No, I'm working."
Dickwad: "So you just steal people's computers, huh, asshole?"
Doofus: "Guess I do."
[Let me interject here to mention that there was a minimum of FOUR open computers in the area, so they both could have gotten a computer and not even had to sit close to each other. They were also YELLING in a library.]
Dickwad: "Fuck you!"
Doofus: "No, fuck you!"
Dickwad: "No, fuck YOU!"
Doofus: "No, FUCK YOU."
[I should also interject here that there were about 8 children also sitting in this general area and every single one of them was behaving better than these losers.]
And these two men––grown-ass men––went back and forth like that. I started wondering at what point one decides who has won the "fuck you/no, fuck you" argument. Is it who says it loudest? Who says it last? Who says it angriest? It's pretty circular.
Eventually, Dickwad just left and all was quiet again. But I probably lost about 10 minutes of good writing time while the fools were competing for the gold in the Fragile Masculinity Olympics. I thought it was a little odd that no librarian intervened, but then again, what do you say to two people who should know better? And why should librarians risk violence to themselves to break up a stupid fight between two assholes?
When I relayed the story to a friend, she mentioned that a librarian probably didn't intervene because earlier this month there was a shooting at the downtown Columbus library when two patrons got into an argument.
Librarians should not have to deal with this shit.
And decent patrons shouldn't have to either. Librarians are saints and heroes. Thank them when you're checking out books. Hug them if they consent. Give them a Starbucks gift card if you can afford it. Do something to let these humble public servants know you see them, you appreciate them, and you value their contributions.
Because so many people don't appreciate them.
Some people would rather act completely inappropriately and disrespect the library as an egalitarian institute of learning, open to all, regardless of one's ability to pay. Libraries are a beautiful thing, though they can only thrive insofar as librarians feel safe enough and supported enough to do their jobs.
Don't be a Doofus or a Dickwad. Librarians don't get paid enough for that shit.