Bizarro Profession

“Bizarro Profession”


I am a bibliophile who wants to throttle most librarians.

This, of course, keeps me in a constant and heightened state of conflict, as I rely heavily on libraries and read several books a week. I want my books. I need my books. But I don’t like most of the people in charge of my books; they are crabby and often snappish and need a good bitch slap.

Here’s the rub: librarians love information and books and periodicals and cataloguing, but they really don’t like people. Yet their job is one, essentially, of customer service…you know, helping people all day.

So pretty much, the librarian behind the counter is an intellectual, an introvert who just wants to absorb factoids and be left alone to stroke, repetitively, the long braid thrown over her shoulder while memorizing the order of the English monarchs. And then she wants to spend the second half of her shift reading her manga before biking home to eat a solitary meal of lentil soup with grated cheese on top.

Invariably, as the librarian strokes her braid and bones up on her anime, I walk in. You know, wanting books and stuff. And my need pisses her off. And then she heaves her bulk out of the rolling chair to show me where I can find the Civil War Magic Tree House book, stomping, sighing loudly, never making eye contact.

The librarians and me? We’ve missed a lot of potential precious moments together, due to the whole attitude issue. No matter what kind of bookish small-talk I throw out there (“Aren’t we all excited for the new Harry Potter?”), I know Librarian and I will never be running towards each other in slow motion across a flower-strewn meadow, arms extended.

In the town where I live, it got to the point where I actually filled out a comment card about the librarians in the children’s area, noting briefly, “Maybe the library could staff the children’s area with workers who actually like children.” Shortly after dropping this card into the comment box, I took my stack of about 40 books–for both the kids and me, enough to last three weeks–up to the Circulation Desk, whereupon the checker-outer dude rolled his eyes at the size of the stack, snickered with a co-worker at how ludicrous our reading intentions were, and then, handing me the foot-long receipt at the end, snarked, “Make sure they’re all back on time.”

My reaction to this is to think, “What? You’re pissy because my kids will grow up saying ‘Our house was always full of stacks of books that we were expected to read’? Or is it because I’ve disrupted the quiet order of your day by coming to this public place and drawn you out of your reveries about The Renaissance Festival?”

And right about here? Yea, the bitch slap.

My ongoing librarian issues were highlighted yesterday here in Billings, my childhood town in Montana. Needing to check email while we’re on this road trip, I went to the public library. And I had the audacity to ask the man at the Computer Service Desk if I could, devil that I am, use a computer to get onto the modern thing called “Internet.”

Such a query opened the floodgates of resentment and discontent that plague this profession full of Garbo-like professionals, who just “vant to be alone.” The little man, who looked amazingly like Larry “Bud” Melman of the David Letterman show, reared up out of his desk, reaching his full height of Jocelyn’s Clavicle, and exclaimed, “Well, as you can see, all the computers are being used. I just signed up someone else before you, too, so I can’t even begin to tell you when you can get onto one.”

“Really?” said I. “You have no general sense of when any of these ten people have to be off their computers? Are there any time restrictions?”

“Well, everyone gets an hour, and we do have that registration system over there, where you can make a reservation for the next open computer, but other than that, no, I really can’t tell you.”

Realizing that bitch slapping a 60-year-old white-haired man who was a foot shorter than I would yield little in gratification and a great deal in court fees, I tried the talking thing some more.

“Just to be clear: I can go to this station right here and sign up for the next open terminal? And it will give me a time that I can get onto that terminal?”

“Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I said. Here, I can walk you through it, as it seems awfully hard for you. Now, do you have a library card?”

In an attempt to move towards Dr. Phil’s principles of honest and open communication, I responded with, “Actually, I don’t. See I’m from out of town. But is there some way..”


Keeping my bitchslappers glued to my sides, I warmed up a little with, “You’ll have to pardon me, as we don’t know each other in the slightest. But you don’t want to get me started in a ‘who reads the most books’ contest here, because I’ll win and would have won by age eleven. Also, I came here today, to the public library, where you offer free Internet access, to get on the Internet. All I need is five minutes to check my email. See, I’ve driven here from Minnesota to help my 72-year-old mother empty 115 boxes and a household of furniture out of a 120 degree storage locker, sort through it, arrange a garage sale, and distribute heirloom items to my siblings. And, see, my brother lives in Portugal and has sent me an email, telling me if he wants my dead father’s music bureau or not. Exactly where am I in error here in wanting to access that message from him before we load up the trailer tomorrow?”

Keep in mind, this was just a shot over the bow. Given any more provocation, I’d have had him in a half-nelson and talked low and mean in his pasty ear until his spit dried up and he begged for mercy.

Luckily for his neck and his saliva, he backed down and offered to help me sign up for a terminal, so long as, he noted threatingly, I kept in mind that each terminal was individually named (The Sweetwater; The Poplar; The Rosebud) and made sure only to log-on to my assigned terminal. As I sat for the next twenty minutes, reading a book, waiting for my turn on my assigned terminal, The Maple, I watched him berate and harangue the next three people who also were interested in gaining free Internet access.

And eventually,

I got my turn,

read the email,

shared my terminal with a woman who had logged on earlier in the day to print an article and then, getting home, realized the article had only half printed, so she came back to try it again, only to be scolded by Larry “Bud” Librarian for trying to sneak in a second session in the same day, when the rules clearly state that every patron is only allowed one session per day,

and, after logging off, I stuffed that little, bespectacled troll of a librarian into The DC Comics Encyclopaedia. There the pint-sized Mister Mxyzptlk, Superman’s nemesis, ushered Librarian into a whole new world of control games when he pounced on Larry “Bud” to give him the noogie of a lifetime, promising only to let up if and when Librarian could pronounce “Myxzptlk” backwards while simultaneously checking in overdue items and forgiving the fines.






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35 responses to “Bizarro Profession”

  1. my4kids Avatar

    Oh man you are one funny lady!
    I love your final response to him though sounds like something I would have said myself. Something to turn it around on him…..Yeah I’m not a fan of librarians either and I’ve noticed a lot of people in jobs that are supposed to be “customer service” don’t really like people…..they need to find a new job where they can crawl into their holes…

  2. Diana Avatar

    You DO seem to have the worst luck with librarians. I’ve occasionally run into that species of troll that has somehow taken up the mantle of ‘librarian’, but most that I’ve met have been the other way. Lovely people who, upon your asking about a certain book, will tell you all about what you want to know and then throw in recommendations for 15 other books in the same vein that you might want to read.

    That said, I have a book quirk of a different nature: I loves them and can’t bear to give them back. So, the book store and not the library is my haunt. When I am old and doddery, I can bet that the 115 boxes in my storage container are filled with books and only books that I’ve been unable to part with. My poor kids. I’m guessing that both will have moved to Portugal just so they won’t have to help me move them.

  3. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Philip Larkin was a librarian. That’s all you need to know.


  4. Karen Avatar

    While I don’t LOOK like Mr. Melman, I think I should have been a librarian…

    Giggle giggle snort. Look what your post has me doing!

    There must be some sort of worldwide standard for librarians as they’re the exact same up here although some of ours have buns instead of braids (or, for the men, are going bald).

    Jocelyn, I’m surprised with all the books you read, you didn’t sign up for the summer reading challenge we have going on. But then again in addition to reading you also have a life so you’re a bit busy… 🙂

    Keep up the great posts.

  5. Jazz Avatar

    Well that vindicates my habit of shunning libraries and buying my books instead (which I often then try to donate to libraries who get all snooty about it when most of the books are, in fact, once-read hardcovers).

    I hate libararians too.

  6. furiousBall Avatar

    I’m currently suffering through library addiction. I had a renassance of sorts, I walked into our library about four months ago and realized. Why do I buy crappy books that I will read once? Do I need to litter my shelves with Koontz, King and like trophies of the literary beasts I have slain? [I better hop off the metaphor-go-round, I’m about to hurl]

    Although I love libraries, I also love seeing old people get smacked. So next time have a friend bring a digital camera for my enjoyment. Heck post it on youtube, you could be freakin’ famous.

  7. lime Avatar

    ROFLMAO!! larry ‘bud’ librarian…gads…you could have just said that and the image alone would have kept me in stitches for well, moments at least. the various other rich descriptions of egregious librarianship among ‘those who fear the sun.’ were a riot….

    that being said, please don’t hate me….i want to be a children’s librarian. i came to this realization when heading up the RIF committee for 6 years at my kids school. i couldn’t stand the disorder of the boxes of books when enough kids seemd to really know what they wanted. i sorted them by genre and age level and nothing made me happier than to have a kid ask for a specific book, author or genre and be able to put somethign in their hand that made their face light up with a grin. oh yeah and when it was book fair week i loved dressing in them appropriate costume, going around to each class and then reading whatever the craziest, wildest book was that we had and stirring the kids inot a frenzy over the books before turning them back over to the teacher. bwahahaha. i’d be an impish children’s librarian….it’s those dull reference librarians and cataloguers you have to be wary of….;)

  8. velvet Avatar

    Hysterical! Thank you, Jocelyn, I needed that. (wipes tear from eye)

    This reminds me why I like the bookstore so much better because it’s full of people who want to help you find the books so that their store can make money and they can keep their jobs.

  9. Jeannie Avatar

    Hmmm, I think I saw this episode on TV (just kidding). I haven’t been to a lot of different libraries to be quite honest. Mainly because I live about 2 miles from where I grew up. The librarians at my local branch have always been very helpful and customer service oriented. Perhaps it’s because they share the library with a highschool and getting to deal with an adult rather than snotty teenagers is a treat. Sorry for your troubles.

  10. Joy T. Avatar
    Joy T.

    I won’t say how many years it’s been since I’ve been in a library but let’s just say I think Your little 60 year old terror of a Librarian was working in my school Library at the time. Had to have been him because he sures sounds like the miserable S.O.B. Loved reading this. So funny!

  11. Jill Avatar

    I bet your sharing your terminal drove the library-troll nuts! Good show!

  12. Princess Pointful Avatar
    Princess Pointful

    Even better is the idea that those working in a “public” library should be disgusted at having to deal with the public.

  13. Voyager Avatar

    You are too funny. But librarians I’ve encountered are all pussycats. Vague and distracted maybe, but well meaning. Except on annual “amnesty day”. When fines are waived so you can bring back books that are so overdue you can’t afford the fine. Death rays then emanate from their squinty eyes.

  14. frannie Avatar

    is it universal that librarians suck?

  15. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    You’re too funny! I can see with all that reading you all do, the library would be cheaper than buying them!

  16. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Do what I do: avoid libraries at all costs.

    Librarians are bitter because they want all those books to themselves but have to give them out to “people.” If they had their way it’d just be them and the books. And then they’d turn on one another, like little librarian vampires or something.

  17. TLP Avatar

    SO FUNNY! I laughed all the way through.

    I’ve been lucky with libraries. My husband and I have traveled in all the “lower 48” states except for N.D., and I’ve used libraries in many, many towns. The staffs have always been wonderful to me.

    My husband volunteers (he’s almost 79) at our local library where the staff is so nice to everyone. The children’s librarians are just fab. A couple of times a year, they actually have sleepovers in the library for kids. My granddaughters love it.

    The librarians are so NOT uptight that they march in formation in our town’s Memorial Day parade with bookcarts, stopping to do little formation drills, etc. It’s so hysterical!

    You’re post is so amusing, so I’m guilty of laughing instead of sympathising with you.

  18. That Chick Over There Avatar
    That Chick Over There

    Okay, it’s really weird, but even though you and I live in totally different states, we manage to visit the exact same library.

  19. Dan Avatar

    I can’t stand these little Napoleons, these Javerts who will follow rules blindly without any exception.

    You restrained yourself quite a bit. I would have bitch-slapped him the moment I laid eyes on him. I can spot these sorry little bureaucrats a mile way. 🙂

  20. MyUtopia Avatar

    LOL! You crack me up!

  21. AmyTree Avatar

    Oh lovely Jocelyn, I think I just shot beer out my nose. It hurts, but it was worth it – I haven’t exhaled a beverage in ages..! There are some of those Melman-types over here, too…

  22. Naughty1978 Avatar

    Genuis post! Thankyou for making me laugh harder than I have for a while at the written word!!

  23. mcewen Avatar

    Good grief you have the patience of a saint
    I too get odd looks when I stagger out of the library with 50 – 70 books. when I explain that I have four children, it never seems to help.
    Well done you for keeping your cool.

  24. My Reflecting Pool Avatar
    My Reflecting Pool

    all I can say is: hehehehehe. You describe it so well. I refuse to go to the library as I am unable to contain myself from bitch slapping these eh-holes.

  25. urban-urchin Avatar

    Off topic-Larry Bud died this year! After reading this I googled him to confirm a rumor that he was Marconi’s grandson, and there it was, he’s dead.

  26. susan Avatar

    You showed such remarkable self control in not bitch-slapping that old man! LOL

    You also make me realize how lucky we are to have great librarians. Well…except for the old grouch that always wears a 3″ cross around her neck and glares at the books we check out. So, I’m always sure to grab a crotch-grabber with a racey cover page….

    Is that bad?

  27. yinyang Avatar

    We have friendly librarians, but I think they’re mostly volunteers (which would explain it). Of course, I usually navigate around the library without help, so the few I’ve actually had to talk to might have been the exception (but I don’t think so, as most people in town are friendly, too).

  28. Infinitesimal Avatar

    I would love to see this posted on some international librarian message board.

    You know, I had a friend… sorta… well, she was nice to my face….

    in high school, and this person went on to get her degree in English of course, and then she applied to library school (Yeah, they TEACH you to be that bitchy and socially maladjusted) and was turned down by said school, apparently she just was not intellectual enough to realize her dream of becoming a librarian. So she became a school teacher instead, of young kids… like Girls age. And lo, surprise surprise, she hated kids.

    Nowadays, she spends her hours PRETENDING to be a librarian, in that she is bitchy and maladjusted with just any old body she meets in the outside world.

    But yeah, librairians are assholes. I had a similar experience when my computer broke and I had to check email. The same exact thing… they said, no way to know when one would be available, but when pressed, grudgingly admitted to having a sign-up sheet.

    What happened to all those nice postmenopausal women/children’s librarians who used to show us filmstrips and read Maurice Sendeck to us? Remember them?

  29. Pendullum Avatar

    I have been so fortunatewith librarians…
    and asI hug my books a bit tighter to my chest… I feel your pain…
    And am thinking only of you becoming a comic hero…
    Liberty Librarian Lady fights rude behaviour with a simple swipe of a card… or whack of an ole book…

  30. chelle Avatar

    I have a love/hate relationship with most libraries and librarians too.

    I grew up dreaming of becoming a librarian then my path took me somewhere else.

  31. Top cat Avatar
    Top cat

    Great post jocelyn, you nailed the whole librarian persona.

  32. Claire Avatar

    I feel ya sista! My favorite George Carlin quote “It’s time to start slapping people.” I’m pretty sure he had librarians in mind when he said that.
    I’m a book freak. I just thinned out the herd and gave away 3 big boxes full. Maybe I need to spend more time at the library…

  33. jen Avatar

    this is hilarious. and you know, i am compelled to break the librarian stereotype….go over see my gal Mad at

  34. urban-urchin Avatar

    A bake sale for MOI? Seriously dude, New JOisey is calling your name…. We have excellent universities in the vicinity and the house down the street just went on the market.

  35. CS Avatar

    I’ve encountered good and bad librarians. One particularly good one used to set aside books she tought I’d enjoy based on other stuff I was reading! Of course, you’re talking to the kid who used to read as she walked down the hallway from class tp class in high school. Not as much these days, unfortunately. All these bloody blogs holding my attention!

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