Juggling people

Working in a public library in a coastal beach community 80 kilometres from a major city means that during the summer holidays we are inundated with people wanting all sorts of things from us. When the weather is bad the campers take refuge in the library for some amusement. When the weather is too hot they still come to once again get some respite in the air-conditioned comfort and shade.

Here is a snapshot of the questions we get every day:

“Can you find me a book with the Australian citizenship questions? I have to sit the test before they take away my pension and deport me after living here for 50 years.” pleads the 80 plus year old lady with the walking frame and a plastic aqua wallet covered in scrawled pen notes to herself.

“I need more time on the computer!” stammers a smelly long-haired and balding unkempt 30-something male who visits every day.

“Have you got information about the XXth battalion of WW2? I fought there back in 19XX and I remember…..” reminisces the elderly digger with tears in the corners of his eyes as he settles in to recall the events.

“I have a few new titles I’d like to order.” asserts the well-dressed elderly woman as she unravels a long list with beautiful handwriting.

“I want to email photos directly from my camera. Can I use a computer?” says the holidaymaker with no identification and questionable IT skills about how to do that exactly.

“Can we join the library?” choruses the family group of mother, father, and four children as they swarm the counter en masse.

“Have you got the Twilight series? I want to order the first book. And the next one, and the next one…” rambles the young girl at the end of the telephone.

“I’ve lost a book. We’ve just moved. I must have returned it….” already on the defensive, the woman on the telephone has effectively jumped the queue of four people patiently waiting for attention in front of me and now she wants to persist with her excuses before anyone can get a word in.

“Can we use ze internet please?” a backpacker politely enquires in stilted English with some divine European accent, while showing a well-worn passport.

“I want information about dioxin and the effects on humans. I’d like references to the incidents of this in Vietnam and Northern Italy. I’m worried about the proposed pulp mill planned to be built on the Tamar River in Tasmania. Can you find this for me please?” asks a polite regular with a keen curiosity and social conscience.

I try to give my full attention to each and every customer and not only help to give them what they want, but also always try to give them that little bit extra whenever I can. It can be a challenge sometimes especially during summer when the people and questions come thick and fast. But I love it.

I regularly read a light-hearted comic strip about libraries at Unshelved. At present they are loaning out ukeles to the public and I suppose this reflects some of the crazy gimmicks that we have to embrace from time to time.

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