Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Librarius Interruptus Awards

The guy next to me chomps an apple, the lady behind me mutters to herself, harrumphing and sighing like a petulant child.  The guy across from me has his headphones so loud I can hear the frying . . . Just another day at the public library.

Of course, the problem isn't merely here.  On the roads, in stores and restaurants, movie theaters . . . every shared space I visit is degraded by people who seem to think no one else matters.  These incidents, outside the roads, are not necessarily dangerous or even any kind of problem, in and of themselves -- people make mistakes, zone out, and so on.  But I wonder about the sum.  For me, a few at the library, a few more at the bookstore, one or two at the supermarket -- day after day, all this distraction and life-as-obstacle course makes me want to bite people's heads off.

But I don't see a lot of people getting upset, so if they are, they're not showing it.  I flash dirty looks or make comments, because I simply can't function in certain ways with distraction . . . another cell phone rings, despite obvious signs everywhere that they are supposed to be turned off.  At least it wasn't answered.

I wonder how much can be chalked up to obliviousness, versus other natural proclivities, versus the annoying notion of  "it's just what people do . . .yeah it bothers me, but what can I do about it, so just go with the flow and be a dick."  I find it is hard, if not impossible, to adapt this way, because I can neither dull my sensitivity nor blithely ruin someone else's day, who hasn't ruined mine first.

I marvel at people who can preserve their concentration and depth of immersion in the face of . . . (someone cracks his knuckles) . . . is the problem that people like me cannot adapt, or are "they" simply a bunch of . . .

When I considering starting a blog, I had in mind anything but another forum for complaints.  Yet I look back, and the complaining starts with my second post.  Maybe that post is telling, that it was my misfortune or mistake to start blogging when I had no Internet access at home.  Or maybe it was the storm that set the cascade of rant in motion.

In any event, here it is a year later, and I am so disgusted with public libraries that I hope, ASAP, to never step foot in one again, or at least to never job hunt, read, or write in one.  I could do without using the restrooms too (post on this is coming soon.)

With all of this in mind, if that's possible, here is, without further delay (though I can't guarantee interruption), the first (and probably only) annual Monkey Shrines Librarius Interruptus Awards, for the worst libraries in Morris/Somerset Counties in which to do more than borrow . . .

And the winner is:  the library in a town beginning with B, in Somerset County.  I would mention it by name, but unfortunately I need to be there sometimes.  Plus, I hope these Awards will be taken as more than finger-pointing, that these illustrations of library dysfunction will prompt questions, like What the Hell is Going on with This Culture, Not To Mention My Tax Money?

At our winner, one staff member snorts regularly.  This is very noticeable in a small library, as is staff talking constantly in full voice, which also makes attempts to silence patrons fruitless.  And once, a pair of pre-teens were sitting next to me, babbling and giggling.  One proceeded to become gaseously fruitful of ass, at which point I lost it.  A tirade of cuss-laden berating did not satisfy me, so I complained to a staff member.  I was told to sit elsewhere, as if I wasn't on my way to another seat already, and as if the library had no children's room in which to exile the flatulent, gibbering offenders.  In my world, these kids would have been thrown out of the library altogether.

The staff are pretty clueless when it comes to newpaper classifieds as well.  Most libraries keep them behind a desk, seperate from the newspaper, to avoid theft and vandalism.  I have pointed this out every time I can't find a classified, or discover a hole where some selfish prick has clipped an ad.  After a few responses reminiscent of deer in headlights, I switched to written "suggestions."  Eventually the policy was changed, but not all staff have been informed of the secret classifieds location, so sometimes I'm still out of luck. 

Finally, and this sealed the victory for the library in the town beginning with B, their Net connection is often painfully slow -- minutes for a page to load -- and filters are way too active.  I routinely cannot access such dangerous sites as craigslist and Yahoo!  And the computers are strung so close together, I feel like I'm on a chain gang.

Some of the problems plaguing our winner are common, such as patrons behaving like they are in their living rooms, and lazy, clueless and even rude staff.  Inertia approaching that of a small moon is likewise commonplace.  For these, and some more unique problems, our runners-up:

I haven't been to The Roxbury Library in awhile, so what I say may no longer apply.  But in 2008, every time I walked in, my eyes, nose and throat would itch, and I noted other patrons with the same problem.  Some sneezed.  I thought it might be a mold problem, and told the staff as much.  I was encouraged to take my complaint higher, and to bolster my case, was shown hundreds of dead insects in a cluster, seemingly related to the venting system. 

The computers at the Bridgewater branch of the Somerset County Library are, for me, useless.  Monitors are blurry even when "privacy screens" are removed, and functionality is extremely limited -- text in browsers cannot be made much less than gigantic, cut and paste is sometimes disabled, tabs are blocked, and filters are overly active.  And like our winner, computers are so close together, you best be chummy with your neighbor(s). 

And finally, Dishonorable Mentions to The Rockaway Township Library, for being disgusting, with nary an unstained chair, an occasional sighting of mouse droppings, and a pervasive unsavory odor; The Chester Library, for being the location of the post that "culminated" in these Awards; and The Randolph Library, for an incomprehensible bathroom sink, with a faucet set so close to the back of the basin as to make washing anything but fingers impossible.  And even that is a challenge, constant pressure with one hand required just to maintain a meager trickle.  The genius(es) responsible for the design, installation, OK, and continued existence of this piece of Dada should be forced to use it, preferably after reconstructing a bus engine.

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