I like Dorothy’s Donation Derby almost as much as I like her comic Cat and Girl. If you send her money, she does a small drawing to show how she spent it. The result is an autobiographical comic blog with snippets of funny dialogue and moments from her life. Today there was a library mention that will be funny to anyone who still maintains vertical files. Don’t we have computers for that? I spent a good chunk of my life cutting out newspapers for the wonderfully eclectic American Radicalism & Popular Culture vertical files when I was an undergrad at Michigan State University. If you ever happen to be in East Lansing researching representations of Grant Wood’s American Gothic in advertising, MSU’s got yer back. We never got into any screaming matches either.
It’s time to tell the story of The Worst Librarian Ever.
Once upon a time, I was a new employee at Cornell University’s Olin Library. One of my first assignments was to tour the campus libraries and get a sense of the place. As you can imagine, campus library tours are not as popular as say, bong hits at the Tri Delts. Often the tour consisted of three or four people. One ill-fated day, the Olin Library tour consisted of one person: me.
Two of the library’s head muckeymucks guided the tour. One of them, a stern grey-haired woman, will heretofore be known as the Worst Librarian Ever.
The tour proceeded, and the three of us wandered through various rooms. I feigned interest in an array of statistics. Finally we reached a popular section of the library nicknamed The Cocktail Lounge, a white 1970’s style reading room filled with comfy chairs and tables arranged for group work. Students sat reading, listening to music, and talking.
I was relieved. Here at last was a comfortable space where the real life of the library took place, away from the fluorescent back-rooms of library administration. I wondered what people were reading. A buzz of conversation filled the room.
My tour guide kept up her spiel about circulation and holdings, until The Worst Librarian Ever suddenly cut her short. “Excuse me” she said, striding away from our small group. A lone student lay across two of the comfy chairs with a book on his chest. The comfy chairs, which I suspect were chosen for the express purpose of being comfy, had put him to sleep.
The Worst Librarian Ever leaned over the student and poked him awake. I watched in horror as he woke with a start to stare into her blazing eyes. The Worst Librarian Ever, pausing for effect, raised her finger, pointed and said in a voice so terrible its echo caused students in surrounding states to drop out of Library School:
“Take your feet off that chair RIGHT NOW young man!”
I winced. The entire room winced. The student took his feet down and put on his headphones. Conversation started up again. The earth continued to turn.
Five years in the future, three of the students in the room find themselves voting down a library millage but can’t quite explain why. Ten years in the future, the young man will be arrested for soliciting a dominatrix to flog him with rubber stamps. Five minutes in the future, I place an emergency call to my friend the Excellent Cornell Librarian.
She explains that the Olin library is open 24 hours. She mentions that The Worst Librarian Ever works an average of 8 hours per day, leaving 16 hours for students to stomp around on the furniture in whatever manner they wish. She confides that in addition to damaging the reputation of librarians to a roomful of future-influential ivy leaguers by loudly eviscerating a fellow student for a trivial infraction, The Worst Librarian Ever didn’t even work in that library.
She was just, you know, helping out.