Let me start by saying I love libraries. Most of my good childhood memories involve the library. I read straight thru the Dewey Decimal System at the Epiphany (23rd St between 2nd & 3rd Aves, NYC) and then the Donnell (closed, but was on 53rd St between 5th & 6th Aves, NYC) branches of the New York Public Library system. I helped a friend watch her siblings Wednesday afternoons; went on Friday after school, returning as a hunchback with over 20 books, which I devoured over the weekend; I even cut school to spend the day at the library.
When I was priced out of NYC to Brooklyn*, I moved two blocks away from the Park Slope branch.
When I moved back to Brooklyn with my 18 month old son, I moved two blocks from the Highlawn Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL).
The first problem I had was due to hot weather. I went to return books and found the library had closed early because the air conditioning breaking down. I returned the following day and the librarian claimed the books were overdue. I pointed out that while they had closed early the day before, the books weren’t actually due yet. She got out a calendar and we counted off the days. I showed how they were due that day. She claimed they had been due the day before. I said if they had been due the day before, the library had closed early so how could I have returned the books?
I had remained calm up to that point. I freely admit I “dumb down” when dealing with people — knocking 50+ points off of my IQ. Having fibromyalgia, and “fibro fog”, knocks points off against my will. The problem with doing that is that there is a group of people who have IQ’s that are around the median — 100 — but are smart enough to realize they are not “geniuses” and hate those of us who are (or, in my case, were). This group tends to get very defensive and angry, feeling like people are talking down to them. This group is also more likely to become serial killers.
Anyway, my foe was in this group who are smart enough to know they are not that smart (how’s that for irony, Ms. Morrisette?), and she felt I was doing some witchcraft- voodoo- mumbo-jumbo on her when adding 21 days from the day the books were taken out. She literally “got up in my face” and I could smell the tuna she’d had for lunch.
My son was in his stoller, the books and DVD’s in the space underneath him. Sensing his mother might be in danger, he let out a scream. Which brought the Head Librarian over. Head stuck a hand between us and spoke to me, tho I had not moved at all.
“What’s happening here?” Head asked In-My-Face.
In-My-Face explained that I had taken the books out on the first, so they were due the day before, on the 21st.
I started to point out that they were due the 22nd, but Head looked at me and asked why I had not returned them.
“I was going to return them a day early, yesterday, but you had closed early,” I explained politely.
“They were due yesterday, ” Tuna – breath said.
“Twenty-one plus one equals–” I began.
“Where are the books?” Head demanded. “Late fees can be paid for over there.” And she pointed at the kiosk.
I couldn’t believe it! First, the librarian gets inches away from my face, then the Head Librarian sides with her?
“I don’t have them,” I said, and pushed my son’s stroller, and the books and DVD’s out of the library.
We didn’t return to the library until my son was in Kindergarten. We both signed up for library cards, a ND began taking out books. I was always careful about Due Dates. I kept our books in a large box from the Post Office. If my son wanted a book, he had to put the one he had back before taking out a second. Now, I’ll admit, we did have a (relatively) lot of books. Perhaps over 50. But I was shocked when I received a bill from the library for over $1,000. I went over the list of books they claimed we had. Most had been returned, but even if the full value of the books had been added up, it would have been less then the bill. Plus, they weren’t overdue!
I went to the library, taking all of the books with me, and tried to explain.
Tuna Breath / Up In My Face had been fired or moved to another branch, and I got English As A Second Language.
I should point out that our area is mostly Soviet. Not because they come from Soviet Russia, either. I divide them as “Russians”, like my great-grandfather, who came here not speaking a word of English. When he had to leave Russia, he took a boat labeled, “North America” and wound up in Canada. He made his way down to Ohio where he worked. Yes, worked. He was 14 when he got here and worked until the day he dropped — literally– dead, in his 50’s. He knew Russian and Hebrew, and tried very hard to learn English.
These arse who come here are “Soviets”, not because they come from Soviet Russia, but because they have their fur coats, Mercedes-Benz, hundred dollar bills, and pull out a food stamp card. It’s all setup for them, or so some friends tell me.
Anyway, I’m at the library with Ms. Soviet, and she tells me there’s a one-time only thing to avoid paying the bill.
“But I don’t OWE this much. I don’t owe anything!” I explained.
I wound up using the “one-time only” for my son’s card.
We didn’t return until this past year, when my son was in fifth grade.
Both of our cards are wiped clean.
I put books on hold, they arrive, I check them out.
I make the mistake of using the Brooklyn Public Library app to renew books.
“Our” library, only 8 years old, us under renovation. The closest, as the crow flies, is where they send our books. As a human walks, it is a maze. We get there and there is a problem.
The books I renewed online didn’t renew at the library and I owe money I do not have.
“It’s only a few dollars,” explains the librarian.
I want to scream, “Then get it from the ass who crippled me. And while you’re at it, ask him for some child support!”
I stay calm.
I explain how I renewed the books.
I show the app on my phone.
She says she’ll fix it.
“Our” library reopens a week later.
I “owe” five dollars, ten cents.
Every time I check out a book, it says I owe five dollars, ten cents.
I check out ten books. After each book, there is a loud buzz. “Remove your book.” And it names the book. And buzzes. And a third buzz.
Then I need to swipe my card and check out the next book. And a buzz. And you get the idea.
I was ready to break the computer.
To leave. And not come back.
When did going to the library become such a hellish experience?
I don’t know what to do.
One of our “holds” is there.
At “our” library.
* I know people in Brooklyn (and Queens and the other Boroughs) think they are in “New York” (yes, New York State) and call NYC, “Manhattan”. But when tourists say, “I want to go to New York”, do they mean the Bronx? Staten Island? No. They mean New York. A.k.a. NYC. “Manhattan”. Trips to the Bronx Zoo or Coney Island are “day trips”, like visiting Paris and going on a “day trip” to Marseilles. Get over it.