Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"No soup [library service] for you!"

I really enjoy the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld. At times, I find I act a lot like the Soup Nazi, especially when patrons don't behave the way I want them to, like following basic rules. I work at a private academic university, and I feel we have a community patron problem. Why do we even have community patrons, you ask? Mainly because we are a partial federal depository library, and we are legally required to allow community users access to our materials. Also, academic libraries generally allow patrons outside the campus community to look at their books, periodicals, etc.

Our community patron, R., doesn't make use of our books. He monopolizes a computer - a computer from which he runs a business. He doesn't understand why he cannot use his cell phone right next to the library computer, in case, as he terms it, of conference calls. When he's on a computer, we have to kick him off so students can use it. He has figured out the student login (not as though that was difficult), so now he has unlimited printing. He never brings his own pens or pencils, so he is always using ours or a student's. One time, he asked to use the reference desk phone, then our personal cell phones because he was having trouble with his. When we all refused, he asked a student to use hers. He constantly has technology problems, which he then needs help solving. We have to constantly remind him that he cannot use the lab, to please take his cell phone calls outside, stop pestering the students, and so on. (As you can tell, he has been the fly in my ointment for a while).

There are all sorts of theories flying around about what he is actually doing. For a while, we were convinced he was running a spam operations because we had to help him with pdf problems. Then, we thought he was running a phone scam because he is constantly asking for and promising large sums of money to people. (He'd also like us to find the number for Goldman Sachs).

I have really worked on my attitude (although it doesn't seem like it). I don't want to be the only librarian who constantly complains about R. My colleagues try to remind me that it isn't my problem; my boss has made a decision to let him stay. For some reason, I find this unhelpful. I can't see a problem like this, where someone is disrupting library service, and not do anything about it. On the other hand, I did not decide to work in a public library, so all I really want to deal with is snotty college students. Upon further reflection, though, I realized that even a public library would not put up with his behavior. I think the problem I'm having comes down to valuation of library services. Apparently, my colleagues and I have a difference of opinion.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds super frustrating. Didn't you also mention that the number of computers in the library is limited? So when this user camps out it means a student can't use that computer. I think the weirdest part is asking people to use their phones. One of our community users did the same thing and I think she was asked to leave and not come back. I guess the students should know better and protect their personal property but also, isn't talking on a cell phone disruptive? There's all kinds of red flags with this guy but if your boss isn't being an advocate for the library, students and employees then it will obviously just continue. Boo.