Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mistakes, Atlases, Umbrellas

Three short, unrelated work items in the life of an academic librarian:

A few weeks ago I noticed a young lady taking down all of the rods hanging on the walls in the library. The rods are used to hang up pictures and art whenever we have a show. I asked the young lady if she was taking down the pictures from the latest show? Yes, she was. Then I told her that, actually, the rods stay on the walls. If you're taking down a show, you take the pictures off the rods, not the entire rod off the wall. I was polite when I said this. She got really angry and said, "But I've already taken down all the rods already!" Indeed, she had. There was a huge pile of about 30 rods sitting on a table. "Who can put them back on the wall?" She asked.

This struck me as a strange question. I realize she was probably embarrassed and upset to learn that she'd just wasted a lot of time taking down the rods. Someone probably told her, "Go take down the pictures from the library" and she was just following directions. But still. Her question sounded a lot to me like, "Who's going to fix my mistake?" To which I would answer, "Well, you!" I didn't say this, however-- I just stared at her, nonplussed. I was hoping the solution would occur to her eventually. She left in a huff.

Not to sound like a crotchety old fart, but why would she expect someone else to clean up her mess?

The atlas stand near my desk displays two map books: a world atlas that shows all the countries of the world and a North American road atlas that shows all the states, plus Canada & Mexico. Every few days I try to change which page the atlases are open to. I randomly open a page to a country or state that hasn't been displayed in a while. If I leave it alone, someone will invariably come along and change the pages back to the United States and Illinois, respectively.

It seems that the students of this East Central Illinois community college are only interested in looking at their own country and their own state. Perhaps there is a practical reason for this. Since they live here, those are the pages that they most often need to consult. But as a map lover, it's disheartening to see all the countries of the world, and all the states of the country, constantly reverting back to the US and IL.

An APB was sent out to all departments last week because a student lost an umbrella "with sentimental value." The student really wants the umbrella back, so we're all being asked to look for it.

There are a lot of objects I can think of that could have sentimental value. A ring, a pen, a picture, a shirt, a button off the coat of your grandfather's civil war jacket, a cat, or even a rock. But an umbrella? I can't think of a more impractical thing to attach sentiment to. It's like being sentimentally attached to a tire on your car. Not all four-- just one of them.

Umbrellas are one of the most commonly lost items. Check any lost-and-found box, and you'll always find an umbrella or two. In fact, when I was a poor student and worked in the public library, I never owned an umbrella. Whenever I needed one, I would just take my pick from the many umbrellas left in the lost-and-found box.

There's a clear reason why umbrellas get lost so much. Umbrellas are not part of your everyday routine. It's not something that you have with you every day, so you tend to forget about it on the days that you have it.

Anyway, it seems to me that if you have an umbrella with sentimental value, you should leave it at home. If you want to take it out for a spin every now and then, use it in the shower.

1 comment:

Dan S said...

Maybe it's really a magic umbrella, like Hagrid has, and it would be a public nuisance if someone found it and started doing random magic with it around LakeLand.

I know I would be sentimentally attached to a magic umbrella.