Thursday, September 4, 2008

Possibly the Most Difficult Decision of the Day

Whenever I encounter “Library-virgins” it’s when they come to the circulation desk for the first time to register for a new card. This is a very simple procedure. The patron fills out a form asking for the most basic of information: first and last name, phone number, address, e-mail address, and their birth date, which is optional. After they fill this out they take it to me at the circulation desk where I enter it into the library computer system. I always start by asking if the prospective patron might have ever had a card with the specific library system before. You would think most would be able to remember if they’ve ever walked into a library to obtain a card but there are some very forgetful people out there and they aren’t necessarily long in the tooth. There are also a few patrons who try to get two or three cards each for a number of reasons.

I have come across a few patrons who try to get a new card because their other card has accumulated a hefty amount in fines. I’ve had someone with about $10 in fines try to obtain a new card in order to avoid paying it. Others try to get another card to spend more time on the library’s internet stations. I don’t know why they just don’t use their family members’ cards instead of trying to pull one on me. I find it very insulting and it makes you look bad when you stand there and lie to me about not ever having a library card, it’s such a trivial thing.

If the patron has never had a card I then ask them which library card they would like to get, there are only two choices: a wallet sized card or a keychain card. I know it’s not just me, but I really do feel like this is an easy decision to be able to make on the spot within at most 10 seconds. But this has really not been the case in my experience. First the patrons look at the cards as I hold one in each hand for them to see their options, their eyes narrow as if they are trying to do long division in their head. It’s as if I have been transported into the Matrix and I am Morpheus asking Neo to choose between the Red and Blue pill.

I really wouldn’t mind patrons taking the extra 30 seconds to decide which fate to choose, heck, I would even hum the Final Jeopardy tune, but at one of the library systems I work for, the software program won’t let me enter any of the patron’s information in until I scan the barcode of their new card. Chances are the patrons will lose whichever card they get or they forget it at home and end up having to use their driver’s license to check out books. I for one am partial to the wallet sized card. The keychain card tends to break off and patrons end up complaining to me about having to pay the $2 or $1, depends on which library system I’m working at, replacement card fee. Trust me; the monetary amount of services the library has to offer definitely exceeds any replacement card fee paid.

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