Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Annoying Customers: Hyena Girl

Friday afternoons are traditionally the quietest day at the library, and last week was no exception. On Friday, there were perhaps 9 people using the teen department, all quietly and intently focused on myspace and runescape. The few conversations were held at the level of a whisper, as everyone knows that if they're quiet and well-behaved on Fridays, I'll give them an extra 15 minutes of computer time at the end of the day and perhaps some type of cookie or other treat (my boss calls it bribery, I call it positive reinforcement. Either way, it works).

Suddenly, from the top of the stairs, we hear it. The echoing sound is so loud that literally every person in the computer lab jumps. I look up, and realize that we have a Hyena Girl.

Hyena Girls are most often found in their native habitat of shopping malls or other retail establishments, rarely venturing into the library. The Hyena Girl appears normal, perhaps even soft spoken, until she finds something funny. Once she does, she emits a sound that is a cross between a hysterical hyena and The Joker in the 1960s Batman TV show.

This particular girl not only had the hyena laugh, she was also on one of those Nextel walkie-talkie phones, which allow us to hear both sides of the conversation. Hyena Girl came down the stairs, cackling madly the entire time, then screamed into the phone.

I approached her. "You'll need to keep it down or take your conversation outside."

Dirty look. Hyena Laugh. Continued shrieking into the phone.

"Your conversation is too loud. Please take it outside."

"The libary lady says I gotta stop talking. Bye."

I returned to my seat in the computer lab. Thirty seconds later, a blast of hip-hop music from the phone.

"You need to keep the music off, please."

Dirty look. Another blast of music.

"If I have to talk to you again, you're going to have to leave."

I returned to my chair. I hear a final blast of music. As I rise, the Hyena Girl races up the stairs, cackling wildly.

One of our regulars starts laughing. "Wow, I guess she showed you! It really proves how cool you are when you run away!"

A second regular chimes in. "What a loser. Her laugh sounds like a hyena."

Everyone in the computer lab starts laughing at the Hyena Girl. I give them all Oreos.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Storm Has Arrived

The calm times at our library are officially over, and the teens are apparently feeling especially rambunctious to make up for the week of peace and quiet. Monday was busy but everyone was relatively well-behaved. On Tuesday, someone accidentally (?) sprayed pepper spray in the teen computer lab, necessitating our evacuation of the teen department. Fortunately no one was made ill, as we got every one out quickly.

Yesterday we had more excitement. A teen who had been previously banned from the library for one year decided to come back in. Since he had been banned for threatening and yelling at one of our staff members, that staff member waited until I came in to deal with him. I gave him another copy of his banning letter and escorted him out of the building. He left peacefully enough, and I returned to my desk thinking "wow, that was strangely easy."

Why do I test the library gods like this? Thinking "that's easy" inevitably means that something is going to go wrong very very soon.

Sure enough, about two minutes later I got a call from the Children's Department that our friend had returned. He screamed and swore at the manager of Children's, raced through the building, ran outside and threw things at the windows, and knocked over our book drop. For some reason, the Children's staff were trying to reason with him. I simply called the police.

He left by the time the officer arrived, but we're filing trespassing charges against him. I'm sure his parents will be thrilled when they receive the notice.

I wonder what fun I'll have today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Job Applications

Summer is coming (although you wouldn't know it by the 30 degree weather and snow), so we have started getting applications from teens looking for summer jobs. We typically hire four or five teens over the summer, and receive several dozen applications. Below are several tips that I wish that someone, somewhere, had shared with our intrepid job hunters.

1) When applying for a job, it is generally a good idea to put your full name on the application. This does not mean your "street" name, but the name that your mother gave you the day you were born.

2) If you have neither a phone number nor an email address, it is very difficult for me to contact you for an interview.

3) If I have kicked you out repeatedly for swearing at other patrons and looking at pornography, it seems unlikely that I will now hire you.

4) The correct spelling of our place of business is "library."

5) "Because I need money" is not a good response to the question "Describe why you want to work here or why you love libraries."

6) Just because you have been arrested, it doesn't mean I won't hire you. If, however, your arrest was for stealing from the library, your chances of getting hired may be slightly lower.

7) If you're old enough to have a job, you're old enough to fill out the application yourself. Sending your mother in to do it does not impress me.

8) "Because my boss sucked" is not an appropriate answer to the question "Why did you leave your last job?"

9) If you are 15 with no job experience, no one is going to pay you $10.00/hour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Overheard Conversations

When I'm working at the desk in the teen area, or in my office with the door open, I often hear teens carrying out "private" conversations. I put private in quotes because these conversations are often carried out at the level of a shout, despite the fact that other people are less than two feet away. Some of my favorite conversations from yesterday....

Guy to Girl: Let's go somewhere else. All these books make me feel dumb.
Girl to Guy: Ain't the books that make you seem dumb.
Guy: What's that mean?
Girl: You dumb!

Girl on Cellphone: Girl, if that rat's still in my house when I get home I'm letting the cat have it. **pause** I don't care if it's your pet, get rid of it!

Guy to Girl: Why you gotta be so mean? You know I love you!
Girl: Dude, you're my cousin.

My personal favorite overheard conversation EVER. First, a bit of background. We often have spontaneous craft days in the teen area when it's particularly busy or when the teens seem especially bored. One of the favorite activities is bead jewelry making. We put out stretchy cord and a variety of beads and let them have at it - some of them are amazingly talented and make beautiful pieces; others make things that are less attractive but everyone has fun.

During one of these events, a group of regulars sat down. These kids are between the ages of 13 and 14 and desperately want everyone to believe that they're gangstas. Real gangstas laugh at them, so they spend their time talking tough in the library.

Since they spend so much time trying to act tough, it was something of a surprise to see them happily making bracelets with hemp and alphabet beads. The ringleader of the group approached his friends, and the following conversation took place:

Ringleader: C'mon, yo. Let's go!
Beading Guy: Just a minute, I gotta finish this.
Ringleader: Man, what are you doing? You makin a bracelet?
Beading Guy: Yeah. Wanna make one?
Ringleader: Man, that's not gangsta!
Beading Guy: It's fun.
Second Beading Guy: Yeah, sit down and make something.
Ringleader: That's not gangsta, yo! Come on!
His friends ignore him
Ringleader: How we gonna be gangsta if you be makin a bracelet, yo?
Snarky Librarian (Chokes hysterical laughter into a cough)
Ringleader (sitting down): They got any purple?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm?

This week has been ridiculously quiet. All of the teens at the library were well-behaved and friendly. One of our regulars brought me a picture she'd drawn because she thought I'd enjoy it. Another volunteered to help cut things, while yet another turned off the computers each night and helped organize and straighten the room before he left.

I'm not really sure how to handle this. Are they all planning something horrible for the future? Have they all been secretly replaced by aliens? Is it some elaborate April Fools prank that has gone on too long?

I'm so confused.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Annoying Customers: The Broken Parrot

Some members of my staff and I were talking about our least favorite customers, and I realized that most of the kids who annoy us can be broken down into a few types. I also realized that for most of the kids, I am actually less annoyed than amused, and that the hardest part of my job is keeping a straight face when they go off onto their rants.

Anyway, for today.....the Broken Parrot.

The Broken Parrot is almost always a girl between the ages of 13 and 15. She usually has an elaborate hairdo, frequently a weave or extensions, and nearly always has large hoop earrings, too much makeup, and long claw-like acrylic nails. The Broken Parrot is nearly always trailed by two or more friends who say nothing.

The main characteristic of the Broken Parrot is that she never says anything original, just repeats instructions or conversations of others in a loud, mocking voice, while changing instructions given to her into questions aimed at someone else. For example....

Staff: There are only two people allowed at each computer. Please find something else to do.
Broken Parrot: What if I don't want to find something else to do? Why don't you find something else to do?
Staff: If you don't go sit down, you'll be asked to leave.
BP: What if I don't want to sit down? Why don't you go sit down?
S: It's time for you to leave now.
BP: What if I don't want to leave? Why don't you leave?
S: You need to leave, or I'll call someone to escort you out.
BP: Why don't you get escorted out?

By this time, we're into the hardest part of my job....not responding in kind. I always have an intense desire to begin mocking the girl by either repeating everything she says, or just laughing in her face. I don't do either, of course, but sometimes it's a hard battle to win.

Next time: The Wannabe Gangsta!