On New Year’s Eve, my friend Christian filled me in on the lesser-known duties of a reference librarian: cleaning up human excrement, humoring patrons with severe mental disabilities, preventing people from shooting up in the bathroom…. In a similar vein, McSweeney’s online has begun to feature Dispatches from a Public Librarian. Here’s an excerpt from the first:
My favorite patron this week would have to be the one who tried to take my shoes. The patron was a mentally challenged man who was visiting the library as part of his rehabilitation. He came up to me while I was in the juvenile-fiction area and asked if I would be his friend. I politely nodded and said that I would be his friend. He then asked if he might have my shoes. I told him, as gently as possible, that I needed to keep them. He nodded, and asked if I was still his friend. I said yes, and he asked if he could feel my shoes. Seeing no harm in this, I told him he could feel one, but he had to do it quickly. He nodded, bent down, and proceeded to lift up my foot and pull off my shoe.