I work part-time at a library and since I’ve been there, I’ve had already a number of series here about my experiences there, including Things You Didn’t Know About Your Local Library and Old Newspapers Just Don’t Make Good Cat Litter Liner. Now I’m going to start a new one that hopefully will be a little more regular than the other ones called Patron of the Week. The series was inspired by this post in which an elderly man talked about long hair and also by this post in which a woman complained about perfume ads in magazines.
Graphic for button from New Media Consortium on Flickr
This week’s patron comes to us from the Land of Excuses. Please welcome Little Miss I-Don’t-Want-To-Pay-All-My-Fine-Because-(insert excuse here).
She came in — no, not through the bathroom window, mainly because the bathroom in our library doesn’t have a window, although I’m sure some patrons wish there was a window, but alas there isn’t* — through the front door and then proceeded to stop by the front desk, where she asked me if I could waive part of a video fine because her family had been dealing with the death of a relative and, as a result, she had forgotten to bring the DVDs back to the library in a timely fashion. I let her know as politely as I could that I, as a lowly library staff, didn’t have that authority, that she would have to talk to the director, who was in during the day about that.
She then continued to tell me her story: that she had been a patron for many years and that she thought she was entitled to at least some courtesy. I again let her know politely that she would have to talk to the director. Then the patron said she didn’t understand why library staff didn’t have the authority to waive fines. Yet again, I let her know politely as I could after the third time of telling her she would need to talk to the director. Finally, the woman left the desk. I wondered if other video stores offered the same courtesy to their customers. Somehow, I doubted it.
Later, I saw her looking over our DVDs. I thought it only polite to let her know that she would be unable to take out any DVDs until her fine was taken care of, either by paying or talking to the director. So I told her, to which she responded that she thought we (in this case, meaning “I”) would allow her to take out movies until her fine was taken care of. I informed her of the policy , which is not to allow patrons with fines over $1 to take out DVDs or books until their fines were paid, or waived by the director (which is highly unlikely, but I didn’t tell her this). Her fines, I knew, were at least $1 because overdue fines for DVDs are $1 a day and she had mentioned that she hadn’t returned the DVDs until several weeks later.
She then informed me that she lived several miles out of town, as if that was a hardship. I hate to say but I didn’t sympathize with her, not only because I live right in town, but also because our library services a wide rural area and many of our patrons travel several miles to the library. Why should she be treated any differently? If there’s one directive I was given as night staff, it was, and is, to be consistent with the rules. For the fourth time, I informed her, my polite voice reaching its tether, that she would need to talk to our director…at which point the woman flounced out the front door through which she had entered in such a fluster earlier that evening.
Later, I talked to our director and our circulation librarian about the woman, and they both agreed that I had done the right thing. The circ librarian, like I thought the previous night, said she doubted video stores would waive fines for such a reason. I also mentioned that I thought this was the same woman who had come into the library a few months earlier to ask her fines be waived because she was going through a bad divorce and hadn’t had a chance to bring the DVDs back to the library. The circ librarian didn’t think it was the same woman, but I still think it is.
In a moment of (rare) cruelty, I did think to ask the woman that I would need to see a death certificate first before we could waive her fine. Our circ librarian said she thought it too. However, lucky for me and my job security, I didn’t. I also thought of asking her where the funeral home was, because if it had been in town (our library sets across the street from one in fact), she could have just dropped off the DVDs then. Again, lucky for me and my job security, I didn’t.
I haven’t heard if the woman returned and did talk to our library director. I’m just waiting for her to return to ask me if she can get another fine waived because her dog died and the trauma was too much for her to do anything else, especially return overdue DVDs and especially since the DVD was Marley and Me.The trauma, the trauma.
For some reason, all this customer service talk reminds me of this …ahem…commercial:
Ooops, click through to Youtube, to see the video. This one was disabled by request, probably at request of NBC. Those bastards!
* On a side note, not even the staff bathroom has a window in it. So we have to deal with unpleasant odors too, and that’s not counting some of the patrons, but that’s a story for another time.