Tuesday, April 3, 2007

homeless and drunk @ your library

Kate, our Loose Cannon Librarian, posted a great entry about Social Services @ Your Library. Being a newbie librarian at a public library I have had a crash course in Social Services in American 101. Outlook, not so good.

I was sitting at the reference desk for a two hour shift, and reading her entry. Halfway through, one of our drunk homeless drug addicts yells to me, "MISS! I NEED YOUR HELP!", a homeless man ask for directions to Norwalk, and a rather lonely man at home calls on the phone to find out how much vitamin E is in sesame seeds (which turned into how many micrograms are in a milligram...)

When meeting new people, one often engages in a discussion about their work, academic or professional. I enjoy my work and want to share my love for libraries and information with others. I find more and more when I talk about my work that I am stressing the personal touch. That so much of my position, whether I like it or not, is kindness and a human touch. Likewise, I have learned (hello newbie!) that kindness can be mistaken for friendship and inappropriate questions and comments. When the streets, shelters, jails are dark and dangerous places our library is a welcomed alternative. (Or is our library a welcomed alternative?)

I think I have become more tolerant of the suffering in our library, and perhaps I am romanticizing this as well. A place with warmth, computers, comfy chairs, bathrooms, and ears attached with desk. So that when the drunk man yells at me from across the room to make his font bigger, I try to place his behavior in the context of a society that is ill equipped to deal with his addictions and provide his basic needs. I sometimes feel apart of that process that is criminalizing the mentally ill, when someone who is drunk and passed out is kicked out. At times, I feel like I should have a card that makes me exempt from our patron's irrationality. Sometimes, I want to roll my eyes, and lament about how rude it is to call out. Down at the root, we are both trying to make it through the day the best we can. I feel ill equipped to discuss the issue because it is such a juggernaut, and I wouldn't even know where to begin. There are days when I go home and feel exhausted and dejected. That America has given up on the poor, the ill, and the hungry, and maybe I should just find a cushy corporate job.

Oh, the things I didn't learn in library school.

No comments: