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Librarian or Mind Reader?
Did you know that sometimes a librarian needs to be a mind reader? Several incidents come to mind. The first was as a school librarian. Often some mind reading was required to understand the requests of students with limited cultural literacy. For example, a student came in after being sent there by his English teacher. He explained, “I just don’t get it. I don’t understand a lot of that Shakespeare stuff so my teacher sent me in here to get a book Shakespeare wrote about lamb’s tails. He was puzzled by that and so was I for a minute, then, CLICK! I knew it was really “Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare” written by Charles and Mary Lamb.
Sometime later I was librarian at the public library. A family entered who had moved here from North Carolina and had that distinctive North Carolina accent. The mother asked if we had the book “The Spa”. My reply was “No, I don’t think so, but I will request it for you”. In the following conversation she added, “It was written by Cooooper” AHA! “The Spy” by James Fenimore Cooper, and, yes, we had it on our shelves.
Another incident that required some mind reading occurred when a stranger who was clearly Hispanic entered asking for a “mop”. We hurried to the broom closet and quickly brought a mop to him. He shook his head and repeated, “No, a mop. A mop to show me where to go.” A pause and some mind reading, then BINGO! He wanted a MAP which we quickly supplied.
Over those 37 years as a librarian I learned that bee’s nests could really be a request for books about business, that the lady with a bird with a reddish breast who had a nest in her bushes was a house finch, that a little Head Start girl was crying because she couldn’t sit by her boyfriend at story hour. I learned that a little boy could get his head stuck in the back of a kiddie chair, and that the squeak we heard was not a hearing aid when a mouse jumped out of an elderly lady’s coat. Also, that red book about a murder did have an author and title, and, of course, the book “How to Improve Your Memory” was always overdue… He just forgot he had it.
I have been retired for 7 years now, but in hindsight I think our motto should have been “We are librarians and we know the answers you didn’t even know to ask”.
-MG; a former librarian and mind reader.
Contributed by Marilyn Goodwin