slice of life in the library in orange county

The Orange County that I work in is very different than the Orange County library Scott LaCounte reflects on in this column

When the patron told me members of the international community were watching her because she had knowledge of secret documents in the governments possession and not to be surprised if federal investigators soon questioned me, I knew it was going to be an interesting night.

Working in a public library, I have come across a number of strange things and even larger number of strange people.

8 thoughts on “slice of life in the library in orange county

  1. I hope that article isn’t representative of librarians, either in the sloppy writing or in what looks like ignorance of mental illness coupled with the urge to point and snicker at it. It’s extraordinarily stressful to care for someone with paranoid schizophrenia, or for that matter to have it and believe that even your closest friends and family might secretly be one of “them.”

  2. It’s also incredibly stressful to be a librarian who deals regularly with people with mental illness. Some days, you just have to laugh to yourself and say, “Oh my Gosh. Did that really just happen?” That doesn’t mean we don’t have pity or understanding. It just means we’re human and get through the days any way we can, and laughter tends to have a better outcome than tears do.

    I rather thought the point was that although we all would have written her off as paranoid, he mentions several leads in the article (including the subtitle) that are supposed to make you think maybe she isn’t. In other words… while I can empathize with your concern that mental illness is not something that should be treated cavalierly, I think in focusing on that, you missed the main point of the article.

  3. Yes, I noticed the “army buzzed heads and crispy ironed white t-shirts,” but it’s easier for me to believe that the woman is schizophrenic and that the men were simply Mormons waiting for the bus than it is for me to believe that the men were in fact secret agents spying on her in public.

    All of which has nothing to do with the existence of the PATRIOT Act and other government intrusions; there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about freedom of intellectual pursuit in the U.S., but this article singling out a mentally ill woman and attempting to use it as an in for this kind of discussion strikes me as both gauche and incredibly sloppy. Which is to say that I don’t believe that the author really believes that they were secret agents, either. Hence my assertion that he’s simply pointing and snickering.

  4. Dear John Jack,

    Honestly, is it that big of a deal? He wrote a story that was funny and was not intended to hurt or, in your words, “single out” the women or her disorder, if she even had one.
    And where did you get Mormons from? Not once in his story does he mention Mormons. Perhaps, you are jumping to conclusions about his story or reading to something out of nothing.
    Your opinion is appreciated, i’m sure, but you seem to be doing exactly what you accuse Mr. La Counte of doing.
    It’s story, perhaps fictional.
    Are we going to get mad at all the writers in the world?


  5. I think anyone who is not a librarian has a tendency to falsely believe that librarians walk around all day ssh-ing people, and the only people who actually go in the building are polite well-to-do types who read their books and leave. I think it’s great to see a story like this published because it shows a side of the library people don’t always see. I don’t think the author was making fun of anyone. I thought it was funny, but only because it was true! Things like this happen all the time to librarians.

  6. Amy, I got Mormons from the same place he got secret agents–both are assumptions, which was exactly my point. Was there any evidence for either? In the absence of evidence for either, which one do you think is more likely?

    Mike, I’m sorry for my understatement. I was aiming for wry and it came across disingenuous. I do work in a library and I know quite well what the work entails, including a number of things that aren’t in the job description like dealing with mentally ill people, theft, and the occasional fistfights, drug use, and people making out in the bathroom.

    I personally don’t see anything amusing in the story, just something sad and disturbing. It’s quite possible that Meg, Amy, and Mike are right and I’m taking it all too seriously.

  7. I seem to get quite a few mentally ill patrons. I wish I could do more than just humor/patronize them. I wonder if that’s how their loved one’s feel?

    I personally liked the article, thought it was well written. Apologizing for disruptive patrons with your eyes seems to be one of the staples of our profession.

  8. i find humor in the obvious incongruity implied in the piece. librarians are not mental health professionals. we are librarians. but there we are, out in the world. the patron needed to print – mr. la counte helped her print. she needed to make photocopies – he helped her make photocopies. that librarian did his job. if i were mentally ill, i guess i’d want be given what i ask for (yep. the dude treated her with dignity). i would just assume that such an article about me was part of a government smear-campaign. seriously, though. the article is affectionate, and has in its background the question, “what if it’s not her? what if it’s us?” (well? what if it’s not? what if it is?) anyway. i’d prefer being written about to having to deal with head-shaking “poor soul”-mutterers with worried eyes.

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