While I have no problem talking to large groups of people, I get weirdly nervous when I have to email everyone in my workplace. Maybe it’s the whole it’s-in-writing thing. Maybe it’s that email doesn’t carry tone very well.
Or maybe it’s because I have to subtly accuse librarians of using library books without having checked them out first.
See, sometimes people request books and I, being the guy who finds said books, discover that books on certain librarian-specific topics seem to be curiously absent their spots on the shelves. Librarians, like the rest of us, know damn well that they’re supposed to check books out. But they also, like the rest of us, have that impulse to look a book over to see if they want it first. Except that, unlike most of us, librarians have offices within the library in which they can read. So the book ends up in the librarian’s office without passing Go and without collection two-hundred smackaroos.
Since it’s not checked out, someone else can request that book. It falls to me to find it. Or, in this case, retrieve it. The problem is that I have to tell a large group of moderately persnickety people I see every day that they’re not doing the one thing they know they should always do!!
This is a subtle art.
And I? I am not known for my subtlety.
So, to cover my nervousness and to quell the part of me that wants to rage, I send overlong emails of extraordinary absurdity, such as the following that I sent out today:
I don’t mean to alarm you, but in the past there’s been a curious phenomenon in our library which – while I wouldn’t quite want to start rumors of a ghost – does seem to borderline on the supernatural. It’s a curious form of haunting which hasn’t been documented well enough to this point to have earned itself a name, unlike those noisy poltergeists or the possessive dybbuk. I’ve petitioned the editors of the OED to include my word for it, libraghast, but so far my efforts have been in vain.
In its simplest form, this harmless haunt is merely a diverting distraction, engaging after-hours in the relocation of books to places in which they are likely to remain unfound. Whether through methods technological or owing to a supernaturally prodigious memory, the libraghast is somehow able to keep tabs on the relocated books and will cause them at times to reappear only after the work has been done to remove them from the catalog.
(Note that libraghastologists, such as yours truly, are clueless as to how the spirit is aware of the happenings in the digital realm. Dr. Velsig Von Hofferanden, Researcher, 1st Class, Dutch Division, has suggested that the libraghast is somehow a product of the digitization of human knowledge, a supernatural manifestation of the all-too-human aptitude for forgetfulness. Though of course Dr. Von Hofferanden is generally viewed, by the libraghastologist community, as something perhaps just shy of a quack and only remains in our ranks due to his wonderfully entertaining soirees.)
This relocation is not limited to merely to the library stacks, for the work of the libraghast has been noted in conference rooms, group-study spaces, restrooms…even the offices of library employees! (Though of course no sightings have even been recorded, outside the so-called Ivy League Libraghast caught on video by several fraternity members at Harvard in 2002, which has been denounced as a hoax but all but the more extreme members of the International Legion of Libraghastologists.)
Again I ask you please to remain calm. The presence of a libraghast has not yet been confirmed in our happy library by any card-carrying member of the ILL, even though, on occasion, certain items are found inexplicably in people’s offices.
The only reason I’ve brought any of this to your attention is to ask you to look around your office. If you happen to find a copy of Doing Social Media so it Matters: A Librarian’s Guide, please drop it off at the circulation desk. Though of course if this has ended up in your office and now that you’ve noticed the work of our own purported libraghast and think this book might be of use to you, you are welcome to check it out.
Either way, the ILL appreciates your efforts. Thank you.
At the time of this blogging the book in question has yet to turn up. But what’s more important is that I’ve yet again pointed out to a group of people that they’re not doing perhaps the most fundamental thing upon which their profession is based, and they’ve responded with laughter, friendly responses, and even one hearty guffaw.
I’ll call that a success.