Dear Abby: I have been thinking about writing this letter for a long time. I'm the director of a small public library. I love my job and serving our patrons. But you would not believe some of the outrageous behavior that occurs in libraries -- so I have written "A Librarian's Plea for Library Etiquette":
Please keep your children with you at all times. A librarian is there to help you select materials -- not baby-sit or clean up after your children. An unattended child can create hours of cleanup work in only a few minutes. Teach your children not to run or shout in the library.
If your child throws a tantrum, screams or continually whines, please take the child home. He or she probably needs a nap, a snack, or simply your undivided attention. While you can probably tune him out, other patrons cannot.
Do not use your cell phone in the library. No one wants to listen to you scream at your spouse or discuss personal finances. You never know who's listening, but you can be sure somebody is.
Do not bring food or drink to the library. A spilled drink can ruin books in an instant. Even if the book dries out, it will develop mold, which spreads to other books.
Return materials on time. Most libraries have limited budgets and limited staff to serve a large population. Don't waste our resources by failing to return materials when due. Don't claim you have returned a book when it's actually in your bedroom, child's room, gym locker, office or the back seat of your car. Librarians get no pleasure from collecting fines for overdue materials. Calling to remind you that things are overdue wastes limited staff time. It also wastes time and money to replace lost books, order the replacement (if there's money in the budget), and process it to be put back in circulation.
We are happy to help with your reference questions. But please remember we're not magicians. If you have a deadline, plan ahead. While we can perform miracles, they take a little time to accomplish, and there are other patrons to be served.
If you want to view pornography, buy a home computer. While we support free speech, our facility needs to be child- friendly. No one -- not children, other patrons or staff -- wants to see your "private life."
Talk to us in complete sentences. We are not mind readers. When you silently thrust a library card at us, we don't know what you want unless you tell us.
Please remember this is a library, not an office service. We are happy to help you find resources, but don't ask us to do your homework, write your paper, edit your letter or do your taxes.
And by the way, a simple "Thank you" makes our day.
I know this letter is too long to print, Abby, but thank you for letting me get this off my chest. I feel better.
-- Marian the Librarian in Kansas