The Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library has seemingly been overwhelmed with the stress of the bad economy. I suppose this makes sense if the way libraries survive is by funding from private donors, which has no doubt lately diminished, or by public funds which have diminished as well. Lately they are pleading with library users to donate, as they should, and as should all library users who can afford it. All of this, however, does not excuse bad behavior by patrons to employees, due to long lines, etc, and it certainly does not excuse employees being rude to patrons. Just because one can use the library without paying money up front doesn’t mean that one is a deadbeat or criminal. I just don’t see any excuse at all for library employees to treat patrons like shit.
Obviously I’m writing this because I was recently at the library and had a guy working the checkout be extremely rude to me. He was nasty to the point where I almost made a comment to him, which is something I never do. Then I almost called the library, later, to complain. Then I thought better of it. Maybe just write something, I thought, for my online journal that has been sadly neglected for the last year or so.
Maybe this guy had been working in the high flying, well compensated world of finance and suddenly found himself with no job and a lot of rent. Reduced to working a near minimum wage job at the Public Library, he is now both bitter and bringing his asshole Wall Street attitude to his new work. If this is so, hey, a lot of us would love that low paying library job. If you were making so much money before, you should have put some in the bank, put aside for this type of situation. If you didn’t, it’s not our fault. But who knows, maybe this guy is just a natural born asshole and would be an asshole in any job for any amount of pay, if he was the CEO of Asshole America or working at McDonald’s.
But still, there is something about libraries that I love more than retail stores, gyms, fast food places, or even nice restaurants. They are not corporate offices and they are certainly not gas stations. I realize that we are all privileged to a tremendous degree to even have public libraries in our communities. But a library is a privilege for everyone; those who patronize it and those who work there. You don’t have to be an ass kisser if you’re working at a library, but I don’t think it’s right to be an asshole to patrons just because they are not paying money. Plus, we are all paying, everyone in the community who buys things, pays rent, pays taxes, and generally lives in the community. We are all paying one way or another. Libraries may be a privilege, but they are also a necessity for civilization. I think I’m alarmed when I see someone working at a library treating people badly. It’s a sign the end of civilization is near.