Scary in the Library

Today was the first time in my entire life as a library user or employee that I was genuinely scared to be in the library.

About ten minutes after I started at work a very angry man came over to the circulation desk and started cursing in the general direction of the library staff. I would never repeat some of what he said, but basically I learned later that he was annoyed because one of the clerks  woke him up when he was sleeping at one of the tables (and snoring). (The security guard had yet to arrive which is why the clerk had to wake him.) He was cursing and yelling and gesticulating angrily demanding that the clerk he was speaking of come out to face him (she did not and for a split second, even though I knew it was impossible, I was very afraid he meant me).

“Tori” was on the adult information desk at this time. She told the man that his language was inappropriate for the library and that if he was going to keep speaking like that he would have to leave. The man just started to yell at Tori instead. Tori told the branch librarian to call the police. As the phone was picked up the man spit on Tori and walked to the back of the library where he retrieved his bag, threw a chair and then stormed out of the building. Hopefully for the last time.

Tori went to a doctor and is waiting for test results, but the doctor was confident that she’d be fine. After the incident the police and the NYPL investigator came to take statements. The patrons in the library at the time were profoundly embarassed and extremely nice. When Tori left I said that I’d be happy to take over for her at storytime (which went very well, the children were great and we had a really fun time). And I have to say that Tori was really a trooper throughout the whole thing, I’m so impressed by her.

No one tells you about this kind of thing when you apply for a library job or even when you’re in library school. But unfortunately it is a reality of working with a public that isn’t always comprised of the nicest, most stable people in the world. A patron told me how brave she thought we all were, which was a shock. I hadn’t planned on having a career that required bravery, not this kind anyway.

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