Ever worked a customer service desk? Then you're familiar with the Conflicted or I Hate to Bother You, But... Complaint. This nice library patron was even conflicted about the reason.
With hands apart, palms up (the universal "this is probably futile" signal), she reported that a clearly audible cell phone chat from two rows back had jolted her out of fiction-browsing mode.
Mind you, this was on second floor, AKA The Quiet Floor. As if being reluctantly cast in the role of tattletale weren't enough, the customer couldn't decide which seemed more unfair: the interruption or the extreme non-urgency of the conversation.
The disturbance, we agreed, was unfortunate--also unintentional. Those tall shelving units look awfully substantial, perhaps capable of preventing sound transmission. But not even in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section do collected volumes assume Sonic Deflection Shield capability.
If such issues don't resolve themselves quickly (which happened even as we discussed this one), a gentle reminder does the trick. It's easy to forget that cell phoning isn't appropriate everywhere.
Our customers tend to be demonstrably polite, evidenced by responses to our Summer Readers' Bonanza. We offer several "pop-up prizes" each week at the reference desk. At random intervals and without fanfare, the "It's a Pop-up Prize!" sign appears on the reference desk with a book or bag from Book Expo America.
Whoever spots the prize first may take it. (Think of the King Arthur legend: you're Arthur and the prize is Excalibur. Go for it.)
We've been surprised to see library customers look right past the sign and charmed to witness folks who see it but can't bring themselves to take the prize. Some customers track back and forth a time or two. They might stop, gingerly touch the item, then replace it, needing the assurance of a staffer's smile, nod, or thumbs-up before claiming it.
Also, there's this: Unlike the King Arthur story, our prizes aren't pre-ordained for accessibility only to the perfect match.
Some pop-ups ultimately claimed by ecstatic winners were first caught and released by well-mannered readers rightly viewing them as Not My Type. The man who spied Sylvia Day's Entwined With You briefly surveyed the contents, commenting, "some woman will be thrilled to have this; I'll leave it for her." What a gentleman. And he was correct.
To demonstrate that I, too, was raised right, I brought back my advance copy of Charles Belfoure's The Paris Architect (mentioned last week, now finished) for pop-up sharing. Unlike the other pristine giveaways, it's had one reader but is a terrific find for grown-up readers of both genders.
Some upcoming pop-ups might be deemed "chick books", but we'll also offer DK's The Conquest of the Ocean, Filip Bondy's Who's on Worst: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History; Don J. Snyder's Walking with Jack: A Father's Journey to Become His Son's Caddie; Robert Boswell's Tumbledown; James R. Hannibal's Shadow Catcher; and Michael Paterniti's The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese.
And it would be downright rude not to mention this "Books for Dudes" list from Library Journal Online.
Last week was a vacation--and not. True, I was immersed in three vacation-y pursuits: inspiring view; regimen of pampering/rejuvenation; even a whimsical lapse of judgment best second-guessed in retrospect.
Translation: I didn't go anywhere. Activities included re-doing the sewing/exercise/whatever room and coordinating prescriptions, care, and vet visits for a post-operative Scottie dog.
And my Big Regret was deciding a while back that pet insurance would be advisable but not actually signing up for it. (We've considered re-naming the patient Princess Cruise.)
On the plus side, Kenna, our little terrier, is again bouncing around, striking fear into squirrels' hearts--also behaving as a poor but fun role model for Robert, our larger, moodier Scottie. The made-over room looks wonderful; I haven't skipped a day on the elliptical machine since the place took on a classier tone.
Luckily, a library copy of Edward Rutherfurd's new 800-page Paris: The Novel turned up just in time for the week off. What is vacation if not the chance to consume several hundred pages at a time without sacrificing a night's sleep?
All of which resulted in clarity about future vacations. Rutherfurd's latest saga accomplished what Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon, Diane Johnson's Le Divorce, and numerous other excellent novels and accounts of life in Paris only tempted me to do. Post-Rutherfurd, I'll finally confess my latent ambition to be Yet Another Paris Tourist.
Admittedly, moving Paris to the top of the wish list earns one zero points for originality. And those clichéd images of the Eiffel Tower, baguette-toting natives, the Belle Epoque lamp posts? Yes, they're ultra-commercial. But those ubiquitous graphics powerfully evoke the spectrum of individual interests in Paris: history, architecture, cuisine, fashion, performing arts, graphic arts, religion, politics...
As with Sarum, New York, London, etc., Rutherfurd unfurls an ambitious tapestry of several centuries' urban evolution. The threads, individual characters of varying classes, strive for the best possible existence as they currently discern it. But only you, the reader, can perceive the ultimate pattern, whole-cloth evidence that some ancestors' dreams were not worth pursuing. Other forebears die convinced of having lost a struggle in which their descendants eventually triumph. Endurance is the key.
There's nothing like a big-picture historical saga to bestow appreciation for the relative insignificance of one's own obstacles or ambitions. These epics also portray the advance of progress founded on small but persistent increments of goodwill and creativity.
View Paris' Roman ruins and churches, and you're reminded that cultures succeed or not on both merit and adaptability. Hop on the Eiffel Tower's elevator, and you're conveyed aloft a structure originally designed for showstopper visual appeal and meant to last twenty years.
Over 100 years later, hordes of visitors are confidently making that ascent.
I wouldn't hesitate, either. Until then, I'll recommend Goodreads' Books About Paris list. In October, watch for Charles Belfoure's The Paris Architect. I'm reading the advance copy of this intriguing historical fiction/thriller set in German-occupied Paris--and already added it to the library's order list.