The Many Little Rules of Mini Little Minds

Many-Hued, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

One of my collection of odd habits is writing in public places — coffee shops, libraries, hotel lobbies, haven’t done the grocery store yet, but it’s chilly in the freezer section.

There’s something about being away from the people I’m related to and eat breakfast with that unleashes my inner tappy-tapper, and most places with public computers have these satisfyingly noisy keyboards that take me back to my manual typewriter days. Part of the fun is the exasperated sighs of the people concentrating at my elbow .

I type fast and loud, in short bursts that mirror my brain activity.

But it was not my obnoxious nature that got me banned the other day from my little little hometown’s little little library.

(By the way, I’m not sure if I’m being too subtle here, but in employing the word “little,” I’m not referring to population or size.)

Little Barn, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

I had an hour to spare and looked forward to ensconcing myself in the center of a large room, surrounded by computers and sighing people, nestled in the confines of one of the most embracing places on earth: the public library.

“Sorry.”

The young woman at the front desk was an exchange student from another continent, exceedingly pleasant but unfamiliar with the English language. Now I’m all for cross cultural connecting here, but is there possibly a better place to put a person completely unfamiliar with the primary spoken language of a geographic area other than the front desk?

Apparently management recognized the issue, which is why they paid for a second employee to sit nearby and take over.

“You live within a 50-mile radius of the library, and you do not have a card,” this new contact told me sternly.

I need to read the criminal code for this township, as I am apparently in violation of it.

“You’re right; I live 35 miles away, and I don’t have a card,” I replied. “In the past, however, I’ve checked in as a guest. Can I do this?”

“No.”

“Even though I’ve done it before?”

“The policy must have changed. I don’t know.” (Impressive training these front desk people receive.)

Well, so much for the most embracing place on earth.

Canyon Silhouettes, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

And then my Assistant to the Associate of Auxiliary Affairs added the crowning touch:

“Rules are Rules.”

And she sailed away.

Excuse me?

Did somebody 30 years my junior — and a “public” “servant” — just scold me in a manner that incompetent nursery school teachers employ with their charges?

Okay, so rules are rules, and my Untrained Diva is not responsible for policy — conveniently, the people who are never work behind desks and deal with real people, exasperating though we may be. Before I skulked out, head held high, I peeked into the mausoleum that housed 18 computers, 16 of which had no human operator.

Well no wonder policy dictated limiting the number of users.

Today I’m writing from another library — a very little one in size but not attitude — and before I signed on I asked the librarian,

“If I were from another town — say, within a 50-mile radius — would I be allowed to use the computer as a guest?”

“Of course,” she replied. With a smile, no less.

Policies are made for a reason.

My diva didn’t say that, but she could have, to which I reply, “True, to a point.”

But here’s the point: libraries are special places, filled with books and magazines and, nowadays, new technology and opportunities for people to grow and learn. I am fortunate in that I do not need to go to a library in order to access this technology, but what if I weren’t, and I lived within a 50-mile radius of this place, and I couldn’t afford the out-of-area card (which is $135, incidentally)?

And even if you drop the whole computer thing, because, after all, I could have sat down in a chair and perused a book or magazine, despite my 50-mile-radius status (at least, I think I could have; we didn’t discuss that particular policy), wouldn’t it reflect intelligent design to train employees so that they are 1) knowledgeable, 2) conversant, and 3) nominally polite?

Before I left the first little place, I did a shocking thing:

I used the bathroom. I even used soap when I washed my hands. Even though I live within a 50-mile radius and don’t have a library card.

Evening on the Willamette by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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10 Responses to The Many Little Rules of Mini Little Minds

  1. Steve, this post is the kind of thing I am collecting, or trying to collect, on my rant site: http://www.publicletter.wordpress.com May I quote you on it? Reprint your article with permission? Thanks. Susan Holland, who knows a place that also has little minds.

    • Hello, Susan. Yes, you may reprint with my permission: Middle Aged Plague, Carolyn Henderson, and a link back to this site.

      I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Today I am writing at my desk, where I fortunately do not have to have a special card to use!

  2. Jana says:

    Makes me quite irritable just reading about such inefficiency, lack of courtesy, lack of flexibility, lack of service. I’m practically snarling as I read this account of such non-reception at the reception desk. I wish blessings on the smiling librarian; hope she keeps her job!

  3. Jana: I don’t want to put you in a bad mood! Sometimes the best thing we can do with tiny, nasty people is laugh at them.

    The smiling librarian is in another library with big-hearted people and big minds.

  4. Anya says:

    Carolyn, this is a perfect example of how in our culture so many people mistake the letter of the “law” for the spirit. And it’s tragic indeed that while the spirit of most laws is (or should be) just plain common sense, the letter becomes an obtrusive, irritating, and just plain ridiculous mess when wielded by certain public place divas…

  5. I agree, Anya. Common sense is sadly lacking these days. I have found that, with the public place divas you describe, their sense of insecurity causes them to rely heavily upon concrete minutiae as opposed to the more human, more abstract sense of what the laws are meant to accomplish.

  6. pegoleg says:

    I couldn’t get beyond the fact that you don’t have a library card. All the time I was doing sympathetic fuming for the lousy service and officious attitude, “no library card?” was running in the back of my mind.

    Then I reached the part where you have to pay over $100 for it. Yikes! Can’t imagine a world without a free and fabulous library.

  7. Pegoleg: It’s okay. I do have a library card — just not to My Little Hometown.

    The town where I actually live has a library that looks small on the outside, but is giant on the inside, and the card is included in our county taxes. The only reason I stay away is when I can’t find a series of overdue books, and I am embarrassed. When I mentioned this to one of the librarians, she was shocked: “Please, don’t EVER stay away for a reason like that!” she said. “We want people to feel welcome here, Always!”

    Oh that all libraries can be like this!

  8. breathingpowderedgold says:

    I’m so glad I came across your blog! I’ve never been introduced to Steve’s work until now. I especially like ‘Canyon Silhouettes’. Thanks for sharing, and I’ll be checking up on new artwork!

    • Welcome, thank you for visiting, and please consider signing up to be a regular reader at the E-mail Subscription box at the top of the blog.

      More of Steve’s work is available for view at http://www.stevehendersonfineart.com, or by clicking on the images which are linked to Steve’s site. If you like something and want it on your wall, contact me either through Middle Aged Plague or Steve Henderson Fine Art, and we’ll talk.

      Most of our painting clients are normal people with real jobs and lives, and we do payment plans — because we believe that real people, not just outrageously rich ones, can have original art on their walls.

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