My Library Pet Peeves (both as a user and a worker)

My Library Pet Peeves (both as a user and a worker)

Hi friends! 👋🏻 I am once again talking about libraries because I am now spending almost every single day of my life in one so my mind is a bit preoccupied with them.

Libraries are an important service, but they’re not perfect and likely never will be. We all have things that we dislike about things that we use a lot and even hold near to our hearts. Since being on the other side of the library service I’ve gained a new set of pet peeves that have made me appreciate how hard library staff work because it is so much more than sitting behind a desk, stamping books and shushing people. And we don’t even shush people anymore.

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reservations taking too long

I am currently a member of three different councils’ libraries and I’ve only had this problem with the libraries in my local authority because they are so horribly underfunded and gutted that they’re struggling to stay afloat.

The only time I requested a book from my local library was a few years ago when I was reading the Vampire Academy series. They had the first book on the shelves but not the second and when I found it in the catalogue, I reserved it. It took a year for that reservation to be ready for pick up and by the time I got the phone call letting me know, I’d finished the whole series because I went to a different library organisation and was able to get all of them without much of a problem.

The problem was that the book I wanted had been put into storage because it belonged to a library that doesn’t exist anymore so the staff had to go searching for it. I understand that looking for books can take a long time because I’ve done it myself, but a year is really pushing it.

incomplete series

Libraries work on supply and demand so if people don’t seem interested in a series, the rest of the books just aren’t going to be in stock unless customers ask for them. Another issue I’ve seen is sometimes the library will have parts of the series missing or not even have the first book in stock.

The Wheel of Time is a series that has been pretty popular recently, along with Bridgerton, and there are a lot of books in those series so I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for readers of those series to be hopping around between libraries because one will have the odd-numbered books and another will have the even-numbered books.

a series is complete… but over different formats

This is something that particularly bugs me because although I do have a Kindle, I don’t have one that can use Borrowbox or Libby and instead demands that I use Amazon’s library instead.

My mother recently read Half-Bad and wanted to continue on with the rest of the series but I didn’t buy the rest of the series. So, I went looking through our library catalogue and found that while we do have the complete series, we only have the first and third books as physical copies. The second book is only available as an ebook, which as I said, I can’t borrow because my Kindle can’t be used for borrowing library books.

I’ve seen instances where different books in a series will only be available as audiobooks or even in large print editions and it just confuses me. I get that budgeting is always a problem, but why not get titles in both physical and digital copies? Why make things less accessible?

small libraries being closed down

This is something that actually makes my blood boil. In the library organisation I currently work for, there are four main libraries, and then eight branch libraries, making up twelve libraries in total. My own local library organisation has four libraries for the entire city. Every single branch library was closed down because the council thought that people weren’t using them but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Branch libraries are important because they provide a service for people who aren’t able to go into town or city centres because of distance or because of the prices of public transport. For me, it could take up to 30 minutes by car to get to a library whereas ten years ago it would take me three minutes on foot to get to the library.

I don’t want to get into local politics but the way that governments see libraries is so out of touch. The most local library that I’d been going to from birth until it closed was knocked down to make way for a retirement home, with the library then being placed in that retirement home. Why the council thought this was a good idea, I will never know. Not only did people not know that the library was there, but people also didn’t want to go into it in the first place because it was in a retirement home.

I can only hope that we get our branches back because they are sorely missed by people who used them, but that’s all I can do because the council is planning to spend £27 million on a new central library that should have been built years ago.

customers expect library staff to know every single book and author in existence

I once went for a ‘chat’ with a bookshop recruitment manager (who told me to not bother applying, but that’s a different story) and they told me that “book people are either the best people you’ll ever meet or the worst”, and that it one of the truest things I’ve ever heard.

A couple of months back I had a customer ask me if we had any crime novels by an author called O.L. James who I’d never heard of. When I looked on the system all I got back was the Fifty Shades books because it thought I meant E.L. James, which Google also thought. I asked the customer if that was what they meant and they got a little short with me as if I should know who this author is.

Another customer we have (who happens to be a regular who I avoid) wanted me, and only me, to find the next book in a series he’d read but he didn’t know who the author was or the title, only that it was about a police detective from Yorkshire. I’d only been working a couple of weeks so my colleague tried to help him out by asking him if he could remember anything else about it, but he just kept telling her to shut up so he could think and only asked me things.

Library workers are not mind readers, we don’t know every single book that has ever been published and if we can’t find it anywhere we’re not going to be able to help.

sticky jackets

I said in my last post about libraries that people are kind of gross, and the crap that I have found left on book jackets really proves that. I have no problems with people snacking while reading as long as they don’t spill it onto the book or get crumbs in between the pages, but some people drop things onto the jackets and while I do appreciate it when they try to wipe it off, they still end up sticky.

Picture books are the worst offenders because toddlers are notorious for being sticky and messy and there have been times when I’ve picked a picture book off of the returns trolley and it’s been wet. I am the kind of Autistic person who is extremely sensitive to textures and my least favourite texture is wet and slimy, right next to rough and scratchy. One of my colleagues always wipes down picture books when they get returned whether they’re dirty or not so I think I need to take a leaf out of her book.

parents thinking that libraries are daycare centres

I understand that libraries are safe spaces for a lot of people, including children, but that does not mean that you can let your toddler run riot in the library while you just sit and do whatever the heck you want.

A couple of weeks ago a man came into our library with his two daughters for a craft session and while they waited for it to start, he sat and read a book while the two girls just ran around and did whatever the heck they wanted. They were pulling books off the shelves, trying to play with a staff computer, and at one point opened a cupboard with the craft materials and tried to play with the scissors that were in there. Thankfully, I was able to catch them and take the scissors away before they were able to do anything with them, but their dad should have been watching them in the first place.

It is not the job of library staff to babysit your children whether you’re there or not, we even have signs saying that kids have to be supervised while in the library.

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talk to me!

What are some of your library pet peeves?

14 Comments

  1. May 3, 2022 / 10:34 am

    Love love love reading this post! So interesting to see what you as a user and worker thought! As for me, I am a user, and I agree on many of these points! The things I have seen in books… the worst would be things that are unidentifiable or bugs… squashed. *shivers* I also cannot handle books that smell (some people smoke or have very strong perfume and it just permeates in the book, yuck). As for the series, yes, my libraries do that as well. I have tried requesting books when I notice a series is missing a first book.. but I have given up as they never seem to add them. XD
    And haha, I thought having to wait for a few weeks was long, but a year for a reservation? WOW. That is LONG.
    And yes, my blood boils when they close libraries! Libraries are important, not just for the books but also because they provide services like help with digital stuff, taxes, and more. One of my libraries had to shrink down, but thankfully they are still around and they also managed to have the branch libraries stay open.. for now. 😐

  2. May 3, 2022 / 7:25 pm

    I am a retired high school librarian. When series, like the Vampire Academy, were popular I would attempt to buy every book in the series, then someone wouldn’t return the first book and the whole series would get clogged up at the beginning. So then I started buying two of the first books to avoid this problem. But if a series were too long, students would outgrow the series before it were finished. That is why I preferred trilogies or duologies. So long series would often get stopped mid-series in the library. If a student asked for more I would either request it for them from one of the other libraries in the district or direct them to public library and show them how to place a hold on the book there. Libraries can be complicated and daunting places where there are rules that are often hard to ascertain.

    One of my library pet peeves is the insistence of shelving books by author rather than by series if more than author has worked on the series. In my library I moved all the Star Wars books to one location to assist students in find the next book they might want to read, rather making them go on a scavenger hunt for more.

    Let’s discuss TBRs

  3. May 6, 2022 / 3:23 am

    Loved reading both the librarian and library user perspectives here! The thing about libraries having part of a series missing really drives me crazy. And I would imagine it would be ultra-frustrating when people expect you to know ALL the books (and authors) of ever.

  4. May 6, 2022 / 1:00 pm

    A whole year?!? They could as well have dropped the search LOL. I suppose they assumed you’d be thrilled when the book became available? 😂

    “a series is complete… but over different formats”
    That sounds…well…stupid and careless? Different formats exist for a reason. Not everyone can use all of them, especially people with sensory deficits…

    “my colleague tried to help him out by asking him if he could remember anything else about it, but he just kept telling her to shut up so he could think and only asked me things.”
    Wow, rude much?

    “I am the kind of Autistic person who is extremely sensitive to textures and my least favourite texture is wet and slimy, right next to rough and scratchy.”
    That would add an extra layer of unpleasantness to an already grossing-out experience…that wet stuff could literally be ANYTHING…ew.

    “that does not mean that you can let your toddler run riot in the library while you just sit and do whatever the heck you want.”
    I don’t know what parents are thinking these days. Not only it’s extremely rude, but also dangerous, like the scissor incident demonstrates. You’ve been lucky in that the dad didn’t scold you for daring to put a finger over his daughters…

  5. May 9, 2022 / 1:25 am

    It’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone who works in a library. Long waits for books are common at my library. I’ve waited 6+ months for popular books. I didn’t read a book series in order until I was a teenager and had access to Amazon. When I was a kid, we didn’t have internet at home, and there were no bookstores anywhere near my house. I only had the library, and they never had complete series.

  6. May 14, 2022 / 5:46 pm

    Incomplete series frustrate me too! I always feel so bad when I have to tell customers that we don’t have the rest of the series they started. I also HATE when books are sticky or marked. I’m horrified when I see some of my colleagues or customers handling the books and then eating a sandwich or other food with their hands – I won’t even touch my water bottle without washing my hands!

    As a fellow autistic librarian, I don’t know if you’ve ever run your finger down the spine of a book with a plastic cover when the spine is really well used? The spine needs to be really flexible, and if you run your finger down the plastic cover on the spine with the book closed, it makes a gently bubble popping type noise. I absolutely love it!

  7. May 15, 2022 / 7:53 pm

    Missing books from series used to really bother me! And if the missing book was book one, I couldn’t even start a series that looked interesting. Then at some point I learned that, if a book was missing, a patron could tell the library workers and they would see about ordering a new copy. It was life-changing! I guess previously I thought librarians would like…know? a book was missing? Get some sort of monthly report about titles that had never come back? I don’t know! Anyway, apparently they don’t and so it’s actually helpful if a patron can tell them. At least, in my experience, they usually did purchase a new book. And now there’s an online purchase form I can fill out and I can say the reason is that the book is a missing one in part of a series, and that works for me, too.

    Also, yes, the icky, sticky books are the worst! That’s why new releases are awesome. It’s so nice to be the first person to check out a book. No gross surprises inside!

    Oh, and your story about being the only person who could help a patron was funny, too, because I’ve seen that! A patron will walk up to the desk, ask for “Bob” and be told “Bob” is not available, but the person at the desk can help. The patron wails, “No! Only Bob can help me! Only Bob knows!” So the staff member gets Bob from the office, and the patron says something like, “Did my hold come in?” Lol. Why can only Bob answer that?? People can be entertaining!

  8. May 17, 2022 / 11:50 am

    I very much miss the days of people getting shushed. It was always comforting to know that the library was the one place you knew was going to be nice and quiet. Sadly, not any more.

  9. May 18, 2022 / 2:07 am

    The library where I work is a small library without any branches, but it’s in a statewide consortium with 98 library systems (and 268 library locations in the state) that we can borrow from for our patrons. The last few months have been crazy because the consortium decided to switch to a new delivery service for the interlibrary loans and they turned out to be absolutely useless, and then they switched back to the old one. So there was over full month in stopped service until the change over got sorted out for all libraries. Let’s just say that when deliveries started back up we were totally buried in stuff coming back – our own stuff and interlibrary loans showing up – because patrons were still able to make requests. It’s been about a month since the deliveries restarted, and it’s just now finally started to get back to normal levels of deliveries.

    I feel that sticky jackets thing. Had an especially awful picture book offender show up in the book drop a couple of weeks ago. It even messed up a couple of others that happened to be on top of it. It required hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and gloves. Probably could have done with nose plugs too… And, of course, I was the one that opened the book drop that day!

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