Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Library Police are after me...again.

The phone rang just now, and unfortunately, it wasn't a crank call. It was the local library-- or, let me rephrase that-- it was the AUTOMATED local library.

Since our library went AUTO, things have apparently become much, much easier for those phantom shadows lurking in the background who USED to be our librarians, and much, much more difficult for the borrower: namely, me.

The machine-gun-like voice on the other end of my telephone regretted to inform me that I currently have NINE books overdue. That's GOT to be some kind of record for this family.

I should tell you that we only just recently "got back on to speaking terms" with our library. Or, we WOULD be on speaking terms, if I could just speak to someone there. The automated phone message informed me several months ago that I was in posession of a four page children's board book entitled "Into The Woods", that was running me just upwards of a ten dollar fine. Well, I had not taken out any such book-- the only board books we ever keep in THIS house are our own. I happen to know first-hand that nothin' says TEETHING to a toddler like a good piece of cardboard kiddie lit. We prefer to keep our board books-- and our germs-- to ourselves, and make sure that we specifically steer clear of that particular aisle.

It took weeks and weeks for me to solve this dilemma... mostly because I couldn't find a human being in charge of the children's department to talk to me face to face. I finally resorted to sending assertive emails, but by the time I received any response from the phantom librarian, they had racked up an added $6.50 "search fee" for apparently sending a human being to the shelf to glance around for the book in question. Hell, for $6.50, I would have jumped into the minivan, driven over and done it myself. They also took the added precaution of suspending my card, which they claimed was "standard policy" for anyone with a fine over $10. It's as close as I've ever felt to being on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list.

I finally gave in and paid the fine in full during March Break, using my debit card at the machine, of course. After all, how long could my girlies do without fresh books to read? I mean, without bankrupting me at the bookstore and driving me crazy in the meantime??

I gave in. And it was worth it. My kids charged into that children's section like dehydrated desert travellers bolting towards an oasis... We whittled the selections down to three books each, and headed for the checkout terminal.

That was exactly three weeks, less two days ago. By my calculations, the books that tonight's automated telephone voice claimed were overdue AREN'T actually due back at the library until Saturday. But, after the last experience, far be it from ME to argue with machinery. I've learned the futility of expending one's angst and frustration upon a giant, all-powerful and utterly unfeeling computer system.

"Maybe they'll want our car this time, " commented my husband when I finished ranting about how much the fines would be THIS TIME.

"Maybe they'd settle for the kids," I mused hopefully...

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