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People who have nothing to hide, don’t use libraries

People who have nothing to hide, don’t use libraries published on

Doing the headcount is annoying. There’s something about a student worker walking around with a clipboard that makes college students think they’re being written by Arthur Miller – there are always suspicious looks, and on weekday evenings, at least one person giving me a hostile, openly defiant look until I get off her turf. (It’s mostly girls who do this, for some reason. There is one guy who’s always in the stacks, always closes his book when he sees me, and having learned to recognize me as a library employee, now glares whenever he runs into me anywhere on campus. I have this self-destructive impulse to order him to Respect My Authori-tay.)

I don’t know what these people think I’m doing – I can’t decide if it would calm them down or make it worse if I started, say, pointing with my pencil while I’m counting, to make it obvious what’s going on. Maybe they think we go around looking for people who are eating – which actually *isn’t* against the rules – or who have cell phones out – which is, but mostly isn’t enforced, since it’s a general campus-wide thing that no one ever turns their phone off, and we’d never have time for actual work – breathe and think tea thoughts. Or maybe they think we’re looking to see who’s making a mess, since the ones who have laid out a perimeter of paper wads and Red Bull cans usually get the weirdest. If they’re so worried about being called on that, perhaps they ought give ease to their tortured consciences, and clean up after themselves.

(By the way – people who leave food in out-of-the-way corners of the stacks? I know God (she’s in my KoL guild, likes to play as a Disco Bandit) and she told me last week, you’re going straight to hell. You don’t even get to hang with Charon, they send a guy around with a *truck*. Take you right down to the cold place with that big head.)

I’ve seen one of the supervisors doing the count, and people actually didn’t react as badly to her as they do to the student workers. (I think I’m extra-sensitive to this, but it’s not just me that sets them off. No one pays attention when I’ve got a truckful of books, it’s the clipboard that makes them antsy.) I guess it’s because the supervisors are older and seem more like legitimate authority figures, the kind of people who have the *right* to carry a clipboard around and look at you. What would give me that right? A name tag? A lanyard with some keys? – no, half of everyone has a lanyard at this school, they’re like sleep disorders. What if I wore a lab coat, and held, um, held some *medication*? What would a psych student doing a behavior study carry around, flash cards or something?

I don’t think it really bothers me, but every time I see someone trying to hide from the clipboard, I just want to confirm all their darkest fears – ask the guy holding the Little Red Book if I can “please see some ID,” or tell someone to lift their feet like I want to pick up some garbage under their chair, then examine the soles of their shoes and explain in a grim cop-show voice that we’re still looking for the soda-spill perp. Walk past someone, stop abruptly and turn around to look at them again, look down at the clipboard, look up one more time to be *totally sure*, then hurry out. And one of the turf warrior girls would chase after me shouting out her inchoate suspicions about the Patriot Act and smoking bans, and there’d be a tense confrontation, and I’d get fired when six or seven people showed up the next day with signs protesting the new library policy against bangs.

One day, I will doubtless become so amused by airport security that I end up at the bottom of a dogpile. I apologize in advance to those in line behind me.

Maybe I’ll make a nametag that says “Attacked Mystification P.D.”