Posted on: September 21, 2011

One comment that I’ve received in response to my writing a number of times over the years is that I write just like I talk. While I’ve always taken that to be a compliment (and by “always” I mean “all three times”), I’ve felt somewhat like a fraud accepting it. Because the truth of the matter is that I don’t at all write like I talk; rather, I talk like I write.

This wasn’t always the case, of course. There was a time, not too long ago, when I actually spoke like a normal person. That all changed, however, when I started blogging. Writing about what I was doing influenced the way I viewed every situation, and that, in turn, changed that way I spoke about them. From there, it was just a short jump to changing the way I spoke about everything.

Now, so many years on down the road, I couldn’t stop talking like this even if I wanted to. Which has been awkward in some situations. More awkward, however, are the times that I’ve tried to stop; my occasional efforts at normal vocal communications have met with some spectacular failures.

The most recent spectacle occurred a few short weeks ago. Due to some personal computronical issues, I was forced to use the public library computers to find a place where I could take my computer for repair. As I sat there, trying to find a place that would charge me less than my own employer would to fix my computer, I overheard a fellow – a library patron – say to one of the librarians – a fellow – something about not knowing the author of  Into the Wild.

I fought back the urge to immediately jump into the conversation and show off that I knew – I’ve shelved that book a number of times (that number being higher than the number of times I’ve been told that I write just like I talk), and every time made a mental note that I should read it; even if I never do, the author’s name will forever be etched in my memory. But, I hadn’t heard the beginning of the conversation. Perhaps there was some sort of wager in place and knowing the author’s name would exclude him from the prize. Or maybe the guy hated the movie version so much that he was looking for the author’s name so he could track him down and punch him in the face; I wouldn’t want to be a party to that.

Plus, this wasn’t my library; while I have yet to receive my official copy of The Big Book of Librarian Etiquette, I feel confident that Don’t Show Up Another Librarian On Her Home Turf has to be, like, rule #5, after Accept With Good Grace And Gentle Deflection All Comments About Sexy Librarians, Politely Inform Those Who Ask That Plenty Of People Even Read Anymore,  Don’t Shush Your Fellow Librarians Even If They’re The Noisiest People In The Building, and Never Comment On The Size Of A Gentleman’s Book. So I sat quietly at my computer, graciously allowing my fellow Librarian  to claim the glory that was rightly his by providing the patron with the requested information. Except that he didn’t. “I don’t know either,” was all he said in reply.

Over and above any other rule of Librarian Etiquette is Represent Librarians In The Best Possible Light At All Times, which is so obvious that it never even needs to be stated. Telling a patron that you don’t know something is fine; failing to follow-up with an offer to find out, when you are seated at the service desk, right in front of a computer, is unacceptable. I may have been loathe to break rule #5, but he seemed in danger of giving librarians everywhere a bad name; I really had no other choice but to pipe up from across the room with “Krakauer; John Krakauer”. It took a couple of repetitions before they understood what I was saying (I think my mispronunciation of the name – it’s actually Jon Krakauer – proved momentarily confusing), but finally, librarian and patron alike were fully aware of just who was the author of Into the Wild.

I was exceptionally pleased at the job well done, but not so much so that I wasn’t inclined to respond with modesty to the little girl seated at the computer next to me, who looked at me with wide eyes and said “Wow, you’re really smart.” Except that my stated response “Well, I knew that,” came out less of a humble “Well, I got lucky and  happened to know the particular piece of information they were looking for,” and more of a “Yes, I am well aware of how exceedingly intelligent I am, little girl – thank you.”

She looked abashed and returned her focus to her computer screen. Eventually I figured out where I had gone wrong, but it was too late. Over explaining the error didn’t make it any clearer to the child and didn’t make her feel any better, but it did make me feel like a jerk. Probably I should have written her a note; then she would’ve understood what I meant.


3 Responses to "inflection"

I for one think you should write the “The Big Book of Librarian Etiquette” as there does not appear to be one. However, I did find this blog:


That is a really great link. Thanks!

[…] a terrible breach of etiquette, I thought it appropriate that the call offering me the position at the Illustrious Institute came […]

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