Monday, September 22, 2008

most awesome library patrons ever!*

Last Saturday, two little boys came up to my desk. They put their heads together and whispered for a second, deciding who was going to actually ask me their question. Then the less shy boy very politely said, "Could you please help us find a book?"

"Of course!" I said. "What kind of book?" I opened a search in the library catalog, preparing to do some librarian-fu.

"A book about guns."

I blinked, stunned. The boys' eager little faces looked hopeful. I wondered if I was dreaming or if perhaps I was being rewarded for being a very, very good librarian in my last life.

I smiled at them and said, "I can definitely help you. What kind of gun book do you want? Anything specific?"

They looked at each other and then at me. "One with lots of color pictures."

I did a quick search, found a Dewey number and took the boys back in the stacks to find them a book. (A gun book! With color photos!) I grabbed a Gun Digest off the shelf and saw that there was a Ruger MarkII on the cover. "Hey, look!" I said. "I have one of these guns, but mine is black."

The boys' eyes widened and they said "Whoa! Cool!" and, "You do!?" and then they were off, telling me all about their bb guns and riffling through books and magazines. I was suddenly and most definitely now the coolest librarian in the whole wide world, at least to these two boys. They happily (& quietly!) spent about a half hour tracing pictures of guns and made a point to stop on their way out, thanking me and waving goodbye as they headed out into the sunny afternoon. Well mannered, friendly, and bright - true future gunnies in the making.

Contrast this with another little boy that was in our library a few months ago. He was at the computer, printing out pictures of the air rifle he had just received as a gift. When he came up to my desk to get his pages, a woman who worked at his school (who just happened to be asking me a reference question at the time) noticed the images he had printed out, and began interrogating him with "Why are you printing pictures of guns?" and "Do your parents know you like guns?"

The boy looked scared and glanced over at me as if to say, "Did I do something wrong?" He mumbled something at her about it being an air rifle and went back to his computer. Later, after she had left, I made a point to go over and talk to him, telling him that I like to shoot too and that I thought his air rifle was awesome. He shrugged and looked a bit disheartened.

I still regret not defending him sooner. The world might be even more perilous for the rights of future gun owners and we are the ones who have to encourage the next generation. So I've promised myself that if anything like that ever happened again, I would speak up. I'm looking forward to my chance.

*& hey -I might just stick with these types of titles from now on! Easy peasy.


angus lincoln said...

What a great opprotunity to help kids nurture their interest in shooting sports. You might consider keeping a few copies of the 4 rules of gun safety on hand to pass out to interested shooters. If those boys are found with drawings of guns at school they will surely be questioned, punished and made to feel they did something very bad. The education Nazis will likely want to talk to you if your name comes up. Be prepared for such an event. A proactive plan is always better than a reactive plan. Who knows Breda, you may find yourself taking kids and their parents to the range as well as chicks!!

Earl said...

I like the four rules as a handout to young gun guys and gals - if they can demonstrate they know the rules of safe use of a tool, they are going to be great.

We all need to talk about good gun stuff with our clientel, where ever one works - this isn't even close to a sin so I have no shame. But then I was the guy in the library that knew where all the explosive and booby traps were - and how to use them.

Eric Shelton said...

That was a pretty heartwarming story, Breda! Thanks!

stbaguley said...

Good advice from Angus. I'll second that. I am a rather large person. Not linebacker large, more college rugby club large, But I came by that rather suddenly and spent my preteen years kinda bookish and pudgy and smaller. The King of the Hill tv show kid comes to mind. (I hung out at the library due to a difficult home situation but that is another story.) I went away to camp at age 11 and among other self reliant type skills, was taught to shoot, .22's at 50 feet. I was good at it. It was about the first positive reinforcement this kid remembers in his life. A duel developed between me and this other kid, Spencer, something, Everyday the scores went up. a 45, a 46. Spence shot a 47 I answered with a 49 that had senior staff with magnifying glasses and heated discussions off to the side. That night they stopped dinner and made a special announcement and had me stand up and take a bow. That was 45 years ago and it still makes me smile. I think the counselors were betting on us. I grew 2 inches and lost about 20 pounds that summer. I went back the next summer and grew 3 inches and gained 20 pounds. I was not poisoned by my experience. I never plotted to shoot anybody at my school. I see the gun fearers and wonder what parts of their souls are missing or stunted that they should feel that way or suspect such twisted motives in others. Pity them. (Oh yeah, I was actually a librarian for a time too! I helped one of Nixon's attorneys look up prior uses of the odd word, "Co conspirator" cool huh!)

Zdogk9 said...

Consider inviting them, with their parents' permission of course on a trip to the range. Nothing is quite like introducing young people and newcomers to firearms. But you know that.

Borepatch said...

"I was suddenly and most definitely now the coolest librarian in the whole wide world ..."

Well, WE think you are, too.

And what a great experience for the kids. Hopefully they'll be back!

OrangeNeck said...

Geez, that buttinsky probably wouldn't even have batted an eye if those prints coming out of the printer had naked people on them. I hope you do give these buttinskies a piece of your mind the next time it happens. I feel bad for the kid who got scolded by that moron. I hope you get a second chance to become his hero.

ray said...


Anonymous said...

I didn't mention this before when you were talking about blog titles, and maybe someone beat me to it...but an old blogger trick I picked up a few years ago:

If you can't think of a pithy title for your post, just use the first few words of the post and an ellipsis as the title.

I actually probably do that more than I should because I'm not the most imaginative or creative hack on the interwebz, but I enjoy your stuff and I'd hate to think that you're depriving us of otherwise great posts because you couldn't come up with a title.

Anonymous said...

Repetitive titles may seem easy... but beware. I found it can be hard to fill the blank between "day" and "edition" day after day. :)

Anonymous said...


While it would be nice to give the ungodly a piece of your mind, I suspect that Breda has to remember her employment with the library.

And I'm sure that part of that includes that you mustn't piss off the clientele unnecessarily. I think she manages to handle these situations well for the most part, and have come to the conclusion that the BEST course is NOT to come across as a winger to people you're trying to educate.

The best reply I can think of to the buttinski would be something along the lines of, "Yes! Isn't it great that they're learning about the exercise of their civil rights?" Smile sweetly and wish Buttinski a nice day. Let it stick in HER craw.


Unknown said...

These situations are always hard, because afterwards you think of a hundred different things you could say. Makes me think I should rehearse a line...something like:

"Rifles are simply tools. Tools are not to be feared but respected. Tools are good when one uses them knowledgeably and safely. Tools are like fire, you can use fire to warm your house but if you misuse fire it can burn your house down."

JT said...

Pretty sweet story. Taking kids who have never shot before is pretty fun, and quite rewarding, as long as they are responsible children to begin with.

phlegmfatale said...

That is such an awesome post. I'm glad you took a moment to say encouragin' words to that other little boy, too. It's such a little thing to make that tiny effort to let little ones know you see them as valid. It's a big deal. I'm betting there are more than a few little boys in town with a crush on the pretty library lady, too.

dr mac said...

I wish I was 8 years old and you were my librarian.

Ride Fast said...

That's sweet. Your kind and those kids won't soon forget.

Laying into the next badgering adult tyrant is something you'll feel good about later.

Carry on!

Anonymous said...

We think you're the awesome one over at

BSM said...

As a fellow librarian, it's not our to job interject our personal biases into an interaction.

Our job is to defend access to ALL information from many different views.

Else we risk becoming just as bad as that lady who tried to tell that kid he could not look at a gun book.

See Banned Books Week 08.

"BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them."