Dear D____ Public Library,

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

I really love your library system in many ways. It is so great that I can request any book in a Chicagoland library and receive it within the week. That pretty much takes care of any book I’ll ever want to read! I like to visit your branch and browse. Your children’s room is likewise chocked full of books, and my son likes finding himself a board book. That was smart of you to put it within his reach! He likes to dump them all out of the bin. He has yet to learn how to put them back in.

But I have a complaint.

I really hate it when the librarians comment on my reading choices during check out.

Is it any of your librarians’ business that I’m checking out Nabokov’s Complete Short Stories at the same time that I’m checking out two translations of The Illiad? Or that I’m checking out all of the Brown Bear, Brown Bear books? Or that I’m checking out Possession, by A.S. Byatt, and The Handmaiden’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, both by Margaret Atwood, and Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Half a Yellow Sun, by someone whose name I can’t spell, all at the same time? Does it really require your librarian to comment?

Yes, I know that’s a pretty ambitious amount of reading. And no, I probably won’t be able to finish it in four weeks. That’s what renewing is for. If that’s against the rules you should have a big sign that says:

Please only check out material that you will be reading within the checkout period. You’re being greedy.

But I seriously don’t want to hear from your librarians otherwise. I know my selections could keep me busy for a long while, but must you always comment?

If your librarians don’t cease their annoying comments every time I check out things, I may just have to go to a branch with self-checkout. That way I never have to talk to a librarian again. Ever.

Besides, I think you are the last library in this country without self-checkout. Self-checkout is imperative: it eliminates annoying librarian questions.


An Annoyed Library User

Oh, and I’ll see you Tuesday.

Reviewed on October 11, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Our library just barely got self-checkout,and not all the branches in the SAPL have them yet, either.  Our librarians are really nice for the most part, though they do make small talk, which doesn’t bother me.  My favorite comments ever from one of the checkout guys was when I was checking out…oh I can’t remember! But it was a mystery or a spy book or something, and he called me a “secret agent twizzler.”  I have no idea what that means, but he thought it was quite funny.  It made me laugh.

    Sorry your librarians are being rude to you!

  • I feel the same way sometimes.  I recently put a bunch of books on hold and a librarian made some comments that made me uncomfortable.  Sometimes I get a book just to see if I’m interested in it.  They have unlimited books (though only 5 audio books) so I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it, and neither should you!

  • Hilarious! Also, I find myself avoiding the librarians that I know personally. Isn’t that weird? It’s not that I’m reading anything untoward, I just don’t want that personal view into what I’m reading. (Oh, so I have a book blog where everything is public. THAT makes a lot of sense!) We are all strange creatures.

  • I wouldn’t like that either.  I’m sorry you have to deal with that.  As for the librarians I encounter – they seem to be statues of stone!  We do not have self-checkouts.  Only one surrounding city (that I’m aware of) has it and I frequent many.  I guess we are behind the times!  🙂

  • OK, So I guess not having self-check out isn’t all that unusual! I just haven’t been in a library without it for more than a decade, so this new “relationship” with the librarians is a bit weird.

    Amanda, I don’t think they think they’re being rude….they think they’re making small talk!

    3m, I don’t want to feel guilty about it……I do the same thing about requesting books just to see how I feel about them. I don’t think I’ll get through more than one of the novels, but I wanted to come home and hold them in my hands and then decide which one…

    SmallWorld Reads, it’s too bad we don’t like librarians! We should love librarians! But I do the same thing, i.e. avoiding them…

    Joy, I’m with you in wishing there were a balance between being made of stone and being a bit too personal!

  • I’ve never minded librarians’ attempts to start a conversation (if that’s what they were doing). In my hometown in Ohio (population: 1200), the librarians have known me since I was old enough to pick my own books, and I loved chatting about what I was reading or how I’d heard of a book or the little-publicized hardback bundles of joy found in small press catalogs. There was only one librarian from that library I didn’t like; she was grumpy and the first adult I ever suspected didn’t like/trust me. And she doesn’t work there anymore, so it doesn’t matter. The librarians here don’t know me by name yet, and I find myself missing the familiarity I had with my previous librarians.

  • I almost always get way more books than I can read, especially if I know the library be closed due to holiday, which makes me a little panicky.  I never know quite what mood I will be in, so I have to be prepared for anything!  We have a limit of 25 checkouts at a time, but in my family we have four library cards.  We never do have them all maxed out though.  It sounds like you have a great selection to pick from–Handmaid’s Tale and Atonement are favorites of mine.  And Brown Bear, Brown Bear, of course!

  • My librarians are ice-cold, and not very adept at small talk – or any kind of talk for that matter. And we also have auto check out.

    ps. Possession by A S Byatt is pure love. It’s one of my favourite books! So is Atonement! But I’ve never read any Margaret Atwood. Meh, I’ll get around to her someday. At the moment, there are too many books on my to-read list

  • Natasha, Jena, I guess I wouldn’t mind small-talk: it’s the looking-at-my-books and making comments about them that bothers me. I guess I think small talk shouldn’t be personal–just superficial if anything. But I suppose a small-town feel would be different. I guess I don’t like to be personal with strangers, which is ironic as someone pointed out since I have a public blog!

    Chain Reader, that’s exactly why I got so many books to read at a time! Problem is, I really want to read all of them.

    Lisa, I know, no limit but is someone shaking their head at me?!

    Tuesday, Oh, I know I’ve heard so much good stuff about all of the novels I got. I really wish I could get through them all….that’s why I got them! But I’m not sure how many I’ll get to this time around.

  • Is it that they’re passing judgment or just making small talk? As a library user, I don’t mind at all if someone checking me out (not always a librarian) comments on the books as long as they aren’t making some type of judgment. As a librarian in an academic setting, I hate it when poor service in one location reflects negatively on an entire population of professionals.

  • I recently had a librarian comment on my choice of DuMaurier. She had been reading DuMaurier and was excited to see another fan. Those comments I don’t mind. But the comments you get would bug me too.

    I DO have that problem with grocery clerks. Ugh. There are a few who comment on the price of some of the things I buy. I also have a bunch of ‘grocery points’ on my credit card. I save them up for big orders at Christmas. I always get the ‘oh wow, you have so many points!’ It gets on my nerves. I wish they were hidden until I wanted to use them.

  • Literate Housewife, at my former library with self-checkout,  I couldn’t use the self-checkout if I had a fine….more motivation to not have fines! I really did avoid librarians.

    Lisa, I guess I can’t remember how they worded it, but when I got a comment on how much I had each time I checked out on three different days, I started feeling guilty! I wonder if it was just small talk, but I guess I tend to avoid even small talk with them. Again, ironic since I have a public blog….

    Chris, I really have issues with grocery store clerks too. Sometimes I even say “I don’t want to chat” and they still keep asking me questions. Hmmm….I’m thinking I just must be a super unfriendly person? Maybe just personal?

  • Well, as a librarian, all I can say is that sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.  I would like to add that we get to know our patrons and learn what you do and do not like and go from there.  I have some patrons that I barely speak a word to because that is the way they like it.


  • Deidre Durance, Thanks for the librarian point of view! I’ll keep it in mind when I return to the library…. I’m new to the branch so they don’t know me. I wonder if I should ask them to not comment or just try not to be annoyed? I guess I shouldn’t be so unfriendly, huh?

  • They have libraries with self-checkout?  

    I am always way too ambitious at the library too.  Right now I have 6 books out, totalling 3,067 pages.  LOL!  I don’t know if I’ll even get through one!  

    Our library has a 3-week check-out period, and you are only allowed to renew once, no matter what.  I finally thought I found a way around this-return the books and then check them right back out as long as there aren’t any holds in place for any of them.  Ah, brilliant!  Except that the books must be returned to their “home” library before they are checked back out.  Grrr.  So, I can go back home, log on to our library system, request all the books I just returned, wait for them to be transferred to my library of choice, and then go pick them up.  I love our library system, but it could use a little work!

  • Dreamybee, I know, I guess I’ve been in a metropolis for too long to assume that self-check outs are common in libraries everywhere. And yes, I have way more than 6 books and I’m not going to even try to count pages! I’m so glad for libraries!

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