Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Ten things I learned in the library service

1) People don't read signs. Our reservation shelves are right near the reference desk. If I had a dollar for every time I've had to point them out I'd be a rich woman.

2) Recently returned items are always the hardest to find. Personally, I believe it is the spirit of the books in rebellion. All that freedom. All that silent communication. Now they are being put back on the shelf. Call me fanciful but I would hide too.

3) If you want good customer service you need to be a nice customer. I had one swearing and abusive borrower who used to ring up in an effort to get extra Home Library Service deliveries. I never complied. Yet, for a grateful quavery voiced old lady, I've been known to bend over backwards.

4) If you want to get out of paying a lost book fine don't say you lost the book while you were on holiday in Paris. I've never been to Paris I'm, therefore, unlikely to wave your charges on compassionate grounds.

5) It is never appropriate to discuss your ear wax with strangers (or possibly even your best friend). One elderly gentleman on realising I wore hearing aids decided I that I would sympathise with his ear wax problems, given in weekly installments. I took to hiding in the stacks when he was around.

6) You are never too old to let your tummy muscles go. One old woman in her eighty sixth year came in for a book on stomach crunches. 'I've started getting a pot belly,' she confided in a whisper. I thought, if she can do crunches, then maybe I should be working on my abs too.

7) Follow your convictions to the end. An elderly Christian Science borrower moved interstate so that she could be in a nursing home that complied with a Christian Science medical practices. I may not share her convictions but I found her faithfulness inspiring.

8) Live life in a blaze of colour. One of our borrowers was a lifelong polio sufferer used to ride to the library on an electric scooter. After a nasty accident, she became housebound. One day, I had to deliver her books. When I stepped over the threshold of her council subsidised home I could only gasp. 'Oh what a beautiful room.' It wasn't beautiful in a 'Vogue Living' sense. She'd packed that room with all manner of gaudy, glittery and garish objects. The effect was stunning, like walking into a fairy grotto. It woke the inner child in me.

9) Some parents have too much time on their hands. Do I need to say anymore?

10) Some people have difficult lives. Every time I see people talking to their phantom selves, or cleaning the library tables with their socks, or putting a cardigan over their head so that the enemy can't read their emails, I'm reminded, some people have difficult lives.

I'm glad the public library service is there for them.



Tagged – my not so rolling blog tour


A general rant about trams, drunk drivers and respect for commuter cyclists.


  1. Kathy Sutherland

    Then there was the lady who wanted a reduction on her fine because she had a Seniors’ Card!

  2. Hi there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the excellent work!

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