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international librarian of mystery

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Ahh, the school holidays.

In some ways, it's quite nice: parents bringing their children in to experience the joys of the public library. We librarians get pleasure from finding kids another book in whatever series they're addicted to at the moment, and instill the love of the written word into another generation of young'uns.

In other ways, it's total hell: the library becomes a de facto creche/playground, kids scream around the book shelves colliding with each other and adult patrons. Frazzled parents yell across the library trying to corral their no doubt sugar-loaded children into some semblance of a manageable group. Tears and tantrums abound, and that's just the librarian's tea room.

Thanks to my Dungeon assignment (it's going very well, thank you), I'm managing to avoid a good hunk of the holiday chaos, and I've only had to surface for a handful of 'public-facing' shifts this week. One of those, however, was on the Children's Information Desk shift, which is where I met 'Artemis'.

I've named this particular lad after Artemis Fowl, who, for those who aren't up on kids' literature, is a fictional 12 year old criminal mastermind, the subject of a series of books by Irishman Eoin Colfer. I've read the first three books in the series, and while they're good, I suspect the fact that the fictional Artemis is a supremely arrogant technical genius full-of-himself little tosspot appeals much more to the younger teenage boys (who eat it up) than the girls (who, as far as I can tell, are still hanging out for the next volume of the increasingly bad Harry Potter series).

Anyway, Artemis came up to me while I was lazing behind the desk, failing to get the energy up to try and stop a couple of pre-schoolers trying to push one of the library computers off its table. Artemis looked about twelve. He talked, on the other hand, like a forty year old English lecturer...

"Do you know when the new Artemis Fowl novella 'The Seventh Dwarf' is going to be added to the collection?"
"I'll have a look."

I did a quick catalogue search.

"It's not on the catalogue," I reported.

He looked at me like I'd sneezed on him.

"Of course it isn't. Can you tell me if the library has ordered it?"
"Ah, right. Let me check for you."
"Thank you."

Some manners, at least. Knowing how popular the series was, I'd have been surprised if we didn't at least have it on order, and, indeed, we did: it was 'in processing'.

"It's getting processed at present, which means it'll probably be out on the shelves shortly. Although, I suspect ... actually ... no, there's no reserves at all. Do you want to place a reserve on it?"
"Yes please."

He handed over his card. A child's card, so he was definitely under 13. I wondered. Tappity-tap, clickety-click, full patron record, aaaand...

"I'm nine," said Artemis, peering around the corner of the screen to see what I was doing, and somehow having caught onto the aim of my snooping.
"I was just checking your...uh..."
"I'm sure you were. Can you make the reservation from that screen?"

Busted snooping a patron's personal record by a nine year old!

"Uh, no, I have to..."

Unable to come up with a decent excuse, I just clicked through to the appropriate screen, made the reservation and returned his card.

"All. Done." I said, in a ' go away little boy' tone-of-voice.
"Thank you," he replied. "Actually, there's one more thing you might be able to help you with. Do you know where I could source..."

'Source'! The vocab!

"...underground tunnel diagrams of the Wellington central city?"
"What, like storm water pipes and stuff like that?"

'Stuff like that?' Great reference interview Natalie!

"Council, I suppose. In fact, you could try Mrs Kenilworth on the Reference Desk upstairs, she'd probably know a bit more that sort of stuff than me, she used work for the Council's information unit."

Artemis snorted. "Hardly a glowing recommendation, is it?"

I had to laugh. He was right, it wasn't.

"I'm sure she'd steer you in the right direction. It'll certainly be the Council that would hold those types of plans."
"Well, thank you. But I was hoping I might be able to get something from the library itself. My mother believes if I can't find the information I want in the library than it's information I probably don't need."

I was inclined to agree with his mother.

"Besides," he continued, "I'm not allowed to consult with the adult reference librarians any more, my mother told me I was wasting too much of their time."

Again, notch one up for the mother. Still, my interest was piqued.

"Well, tell you what, I can't really do anything now, I have to hang about the desk, but I can have an ask around later and see what we've got, or can get hold of. Do you come to the library regularly?"
"I'll leave a note on your card, or, uh..."
"What's your name?"
"Um, Natalie."
"Just Natalie?"
"Natalie Biz."
"Nice name."
"Thank you. I picked it myself."
"Could I just ask for you?"
"I suppose you could."
"All right then. Thank you for your help Natalie."
"That's okay."
"You know, you're very pretty. Goodbye."

And he turned heel and headed back to where his mother was trying wrestle a couple of crying pre-schoolers - twins by the looks of it - into their double-buggy.

I was left with cheeks burning bright red from his compliment.

The kids of today, I don't know.

[ continued here... ]