Sometimes answering even the simplest questions can lead to unforseen places. It’s part of the search strategy to think ahead to what the information might be used for in order to find the most relevant facts. I like to think my library skills develop further with every interaction, that I get better at seeing more perspectives around a question with every one I answer. Sometimes, I still get blindsided. Like yesterday.
A young man approached the desk and asked, “Do you have typewriters here? And some white out?”
I walked him over to the machines and turned one on for him. As I handed him the white out, he took a folded paper out of his pocket.
“Can you help me with this?” he asked. “See, I’m trying to be slick.”
I didn’t see, but he unfolded the paper. “You know what this is, right?” I shook my head. He held it so I could see it. “Results of Paternity Testing.”
“I want to mess with my girlfriend’s head,” he said. “I just want to change these five numbers here,” he pointed, “and here.”
The five numbers? 99.999.
Percent positive paternity, that is.
“So, can you help me get that off of there?”
I was speechless. I’m a woman. I’ve had babies. I even look like I’ve had babies. Either librarians are well-known for their professional detachment or the guy has big ones, that’s all I can say. Or maybe he’s oblivious.
When I finally got my words back, I was holding most of them in. There’s a little sign in my kitchen that says, “O Lord, help my words to be gracious and tender today, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.” I was really trying to remember that.
“Ah, sir? I’m not sure it will work. I don’t think the typewriter has the same typeface as that letter. And won’t she read the rest of these numbers here? It all adds up to 99.999.”
“Aww, she won’t look at that stuff.”
I asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? If she reports you falsifying the results, you could get your butt in trouble.”
That slowed him down, but only for a second. “I’ll just give it a try here,” he said.
I went back to the desk and IM’d my husband. He asked if the guy was asking for help with Photoshop.
“No, nothing so complex. Just typing and whiteout,” I typed. I looked up and saw Super-librarian, ever in heels, coming back from the typewriters. She looked disgusted.
“What?” I whispered.
“He wants to white it out and then photocopy it before he fills it in,” she whispered, incredulous. She IM’d her boyfriend. I wrote back to my husband, “Make that typewriter, white out and photocopy.”
He wrote, “Doesn’t he think she’ll check with the testing company to see if the results are real?”
“No, he doesn’t even think she’ll read the rest of the paper. Poor girl, “ I wrote back.
Super-librarian said, “Boyfriend wants to know couldn’t I just not help the guy,” she said. “How do you not tell someone where the copier is?”
“I know,” I said. “All he asked me for was a typewriter and some white out.”
Husband wrote back, “Who is on desk with you?”
“It’s Super-librarian, why?” I asked.
“Are you guys about ready to cut his off and hand them to him on a plate?”
That just about sums it up.
I can tell someone where the typewriter is. I can give him white out. I can point out the copy machines.
I never thought it would make me an accomplice to one of the nastiest acts on earth.
No, not telling the mother of your child you aren’t really the father.
Shirking personal responsibility. Only question is, did I fulfill mine?