Standing behind this desk, I am still amazed at what I see in the library. People who need help come to the library to use unfamiliar technology with no training or background, to solve insurmountable problems.
I have training and background; in a sense I am the keeper of the technology. But some days, I have no help to give. I am the helpless one.
A loose family group came in last week to use the internet. I think they are staying at one of the shelters. They asked for help looking at the sex offender registry.
I got them signed in and showed them how to get there. The petite woman came to the desk. “I don’t know why she wants to look in there,” she said.
“My ex - her father - molested her and she wants to see his picture.”
“I guess if it brings her peace she can go ahead, but I just don’t understand it.” She walked away from the desk, obviously agitated, going toward her daughter, then moving quickly away.
I stood there, helpless.
After a few minutes with other patrons, I looked up to see the mother standing in the corner, back turned, wiping her eyes. I got a tissue, touched her on the shoulder and handed it to her. I had no words to offer – helpless.
The searching group became more animated – they had found something. The girl who was looking said, “Let me see, let me see! That’s him…..” Her eagerness turned on her. Suddenly she was rocking back and forth in her chair, sobbing. No one made a move to comfort her. Some of them were still glued to their screens.
“I’m safe, I’m safe,” she chanted softly to herself. “I’m safe now.”
Her mother was standing at a distance, wide-eyed and struck motionless. I stood behind the desk – helpless.
The girl’s quiet sobbing slowed and then stopped. She wiped her eyes on her t-shirt, took a deep breath, and changed the site on her screen. I could see her mother hoping. The girl was moving on to another page on her screen, and I hope, in her life.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, the mother stopped at the desk. “Thank you for the tissue,” she said, and continued toward the door.
Tissues in the hand – photos on the screen. Did any of it help?
I hope so.