The Library Rules of Etiquette

February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

E.O. Schaub

Author’s note: this essay is dedicated to Beth, the librarian, who we love and who puts up with all our crap… and snacks.

It all started out rather innocently. You see, our family attends dance class twice a week at the Pawlet Public Library- a beloved local community center housed in the town’s former three-room schoolhouse. In the afternoons when the ballerinas disappear into the room to the right, many siblings and parents head to the children’s room on the left to spend the hour playing and reading books.

Then, suddenly one dreary Monday afternoon – or was it Thursday?- and without warning, a small, typed paper notice appeared on the door jam of the children’s room, and no one thought very much of it. Not at first.

“Parents please clean up after your children… Remember, this is a library first. Thank You.”

Some time shortly thereafter came a second notice, regarding the handling of soggy footwear, directing them to the use of plastic mats in the hallway corner. Also, at this time parents and other patrons might have glanced up to notice a half-eaten cookie scotch-taped to the original note. In retrospect, this was a somewhat ominous harbinger of things to come.

The next sign to appear was much larger than its forebears, handwritten on poster board, and festooned with large capital letters. It read as follows:

Library Rules of Etiquette:

  1. NO YELLING- use indoor voice
  2. NO RUNNING- use walking feet
  3. Food only at tables
  4. Clean up after yourself
  5. RESPECT the books, toys, space, each other and yourself
  6. Share with each other

Next to the sign was taped a small, mysterious flat object, which upon closer inspection revealed itself to be a pancake.

It seemed that this might be the end of the matter, until a few weeks later, when a series of modifications to the posterboard appeared, employing several rather emphatic shades of fruit-scented marker. The new, improved sign now read:

Library Rules of Etiquette:

  1. NO YELLING- use indoor voice, please please
  2. NO RUNNING- use walking feet, this means you
  3. Food only at tables NO FOOD
  4. Clean up after yourself for Pete’s sake
  5. RESPECT the books, toys, space, each other and yourself, not to mention the librarian, thank you
  6. Share with each other, EXCEPT Kleenexes

Additionally, some new rules had been added:

  1. NO GAMBLING
  2. NO Origami Page Folding
  3. NO setting ANYTHING on fire
  4. NO- and we cannot emphasize this enough- NO using fellow library patrons as “Home Base”

Two more objects had been added to the sign, apparently with a stapler: a small basket of chili-cheese fries, and a somewhat linty wad of salt-water taffy.

Due to a snow day, our next trip to the library was not until two weeks later, but already several significant additional upgrades to the sign had materialized, accentuated by some very determined-looking glitter glue and a squadron of happy face stickers. The new improved sign now read:

Library Rules of Etiquette:

  1. NO YELLING- use indoor voice, please please please please PLEASE
  2. NO RUNNING- use walking feet, this means you, Andrew Delano
  3. Food only at tables NO FOOD: yes, this includes gum, cotton candy, cottage cheese, Hot Pockets and Spam
  4. Clean up after yourself for Pete’s sake, Andrew Delano’s mother does not work here
  5. RESPECT the books, toys, space, each other and yourself, not to mention the librarian, thank you, also please respect the privacy and temperament of Herboldt the fish-tank iguana who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and sweaty jowl syndrome
  6. Share with each other, EXCEPT Kleenexes, cough drops, and anything from inside your nose
  1. NO GAMBLING. NO FIREWORKS. NO WAISSAILING REINACTMENTS. NO READER’S DIGEST FIGHTS. NO DEWEY DECIMAL JOKES.
  1. NO Origami Page Folding, No book-oriented performance art, No collage or decoupage of ANY KIND
  2. NO setting ANYTHING on fire and yes this includes in the bathroom, parking lot, AND the librarian’s desk
  3. NO- and we cannot emphasize this enough- NO using fellow library patrons as “Home Base,” human shields or improvised battering rams

As if to underscore the seriousness of the matter, the bottom of the sign had been additionally underlined with the duct-taping of a black forest cherry torte.

It seemed that, since their inception only a short time ago, the Rules of Library Etiquette has evolved considerably. If we had thought this most recent and explicated version of library rules was the last word, however, we were gravely mistaken. In fact, one penultimate sign had yet to appear, and appear it did:

Librarian on Vacation

Will return when there are no longer water balloon fights in the mini-kitchen, when ALL of the baby board books have been glued permanently to the shelves and when the VHS video-tape forts have been disassembled and returned to their color-coded, alphabetized shelf locations. Also–

Unfortunately, the sign was illegible past this point due to the presence of a rather large beef brisket attached by nail gun and dripping Bacon-Onion Worchestershire sauce.

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