Strange encounter at the library

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When you think horror, think Round Rock Public Library!

Wait–that didn’t come out right.  But we do want fans of terrifying tales to know that we purchase books for them; those chillers are shelved among other fiction, which explains the absence of a “Horror” sign.  Search the library catalog with the subject “horror fiction“, and you’ll see.

Or–just ask us.  The Reference Desk can supply lots of reasons for you to become totally creeped out.  (That didn’t come out right, either.)

Recent library acquisitions in the genre include The Vines by Christopher Rice; The Deep by Nick Cutter; The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith; River of Souls by Robert R. McCammon, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero, and The Vanishing by Wendy Webb.

And consider Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library, which terrifies me far more than the average reader because I’m a librarian.  This little tale (with wonderfully quirky alternating page illustrations) vividly portrays the sort of user experience that libraries strive every day not to achieve.

The first page evokes trepidation: a boy approaches the circulation desk–guiltily, because his shoes squeak.  There he encounters a surly librarian who, affronted by this distraction from her book, slams the volume down upon the counter.  (If you see one of us engrossed in pages while working a service desk, it’s because we’re reading reviews for book selection; we know that you’re more important.  But I digress.)

The not-ready-for-customer-service-award staffer proves just the leading edge of the young customer’s ordeal.  Throughout everything, the boy charmingly retains his sense of properly-brought-up reason: he questions that the vast, labyrinthine basement to which he is directed could logically exist beneath a public library, given that “public libraries like this one were always short of money”.

Perhaps we should capitalize and promote ourselves as “basement-free!”, “staffed by non-terrifying people!” and “guaranteed not to imprison our customers!”– selling points sure to resonate with readers of Murakami’s whimsically nightmarish scenario.

Frankly, we’re always on the hunt for any point to demonstrate our relevance.  We despair over folks who haven’t visited a library in many years (maybe their shoes are squeaky) and sustain the old stereotype of book warehouses that “nobody needs anymore”.  If these folks dropped by, they’d encounter computers, youth programs brimming with children and parents, volunteer tax assistance, an art gallery, helpful live assistance to find and use resources, study rooms and carrels in use—many more options beyond print.

They wouldn’t see the free Wi-Fi that so many customers depend upon.  And actually a significant portion of the service we now provide is invisible to those just surveying the premises.  Consider thousands of customers who tap into our digital resources—available 24/7 from home or wherever–and don’t forget mobile device users who download eBooks, music, articles, etc. and communicate with us online.

And we’re part of the problem, continually marketing our convenient digital resources, reminding customers that—as much as we love to see them in person—they can access our information remotely.

…Which means that you, too, could be part of the Vast Unseen Horde of Library Users. (Perhaps that will be Murakami’s next title).  Mwahahahaha!