At the Salem Public Library, if you wish to use the Internet you have to put your library card number into the computer and it allots you a certain amount of time. If the computers appear to be taken, you can put your number into reservations computer and it prints out a receipt telling you the time when your session will begin and at which station.
Most libraries, by now, use this system to ensure fair usage and to keep track of who is doing what in the event that something illegal or amoral is taking place. I may have even mentioned this at some point, but I felt that a brief summary was necessary to remind you that this system did not just start yesterday. It’s been in place for quite sometime.
Yesterday, I showed up and all of the computers were taken. However, one couple was sitting at a computer station and I could see their screen clearly enough to know that it was open. You can tell a computer is open because it has the word “available” in big green lettering.
This is something that’s been happening a lot lately, or at least I’ve noticed it enough times to assume that it’s been happening a lot. Someone will be sitting at a computer that they’re not actually using. Either they’re hanging out with a friend who is on the adjacent computer. Maybe they got caught up in their texting. Or, and this one is the more forgivable instance, the user is working on paperwork of sometime, maybe for a class, and they actually did have a reservation but for whatever reason they did not log on at the right time. Or they never logged on at all and they didn’t expect someone else to want to use their computer. Or they were surprised when someone made a reservation and that it was for the computer they were sitting at but not actually using, because they figured it would be available to them at anytime so long as they were occupying the space. You know what, I can’t list and allow for every single scenario that might have occurred for this to happen. Just take my word for it that this happens.
So I see this couple sitting at the computer. I say couple because they were a man and a woman of similar age, but they may not have been an actual couple. Maybe they were students working on the same paper. One might have been a tax agent helping the other with paperwork. Aren’t you so happy that I’m covering all my basis here?
The point is that I could see that the computer they were at was not reserved. If it had been reserved, which would be apparent if they were actually logged on, or if there was a big red announcement that it was reserved, I would have just let it go. But it was the only computer available to anyone at that moment and I wanted to get online. Simple.
Now, I could have politely asked them to move so that I could log on. But people have a funny way of seeming to be reasonable and then turning on you like a rabid dog. So I went with the speaking softly and carrying a big stick approach. I made a reservation and surprise, surprise, the computer they were on switched from “available” to “reservation blah, blah, blah”.
I then informed them of this development. There was the usual confusion that accompanies people who were unaware that they could ever be in someone’s way. Oh, I never knew this computer was reserved, blah, blah, blah.
The librarian in charge of the computers at the time chimed in.
“Well, did you have a reservation?” She asked of the pair.
“Yes we did,” the gentleman said, politely but with certainty, prompting me to produce the receipt.
“Actually, no you didn’t,” I said. “That’s how I was able to make the reservation.”
The librarian couldn’t say anything to this. And in her defense, the confusion wasn’t her fault and she was only trying to keep the peace. Though there was no danger to the peace in this particular instance, as the lovely couple moved on without incident, as I mentioned this has been such a common occurrence of late that you can forgive the librarians if they feel compelled to try to step in just in case.