Without meaning to, I visited this library very close to closing. It was both a combination of misunderstanding the closing time and thinking it was earlier in the day than it was. I was greeted pleasantly by a circulation clerk as I walked in, and when I asked a reference librarian for help, she snapped at me that the library was about to close in a minute. Surprised, I checked the time, and apologized, ready to leave and come back. She insisted she could help me after all, and walked me to the shelves while asking why I didn’t just look up my own call number. She handed me a random book that was lying on top of the others on the shelf and walked away before I could thank her. I took my book and sprinted to the circulation clerk, who pleasantly asked if I found everything I needed. I thought I would get whiplash from the drastic difference in moods. I collected my books, and hurried to the car, stepping around the vacuuming custodian on my way out.
I decided since I had made such a big mistake coming only a dozen minutes before closing, I’d revisit this library. I made sure I had plenty of time to browse and ask my usual question. I arrived and walked straight to the reference desk. No one was around, so I waited for a few minutes before I couldn’t hold myself back anymore. I hurried to the young adult corner and browsed their graphic novel titles. After finding one I wanted, I returned to the reference desk, which was still unoccupied. While I waited, I browsed travel pamphlets and new books. I found one that looked really good, so I wrote the title down on a piece of paper for later reading.
After waiting for almost twenty minutes, I approached the circulation desk and asked if there was a staff member that could help me locate a book. She not-so-kindly informed me that she was busy and I would have to wait. Smiling, I stepped back and waited. When she finished, she beckoned me forward and I asked for a specific book. She brought me immediately to the shelves and pointed out the general area I would have to look, informing me that I should browse for my book. She left me at the shelves, nowhere near my desired book. Frustrated by staff that seemed completely disinterested in helping me, I took the nearest book to me and checked out.
I was told after visiting that this library was once a school. Looking back, I suppose it did have that kind of feel on the inside, but I don’t think I would have guessed on my own. The reference room is very large and bright–I went to the librarian and asked my question (as usual) and she happily looked up the call number while I listened to an older gentleman inform her that the day I was visiting was the best day of the summer because there was no rain. She walked me to the shelves, realized the books she was bringing me to had been moved and quickly looped around to the right area. Joking that she had intended the mini-tour, she pulled a few titles for me, and left me to choose one I liked. I felt guilty she had jogged around the library to find my book, but her positive attitude made me feel like she’d do just about anything to find the right book. It’s a simple gesture, but it made me feel cared for as a patron.
I stopped by the young adult department, which is located by the non-fiction shelves across from the reference room. I chatted with the lovely librarian there for a few minutes before browsing their graphic novels and grabbing one. Checking out was completely wonderful–the clerk processed my materials quickly and wished me a good day.
I’m sure you can guess which library wins this round. I hoped Plainedge’s original mixed signals (welcoming, friendly circulation staff and disinterested, irritable librarian) were because of my own mistake, but a corrected second visit landed me almost the same disappointing service. North Merrick’s staff served me with a smile, even when they had to go out of their way to do so. I don’t have to compare buildings, collections or parking lots for these libraries, because regardless of what faults North Merrick has in those categories, I would visit them any day of the week. The winner of this round is: