I usually work at the library on Tuesday nights.
Recently, a family started coming in during this shift. Mom, Dad, little girl, little boy.
The first time I saw them, they asked if they could go out to the porch and eat their dinner. The food was in big Dunkin Donuts bags, so I’m not sure if it was actually Dunkin Donuts or if it was leftovers or what. We said, sure that was no problem, and my co-worker and I exchanged a puzzled and… slightly judgy look.
Tonight they were back and asked if we had a craft or something for the kids to do.
The mom explained that their old library had a craft station set up all the time in the children’s department, with materials and directions for a simple craft that the kids could take and do with parental help, as well as a space to display their work when they were done.
We don’t have anything like that, so I fetched some paper and crayons. The mom pulled a discarded test print of a flyer from our recycling bin and asked for scissors so they could cut out the owls on it. Again, I found myself surprised, a little judgy and increasingly annoyed at the things I was being asked to collect so they could do a craft that wasn’t on the plan for tonight and why didn’t they just come to programs like other people?
While the mom helped the kids, and they laughed and talked about their day, the dad sat an entire table away and played on his phone. He didn’t once interact with the kids. This annoyed me even more because of reasons.
Then they left to step outside for a snack and she asked if I could watch their things, that they’d be right back.
My internal monologue said, “it’s almost 7:00pm, why are you snacking? Have you eaten dinner? Why can’t you snack once you’re done?” My annoyance grew.
After they came back, the mom said something about “next tuesday night” and I realized that I had seen them pretty regularly on the tuesday nights I’d worked.
And I just… decided to not be annoyed.
I decided that it was actually pretty awesome that in the midst of what I can pretty safely assume is a crazy week, this family takes Tuesday nights to GO TO THE PUBLIC LIBRARY. They go to the library to make some pretty stuff, look at some books, and be together.
And I thought, maybe the mom works a couple jobs and can’t bring them to most of our programs. Maybe they can’t afford craft supplies, or they live with their grandma who doesn’t like messes, or a million other reasons.
Or maybe none of those reasons matter because we should be here to serve everyone and that doesn’t just mean the stay-at-home moms who come to story time every week.
I realized I should be freaking happy that out of the many choices of things to do, this family chooses week after week to come to the library.
So I offered to try and have a simple craft prepared for them to do next week, since I’m usually here anyway. Because, is it really that much of a bother to print out some templates and cut some construction paper? Is it really that big of a deal for me to gather some supplies to have for a family to make things together? And even if it was, it doesn’t matter because I’m here to serve our patrons. All our patrons.
When I mentioned to the mom that I’d try to have something for them to do the next week, she stopped and she looked at me and she smiled and said, “Wow, that would be so cool. Thank you so much.”
While I was busy being annoyed that she was annoyed that we didn’t do everything exactly like her old library, I forgot that she was communicating a need, that she was telling me something they’d like and they’d do if we offered it and that probably other people would too. She has a right to want services from her library. Even though I can’t create a craft station or change the rule about putting art on the walls, what I can do is spend 15 minutes at the beginning of my night putting together something for them to make. With that offer she was immediately willing to meet me halfway. In an instant I became an ally and not an obstacle.
Because I decided to stop being annoyed with them.
She wrangled the kids into their coats. The dad (or boyfriend maybe, he didn’t look much like the kids) finally looked up from his phone.
She gathered their things and told the kids to say “Bye.”
“See you next Tuesday!”