I attended a retirement tea yesterday. One of the hospital librarians was retiring after 20 years of service, so there was a cake and a speech and lots of reminiscing. Not for me, mind you, having only started there 3 months ago. But for everyone else it was quite nice to go and wish her well in retirement. Something I can really only dream of....but anyway...
So I was there mingling with the library peeps and it turns out two of them? Well we all worked at the same academic institution at some time or other, and I - being the oldest of the bunch - worked with both of them, albeit briefly. So we're catching up, thanking our lucky stars that we made it out of this academic institution with our sense of humour and sanity and were able to go on to rewarding library careers. Whew. Anyway, at some point we're joined by a couple of other people - one whom I know, the other I didn't. I know very few people still, so I'm always happy to meet more, put faces to names yada yada. Anyway, these "others" (at the risk of sounding like an episode of Lost) are not library people. This will all become relevant shortly - trust me. So the one woman I sort of know introduced the other woman to me and told her who I was and where I worked and then - THEN - proceeded to lean in conspiratorily and say to me "So! What's the strangest request you've had so far? Anything really 'out there'?" Now, is it just me or is that just something typically said by non-library people TO library people? I honestly know of no other profession where people are so voyeuristic and want to know allll the juicy questions. Okay, maybe nurses ("What's the grossest thing you've ever seen??") but really, I don't think it happens to too many others.
Now don't get me wrong, there are LOTS of whack jobs out there who ask lots of crazy shit of librarians - and some of that crazy shit gets talked about and posted on blogs and that's cool. And most of the time it's awesome and funny and I know librarians who can write books of stuff like that. Public librarians especially have the best examples of this, but it's just that with this woman I had to shake my head, because bitch, we're talking about a library for cancer patients.
"So, what then?" I wanted to say to her "Hmmm....let me think...well, there was the guy that came in wanting to find information on how to tell his kids he was going to die - har har! Oh wait no! What about the lady who needed stuff on hospices and end-of-life issues and she had to do it for herself because her husband was in denial? Hi-larious! And then there was also that woman - haha, and this is GREAT - she's 8 months pregnant and going through chemotherapy and needed some stuff on stress management and relaxation - is that 'out there' enough for you??" Not exactly water cooler fodder, right? So yeah. Hence the "wtf" in my subject line.
My job is amazing. I love what I do, and I take it very seriously. A lot of these people are trusting me to help them make some incredibly hard decisions. They want to talk, they need to cry, they tell me their stories, and sometimes my days are brutally intense. Sometimes the emotions are so raw and so close to the surface that it's all I can do to keep it together. I feel so privileged to be a part of their lives, their fight is my fight now, so a comment like "What's the weirdest request so far?" is like a slap in the face.
Luckily my co-worker came to the rescue with a "well, we'd better get back to the library" or I might have had to drop her with a spinning backfist-roundhouse combination.
I so would have.