A Day – March 30, 2017 at the Carnegie

My bicycle was being repaired since I had stretched out the chain, worn out the sprocket to little nubs, and no longer had responsive braking. It had to be done. Fortunately the weather had a surprise breakthrough with the sun coming out, so I was happy to walk to work. It was a day like any other, except that it kind of epitomizes the roller coaster that is working at the Carnegie Library so I thought I would record it.  Some days include meetings, more security incidents, more DVD requests, but pretty much the same themes.

Here goes…

  • Chat up D.Z. as he is crossing the road at Main & Terminal, briefly fearing that he was going to get hit by a truck. He was leaving his shelter, possibly en route to McDonalds. Big smiles when I tell him where I’m going. D.Z. goes to Carnegie everyday, and was even featured in VPL’s Annual Report. He credits the library as saving his life, especially during more turbulent times suffering from bipolar disorder.
  • Bump into regular patron with walker further up Main. He says he’ll see me later, as he has a “hold” waiting for him. Probably a mystery author.
  • First patron is M. She loves her morning Crosswords, which I sometimes help her with by finding the answers in previous newspapers. She wants to give me a purple, diamond butterfly brooch, which I have to refuse trying to explain that it’s my job. She schemes to give it to me outside of work. A bit awkward.
  • J.H. arrives – mother of a murdered daughter (ie. Pickton). She is such a beautiful, brave woman. We sort out her gmail account and her Facebook account, and find a stunning photo of her daughter to include in the “Remembering our DTES Women” website. She notices a picture of her celebratory cake for sobriety, and shares that she is almost 36 years sober, although the horror of her daughters situation almost drove her to madness. Absolutely awful – in particular the treatment from Police. And yet she is so strong. She bursts into a prayer in her Indigenous language for finding the photo. She also shares a story about a photo during one of the Women’s Memorial marches when she reunited with a niece who had to be adopted out of the family. I am floored by her radiance, and the great burden she carries.Quilt at Central
  • VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users) advocate, Tracey Morrison hand delivers an article that she contributed to, from the Social Science & Medicine journal for our DTES in the News Bulletin Board. The title is, “‘They treated me like crap and I know it was because I was Native’: the healthcare experiences of Aboriginal peoples living in Vancouver’s inner city” (April 2017). We made two copies.
  • I am about to place some DVD requests when my computer freezes. Turns out that all the computers and phones are down in the whole building. My patron doesn’t mind and will visit me the following day. Communication returns after 20 minutes. No explanation.
  • As I’m leaving for my .50 cent coffee, as I do at 11am to chat with the Seniors’ coffee sellers in the basement I see C.K. looking at a VPL events brochure. She shares that she is three months off of heroin and is looking to attend library programs, become a volunteer at the Centre, and get back into living. Woohooo!  She said she was getting addicted to Fentanyl, and had almost died in an alley when she was found. We also discussed writing, and she’s thinking about writing her story.
  • Have lunch in the cafeteria, and join X and Y, a brand new couple! We chat about books, authors, writing and art, as they are about to go to the Thursdays Writing Collective session. I also ask them how they met. It’s explained that they had known each other for ten years when she decided to ask him out. He was floored, looking around to see if there was another guy in the room. They seemed really happy.
  • After lunch, I confirm a booking with an interesting author and artist named Sandra Yuen MacKay. She was virtually introduced to me online by one of my dearest patrons (who won’t mind being named), Carl MacDonald. MacKay will speak to how art and writing has helped her cope with schizophrenia and mental illness. She has two published books in the VPL system: My Schizophrenic Life: the road to recovery from mental illness and Chop Shtick. She will join us in May. SANDRA POSTERAPR72
  • I return to my desk and discover a package waiting for me. Inside was a hand-written three page letter and signed books by Betty Vogel dedicated to me. A day earlier, my devoted patron R.S. (who has her struggles with bi-polar, but is a really fiesty woman with a wild story) explained that she hadn’t slept much because her neighbour Betty knocked on her door at 4am. Betty is 85 years old and was a former librarian and writer. R.S. explained that years ago Betty had donated her three books, but no one from VPL acknowledged her, which was hurtful. So, I whipped up a “Thank You” card and requested the two books in the system. The letter and package boosted my spirits, so I shared it out on Facebook. I read the first title, A Librarian is to Read and the 65 pages were absolutely hilarious based on the weird, wonderful and neurotic patrons (and staff) from her time in the 1970s at the Seattle Public Library. There are now 13 “holds” on this copy.
  • I get my daily “hello” from Randy. He requests his favourite DVDs, which he does every month. Jaws, Aliens, Waterworld. He tells me to have a “bloody marvelous day,” which he delights in saying.
  • WalkerNext up is the illustrious D.W. Walker. The most obsessive researcher and journalist with a mass of articles and published books, mainly from his years in Peru. We decide to suggest some purchases for the VPL system of his own books, some that might be a bit more accessible such as Confessions of an Ahayuasca SkepticWe then begin the weekly ritual of requesting obscure articles and books on Liberia from Interlibrary Loan department. His curiosity is insatiable and his note-taking habits are meticulous. The challenge is staying alive on a pitiful welfare budget and staying mobile due to hip / leg pain.
  • I take a quick walk in the sun, going for a hot chai latte. I feel overcome thinking about C.K. and J.H. from the morning. I feel full to the brimming with love and hope.
  • A staffperson forwards a patron over to do some cell phone trouble-shooting. N. had purchased the phone on the street, which had a factory reset performed but still wouldn’t connect to the two wireless networks. The login page wouldn’t pop up, and the phone insisted upon the previous passwords. We tried everything. I casually inquired if N. had a library card, to use our computers. She explained that a few years back she was on a payment plan but then went to prison for a year. I cleared most of the fines. She then shared that upon release from prison she found that many of her friends were dead from overdose. She was feeling very alone, as both a transgendered person and meth addict. She had a girlfriend to stay with, except when they had fights leaving her vulnerable on the streets. I asked about how she was grieving and coping, and N. said it was difficult to join in on the communal sharing. You are not alone. You are welcome here.  I did not solve the phone issue.
  • Follow-up with staff who had to connect with a patron and remind him that he had been banned at the Central branch, which included all libraries. It was disappointing to learn about the strange things he had done, which seemed so out of character.
  • Connect with the Chinese Information staff about the progress with cataloguing and ordering our Chinese non-fiction
  • Waiting near the Fiction section is H.F., another highly curious and intrepid reader. He joins me, and proposes three questions. Why did the first page of Harry Potter refer to the “moral rights” of the author, which we quickly solved. Second, how are Aboriginal communities and peoples involved in archaeological digs in BC’s westcoast, and then, are there any urban archaeological digs happening near Vancouver? We then explored all the appropriate contacts at the Museum of Anthropology, the Royal BC Museum, various professors at UBC and SFU, etc.  I know that H.F. is very handy in emailing, so he was quite pleased with the suggestions.
  • Emails all day.
  • Home time.
  • Meet my Scott at Toshi’s and talk about the day. We bless the food.




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