Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Jinxed Library Ticket

Whoever has cast a spell on my library ticket, please could they get in touch and let me know what I have to do to lift the curse.

It's a few since the Charing Cross Library upgraded their loans and returns system. I must say it was sometimes touch and go whether I made it on time to my Frith Street Chinese class in the past if I forgot to allow for queueing time at the the check-out. Then, after a very short period of closure the branch re-opened complete with three excellent self-service machines.

They're a lot more efficient than the supermarket ones, where you have to call an assistant every time you scan a bottle of alcohol or try to remove a full plastic bag from the dispenser or do any one of a dozen actions they don't like. At the library you simply place your pile of books inside a box-shaped space, push a button, put your library card into a slot and get a receipt for whatever you've returned or borrowed. Magic!

At least, I now suspect a supernatural agency is involved.

My regular reader will know that I have a fondness for this library - not just because I pass it four times a week en route to and from my class, but because they have an unusually good selection of crime fiction and foreign DVDs, as well as Chinese books. You can find out what's going on locally, too. The assistants are helpful and they're very efficient at reserving books.

But now there's one big drawback - my ticket is jinxed. It's not just my imagination working overtime after too many Harry Potters. I haven't even seen the latest Dan Brown film.

I introduced my ticket a few weeks back and not only was the number not recognised , but after telling me to report to the desk the machine itself expired! I don't mean it exploded or anything, but the screen turned pink and a red diamond began to spin in the middle. A message said the terminal was out of action. I tried another, and the same thing happened. Similarly with the third one - now my ticket had dissed every one of the scanning devices.

Fortunately, the people giving hard looks to the first two machines didn't realise it was me. I sneaked up to the desk and explained what had happened. Fortunately, too, it wasn't too difficult for the librarian to get them started again with a couple of flicks of switches on the wall behind. There remained the mystery of why my ticket rendered them defunct when I tried again. Even a new issue of ticket didn't solve the problem.

After some weeks even the library's Top Brains have failed to solve the problem. I can't use the remote terminals and I have to check in at the desk.

Of course, I can do this, and there's less of a queue these days. Even so, you get used to self- service privileges. Trusties in prisons must feel the same when they get their arm-bands :it's a step towards liberation. Also, I have to explain to tyro librarians why I'm taking up their time instead of using the self-help system. I'm beginning to feel persecuted .

So, seriously, I'd like to know to know how I can expiate whatever crime I've committed. I know I can be a bit outspoken, and a bit of a pest in that regard, but I want to use my library card unhindered. So I'm willing to recite whatever incantation it takes.

(Oh, and in case you think the problem is caused because I live in Lewisham but use the Westminster Library Service, that's not the case. You can use the libraries no matter where you live in London. )


Joanna said...

Have you tried one of the other Westminster libraries? My favourite is Mayfair Library just by the Grosvenor Chapel. However they don't yet have the self check out. It is like going back in time there as it is always completely silent. It also feels a million miles away from Charing Cross and more like a local library in a village. BTW I can't use the self check out at the moment as have £12 in accumulated library fines I need to pay which means I have to go to the desk and plead for more time!

Sheila Cornelius said...

Joanna, I'd thought of going to another Westminster library with a self-check system - I'll ask ext time I pass.

As for your fines, it's my impression that librarians don't really like collecting fines.I don't want to encourage dishonesty,but it isn't have you've been using the books for profit ie selling them, I assume. I'd go to a different library or a different librarian and say you were in hospital and you forgot. Or you were called to the North to look after an ailing aunt. Or you lost your job and could you pay off the fine in instalments. I think you'll find they are sympathetic. After all, you have had a lot on your mind.