Thursday, December 23, 2010

Library Saga

So today, I present to you a Library Saga, a tale of staircases and helpful librarians and misshelved books. I hope it will amuse you.

First of all, some background. I don't know if newer readers of Tea & Biscuits will know this, since I haven't mentioned it in a while, but I sing. I like to think that I'm pretty good at it. I take voice lessons from a grad student at school, and I really enjoy it.

Also, out of all the people I know in Ithaca, the majority are either writing majors or music majors. My roommate is a music major. Last year I lived with TWO music majors. My very good friend from down the hall is a music major. This is unsurprising, as a majority of my friends and fellow AP level students in high school were band geeks.

So my voice teacher, Sarah, told me about this place:

Since I live pretty close to NYC and don't have a music library any closer to me, Sarah sent me on a quest to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center in search of a Mozart art song, "Ridente la calma." And since I was going, my music major roommate Anna asked me to copy some music for her as well, a Polish folk song called "Mother Dear" and a Mendelssohn piece called "Der Blumenstrauss." So off to New York I went. This was, of course, an opportunity to visit my best friend Ella (I link to her so often I should just figure out how to put a link in the sidebar and have done with it). She was coming home later Tuesday afternoon, so I would be able to get a ride back from her dad.

I got into NYC around 9 or 9:30, and Ella hadn't eaten breakfast yet so we went to her dining hall and she ate breakfast and we told stories of the last three weeks and et cetera. Because that's what friends who haven't seen each other in three weeks do.

By the time we got to the library, it was about 11:30. So, this is a library, right? Libraries open around 9 am, because they're libraries and that's what they do, right? Wrong. This library opens at NOON every day (this will become important later). We walked down the street and found a supermarket and I bought a sandwich. It was then noon, so we went back to the library.

Once in the library, I found a map and we went up to the second floor, which is where (most of) the music books are. I looked up the three books we needed again, to write down the call numbers and check that they were still available. Those three books were: 15 Arias for Coloratura Soprano, The First Book of Soprano Solos, vol. 3, and the Lieder Anthology. They were all there; the first two had the same call number and the third one was "for library use only" so we'd have to go somewhere else to find that. We then went over to find the first two, since they were in the same place, and after several minutes of looking on the wrong shelf we found the right shelf and, fairly shortly after that, my book. I made my copy (I do not get along well with copy machines; I wasted so many dimes and so much paper trying to figure them out) and then we went to put it back and find the book for Anna. We scoured every inch of that shelf, as well as many of the surrounding shelves, as well as all the return carts we could find, trying to find it. But it simply was not there. So we decide to go find a Helpful Librarian to ask.

We asked Helpful Librarian 1, and she told us that if it says it's available but isn't in the right place it's either misshelved or it's just on a cart after having been returned, waiting to be reshelved, and we would need to go downstairs and ask them if they can look for it. We also got a little form thing for the Lieder Anthology, which we would need to request upstairs.

We went downstairs and asked Rather Unhelpful Librarians 2 and 3 what to do, telling them what Helpful Librarian 1 told us. They didn't pay very much attention to what we were trying to say (Also, apparently "Fifteen Arias for Coloratura Soprano" is a rather incomprehensible title, since I had to repeat it A LOT), and they sent us around the corner to what turned out to be the DVD section or some such thing. We went up to that desk and asked Helpful Librarian 4 what to do, telling them what Unhelpful Librarians 2 and 3 had told us, and Helpful Librarian 4 told us that what we needed was a page who would go through the stuff that hadn't been reshelved yet. We went back to Rather Unhelpful Librarian 2 and told her exactly what Helpful Librarian 4 had told us. She looked rather cross but told us that the pages were all out on their lunch break. Mind you, it was 1 o'clock, and they opened at noon. Hmmm...

So we decided to try that one again later, and we went up to the third floor, in search of the Lieder Anthology. On the third floor, there's a coat check and all sorts of official stuff. We handed the slip from Helpful Librarian 1 to Helpful Librarian 5 and then wandered around looking at stuff for a while as we waited for her to get the book for us. (They had a display of Beverly Sills' scores with her stage direction notes and ornamentations written in - it was pretty awesome.) When we went over to retrieve the book, Helpful Librarian 5 asked me for my library card. I do not have a library card for the New York Public Library, since I do not live in New York. Ella, however, does - she just forgot to bring it with her. Helpful Librarian 5 asked Ella for her name, and then asked her to verify her address. Now, since Ella has just finished finals week, Ella has not slept in two days. And because I go to Ithaca, which is a hippie school in every sense of the term, I was afraid that Ella would come across as crazy, on drugs/drunk, or as someone trying to steal someone else's library card (why you would do that I have no idea, but there it is). But Helpful Librarian 5 was very nice about it, and we got the book.

We trotted over to the copy machines, and I put in the little copy card I'd had to get and laid the page out and pushed the button and BAM! Paper jam. (Ella later remarked that this was the most karmically attuned copier she'd ever come across.) I tried to do Anna's magic trick (Anna is very good with copiers) where you pull out the door on the side and then close it again and it's magically fixed, but it didn't want to open and I didn't want to force it. So I went back to Helpful Librarian 5 and said "I'm sorry, I don't know who I should ask for help about this, but there's a paper jam..." and she said "You're making copies? Do you have permission to make copies?" Of course I had no idea you needed *permission* to make copies, and so I apologized profusely, and she pointed me across the floor and said she'd fix the paper jam while I went to go fill out the necessary form.

Ella and I then took the book over to Helpful Librarian 6, who handed us a form and pointed out the copyright mark at the bottom of the first page which meant we'd only be able to copy 10% of the song.* Much hilarity ensued when she waited for a sleep-deprived art student and a writing major who has always been abysmal at percents try and figure out just how much 10% of a five page song would be (I worked it out later thanks to the calculator feature on Google; it's half a page). We had quite a nice discussion with her about copyright law and how weird it is, but ultimately didn't fill out the form to copy things because half a page would really be quite useless to Anna, so why bother? We then went back to Helpful Librarian 5 and handed the book back and said thank you and went back downstairs.

It was now about 1:40 or so, so after I'd collected my coat and backpack (Ella, of course, did not have to check anything because Ella does not carry bags or wear coats, because she is a silly person) we went back down to the first floor to check on that coloratura book. Rather Unhelpful Librarian 2 was still there, and she rather snippily told us that they were still on a lunch break. So we left the library and sat outside for a bit, waiting for them to get back from lunch, being cold, etc. At about five after 2, we went back in, and Unhelpful Librarian 2 was no longer at the front desk. Instead, Helpful Librarian 7 went back and looked at all the return stuff they had (it took her rather a while, it must have been a lot of stuff) but couldn't find it. She said if we put it on hold we could come back later and try to find it, but since we were leaving and neither of us would be living in the city till Ella goes back at the end of break, that would be sort of silly. So, two hours and a bit after we'd started, we gave up. We went back to Ella's dorm to wait for her dad to pick us up, and I finally got to eat that sandwich. I was really hungry by then!

So I suppose the morals to this story would be as follows:

1. Librarians are awesome.
2. Never try to do nice things for your roommate.**

I hope you enjoyed the Library Saga. It was certainly an adventure!


* The thing that really puzzles me about this is that the reason Anna asked me to look for this music was that someone had taken those books out of the Ithaca library over break. Which meant that they were in the Ithaca library with absolutely no restrictions, which meant that if you really wanted to, you could copy the whole book and nobody would care except the person behind you on the copier line. Hmmm.

** I'm just kidding, always do nice things for your roommate. Roommates are awesome.