Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Library State Hospital

One of the most interesting problems of library work comes from the most unusual corner of the universe: insanity. Not us although that happens sooner or later; or, as we in the biz call it, going Library.
No, this interesting crowd comes from the 1% minority of this fine nation and yet we are honored by the presence of at least three at any given time. This population is the severely, chronically mentally disabled. While this provides oodles of educational opportunity for a Psychology student like me, it provides for an unusual and potentially frightening backdrop to the uninitiated. I’m chalk full of examples of abnormal psychology in my classes but it certainly doesn’t make for a sage setting. Despite multiple pleas to the committee, librarians aren’t allowed to dispense drugs. A tragic loss for all sides. I have seen more textbook cases of schizophrenia working at the library than I have interning for the local mental hospital (I kid you not!). I’m not complaining, though. They tend to be better behaved than most if you don’t mind the strange behavior.
For whatever reason, we are the place to be if your perception of reality is altered. Apparently the voices only have one directive: To the library!

Thus and so, I present to you the Gallery of Insanity showcasing some of the more interesting cases that liven our day.

Magic Manson

This is a wiry chap in his latter years grizzled with a long, white bushy beard. We’ve often done double takes due to his uncanny resemblance to Charles Manson. Luckily for us, he was mostly harmless. His main obsession was to gather every single book we have on the occult, rock and roll, and drugs. He would then proceed to open books to random pictures and arrange them in pentagrams on tables. He also enjoyed helping us decorate the window display. He found the one picture of a group of naked people we have (located in an occult book from the 70s) and placed it in our plastic tree displayed prominently at the window. To complete the effect, he ran outside and began to yell at the picture through the window.Very chic.Time after time, we had to gather up and shelve those books and endure some pretty strange conversations with him about Telekinesis (or rather, he talked and we stared sprinkling in a few nods here and there) and he would throw pennies at us to demonstrate. Sadly, that’s the nicest thing to be thrown at us by a patron.He would show up twice a day every day to raid our shelves and leave interesting and sometimes horrifying displays on the tables and windows. Then, suddenly, he stopped coming. We wondered at this for a week or so until we saw a news report that a man that looked almost exactly like our patron had been arrested for arson! Wow…I’m not sure what we did to dodge the bullet on that one but I guess all the nodding paid off!!!

Clothespin Man

This is a homeless man that has come into our library for as long as I’ve worked here. I had always credited him as being one of our best patrons because he knew all the rules and obeyed them without question. He was even bettering himself by teaching himself Spanish via our language section. I never paid much attention to him until one fateful night poor poor Mae Kyl was approached by a patron with an ashen complexion. We all instinctively dread this. If it’s something to horrify our hardened lot, it’s got to be bad.How shall I put this delicately? The patron walked into the men’s room (why do all these things happen in the men’s room?) and caught our normally compliant Clothespin Man walking his winkie all over the bathroom. We’re talking some serious redecoration here!When the police questioned him later, he informed them that he had only been on earth since he was fifteen.Hmmm….well, I guess it’s a subject most people don’t want to broach when speaking with a visitor. So, for the benefit of all future alien visitors: Please do not use public bathrooms to tend to your dailies. Thank you.


This is a patron that was a little before my time but just suddenly reappeared within the last week. Apparently, he is firmly under the impression that he is Ronnie Romirez (AKA the Night Stalker). This is one of those patrons that you give a wide berth and try not to attract his attention. He was in the habit of making the information staff look up and print pictures of all of Romirez’s victims and would grin and rock excitedly while they did it. Little fervent mutters of “yes, yes that’s it.” Would send chills down their spines.Even though he only vaguely resembles the legendary Night Stalker, I’m still tempted to call the police and tell him we have Romirez in the library. This is one hombre who needs some preventative legal attention….Creepy…..Now I need to find out what his victims looked like to make sure I don’t fit the profile.

Margaret Thatcher

This patron was a woman in middle to late adulthood who was firmly convinced that Margaret Thatcher was the Second Coming of Christ. Don’t believe it? Well then, she’ll be more than happy to tell you about her theory in extensive detail. She was fond of writing them down on the back of a chemical dependency center pamphlet. (ahhh, how appropriate) Heck, you didn’t even need to ask. She’ll tell you anyway; you, the plants, the wall, anything that isn’t able to outrun her. She also happened to be a creative member of our patron base. She would often bring us her arts and crafts consisting of random magazine clippings pasted to construction paper.I really liked her; she was just fun to watch. My college Psychology Graduate Department needs to add the public library to their list of internship sites. The experience it provides is golden…..and contagious………..at least that’s what the voices tell me.


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