We hope we're not too late...

Date: Tue, 4 Jun 1996 22:42:55 -0500 (CDT)
From: SFingerpoot@UOJTRSIW.wi.edu (Stan Fingerpoot)
To: jennifer@mailbag.com
Subject: We hope we're not too late...
Errors-To: jennifer@mailbag.com
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Greetings from the Edward and Delilah Parthemille Library at the University of Just The Right Spot In Wisconsin. We are in receipt of your resume, having downloaded it from your fabulous website. Not only do you seem like a fascinating person, we also happen to have a newly-created position you may be interested in, at the Parthemille Library: that of Choral, Serials and Gourmet Coffee Librarian.

Let me tell you a bit about the position. We have never had a professional librarian in charge of any of the aspects of this position, but lately the crunch has really been felt, especially since our oldest paraprofessional employee, Wanda Tarcrunch, retired last November. She took care of many of the responsibilities you would be covering, although many thought that her refusal to coordinate the choral music unless she was allowed a solo in every performance of the JTRSIW Concert Choir was rather stubborn, especially in light of her horrid singing voice. Her decision to shelve the current periodicals by color was certainly unorthodox, and her taste in coffee, I must say, ran to the pedestrian. At her departure for Samoa to retrace Margaret Mead's steps, we began to doubt that we could do without someone to take care of these important units of our library.

I'm happy to say that I've procured a promise from Dr. Flattish Umcutt, the conductor of the JTRSIW Concert Choir, that although he would need to hear your voice before granting you the customary solo in each concert, he is more than prepared to feature your photograph (color or b/w) on the cover of every concert program. In addition, you may rearrange the current periodicals in any order that pleases you (some have suggested an alphabetical arrangement, but we are understandably reluctant to resort to outlandish experimental arrangements when so many more logical schemes exist). We know that you will apply your considerable skills and varied experience to find the most usable arrangement.

You will notice that I have been silent on the subject of the gourmet coffee aspect of the job. This is not by accident. Unfortunately, our director, Dr. Norene Bawkamung, has entered into a verbal contract with a local supplier of gourmet coffees, Sir Dripsalot, with whose owner she (until recently) used to keep house, and which contract, since it was apparently uttered in the sacred space of the bedroom, she is unable to nullify. Our employees have had varied and extreme reactions to the Sir Dripsalot line of coffees--everything from our Acquisitions Librarian, who declared it delicious and ordered several pounds with which to make her weekend coffee bath, to a sophomore student page who dropped dead on the spot from some mysterious contamination (Norene seems to have 'signed' away all of Sir Dripsalot's liability clauses as well, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you the public relations nightmare this debacle has caused for the U of JTRSIW).

It would so please me to be able to offer a professional of your caliber the right to choose her gourmet coffee supplier...but professionals like you and I well understand the conundrums librarians face every day, and, well, sometimes sacrifices have to be made when those in power don't understand the value of information services (or of the coffee that makes them possible). On the bright side, the verbal contract will run out on January 1st, 2035; should you remain at the Parthemille Library in the capacity of Gourmet Coffee Librarian until that time, you would then be free to make an informed choice of coffee suppliers. The rest of the library staff, as well as the University Public Relations Office, eagerly look forward to that day.

But enough wishful thinking. We have seen your beautiful website and have reason to believe that the duties of this position would be highly interesting to you, and fit well with your past experience. We would be prepared to offer you a minimum salary of $45,000 per year, including, of course, medical, dental, vision, life, home, car, boat, pet, and jewelry insurance (as well as a home, car, boat, pet, and small assortment of jewelry, mistakenly left to the Parthemille Library by Esther Bmpfuss, class of 1897, when she passed away last August. You can be sure that her granddaughter was suprised to receive Esther's collection of rare Lithuanian leatherbound marriage manuals, when the will was read. Especially since the granddaughter is a nun. But I digress.)

Your position would also include 45 days of vacation time per year, a corner office with attached loft bedroom and waterbed (for those times when you simply must have your afternoon nap), and the traditional "Coffee Crown" worn by the aforementioned Ms. Tarcrunch while she brewed the morning coffee. Please remind me, if I don't remember, to have those sharp edges smoothed off before your arrival. We didn't think it was a good idea to make the Coffee Crown out of half of an old Folgers can, especially when the blood dripping down her forehead began to scare the pages, but there was no telling Wanda that--she was just irrepressible.

I certainly hope that you haven't accepted another job in some backwater such as Louisiana or North Dakota, and that you'll contact me as soon as possible to confirm your interest in the position of Choral, Serials, and Gourmet Coffee Librarian at the University of Just The Right Spot In Wisconsin. We are prepared to offer you the position, if you are interested. Just say the word. As the motto of the U. of JTRSIW urges us, "We Must Cultivate Our Gardens, Sift and Winnow, and Take Opportunity When It Pisses Nearby".

In hopes of hearing from you soon,

Stan Fingerpoot
Head, Public Services
Parthemille Library
University of Just the Right Spot In Wisconsin
Middle Place, WI 53798

p.s.--Upon re-reading this letter, I must apologize for a typographical error in the final line of the last paragraph. There is something wrong with our e-mail editor and I am unable to go back and make changes, but I wanted you to know that the motto of the U. of JTRSIW actually concludes: "...and Take Opportunity When It PASSES Nearby".

p.p.s--However, you must admit that it's a funny little error.

I wrote this piece as a way to make myself feel better, about a month before I moved to Bismarck, ND. It was on an evening when I was despairing of ever getting everything packed up for the move, and wishing the library job market wasn't so horrible that the only job offers I could get were in Louisiana (I turned that one down) and North Dakota. I yearned for a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin to call up and say they'd seen my webpage (I was so proud of it back then!) and had just the job for me. So when I found a website where you could write 'anonymous' mailings from a built-in remailer, I couldn't resist emailing myself this. (Note the disclaimer in the email header that mentions that this letter may not be from who it seems to be from...!)

I posted this on soc.libraries.talk soon after, with a plea for guidance with the "tough choice" I had to make (do I take my "dream job" and turn down the NDSL, to whom I'd already sent acceptance, or be polite and stick to my choice?). I soon discovered that most people--especially librarians--don't have the time to read a longish piece like this on Usenet. The few emails I got in response betrayed a lack of attention to detail, and a tendency to assume understanding of a document after reading the first sentence--amateurish information-seeking behaviors I was saddened to discover in fellow librarians.

Reactions ranged from one irate North Dakota librarian who wrote a badly-punctuated, no-caps letter berating me for making fun of North Dakota (apparently she saw the words "North Dakota" and the end and assumed the whole letter was a dig at some college there), to a librarian from Florida who took my plea for help absolutely seriously and wrote me a long discourse on why it would be impolite and self-destructive to turn down a job offer once I'd accepted. (I know it's not good to burn one's bridges...but assuming I had my ideal job in Wisconsin and were going to stay there until retirement, why would I care what the people at the North Dakota State Library thought of me? Now that I work there, of course, it's another matter entirely!) Neither, obviously, took the time to do more than skim my posting.

Anyway, now that you've read my fictitious "ideal job offer", I should note that there is a small liberal arts college in North Dakota (which shall remain nameless) at which one of the duties of the professional librarians is to go down to the basement stacks twice a day with a wet-vac and suck up some of the gallons and gallons of water that cascade constantly down the leaking walls of the library basement in a kind of bibliographic waterfall. I met the director of the library recently, and she was so likable, and so obviously weary of advocating for her library's urgent needs to the college administration, that I felt just horrible for her. Odd, and sad, how truth always seems to outstrip fiction in weirdness.

©Jennifer Friedman, 6/4/96