Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Librarian Post: Attack of the Smelly Patrons

      To say that summer is warm where I live is the understatement of a lifetime. Our temps are often in the 110's and higher, and it's sunny almost every single day. People say "but it's a dry heat," and that may be the case, but when it's 116 degrees how dry it is doesn't matter: what matters is that you burn your hands just getting into your car. Your power bill quadruples. You literally feel your skin sizzle if you stand in the sun for more than minute or two.
     As you can imagine, the nice, air-conditioned library is a favorite place for people to hang out in this weather. Especially for those who may not have a lot of money to spend on air conditioning at home, or who may not have a home at all. We welcome all of them, of course - and we expect anyone who ventures outside in this heat to be a little sweaty and smelly when they come in. But lately, it seems that some folks are going past sweaty-stinky into "been dead for 3 weeks in a pile of poo" smelly. We have one man who smells so bad he comes with his own swarm of flies, I kid you not. When these folks come in, not only does it make it REALLY hard for the staff to help them, but it makes life super uncomfortable for the other patrons who have to sit next to them at a computer or study table.
    The thing is, I am completely incapable of telling another human being they reek, unless they are my close personal friend and I love them. I can't go up to some poor stranger and say "I am sorry but you smell HORRIBLE, people are passing out around you and you need to go back out there into the 120 degree summer, away with you!" I would rather gag at my desk and even go puke real quick than have to have this conversation with someone! I feel like the worst person in the entire world having to tell someone their personal scent is making people sick... mostly I have been sending my boss and our poor security guard to do it, but I KNOW a time will come when I have to do it too and it makes me want to cry.
    How do you do it???
    Is there ever a "good" way of doing it? A nice way? A way that doesn't make the person you're talking to feel even worse about their situation?
    Sadly in my community there is not really anywhere they can go have a shower... we have one homeless shelter and it's closed during the day, so what is a librarian to do when the smelly patrons attack?
    I would love comments on this subject, because I am truly at a loss.

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