A patron comes up to Trudy at the desk looking for a book, but gives an incorrect title that isn't in the catalog. During this exchange, she is forced to answer the phone because we are so busy. She asks the patron in front of her to please wait and he agrees. The patron on the phone is also looking for a book and gives her a title, which she easily finds in the computer. Trudy proceeds to go and pull this item off the shelf for him. The patron on the phone asks if it can be held for him, and Trudy tells him it can. The patron on the phone gives his name and says he will be right over to pick it up. When Trudy hangs up the phone, the patron in front of her turns back to her only to see the book and tell her that's the one he needs. Trudy patiently tries to explain to him that it's on hold for another patron and that he cannot have it. The patron refuses to accept this because he asked for the book first and is physically in the building. Explaining to him that he gave the wrong title does no good.
Alonzo finishes with the patron he's helping and walks over to the other end of the desk to see what's going on. Trudy tells Alonzo what has happened and Alonzo tries again to explain to the patron that his giving the wrong title (and a simple case of unlucky timing) has given "first dibs", so to speak, to the other patron. There are no other copies at the library they are in, but there are other branches he could go to that do have other copies. The patron does not seem interested in this option. Finally, in an attempt to defuse the situation, Alonzo tells the patron that, in the time it will take for the other patron to get to the library, he may be permitted to look at the item and make photocopies until the other patron arrives. The irate patron agrees to this and Alonzo points him towards the copiers.
The desk gets busy again and Trudy asks me if I've seen the irate patron and I look over to the copiers and see he is not there. He doesn't appear to be anywhere on the floor. Alonzo gets a sinking feeling and curses himself for giving this shmuck the benefit of the doubt. The desk heats up again and we are swamped with patrons. Eventually, Trudy is able to get away and head upstairs to where the Circulation desk is and the exit. She catches him just as he is finishing checking out the book. She lays her hand on it and tell him that he cannot have that book. His response is to say "I've checked it out. It's mine now," yank the book away from her and walk quickly out the door. Trudy, stunned and momentarily speechless at this behavior, gets to the guard too late for them to be any help.
OK. Lessons learned: It's clear that I need to be more skeptical in the future and trust patrons about as far as I can throw them in these particular instances. So, if it ever happens again, I'll know to get a Drivers License to hold onto while the patron uses an item. In the end, he may not get away clean, after all. My boss went up to Circulation to see if there are any options we have as to blocking his account or fining him. That possibility, along with this blog post, is serving to calm me down a bit.
Some of this reminds me of a quote from the TV series "Firefly", which I just completed watching on DVD. In it, the religious character named Book warns the Captain of the ship the repercussions of messing around with a new female passenger:
"If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of Hell, a level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."
Add to that list patrons that likes to push around little old lady Librarians. Shmuck.