I think I have a wonderful sense of humor. It is perhaps sometimes inappropriate, sometimes bawdy, sometimes juvenile, but a sense of humor, nonetheless. And yet there are times when I’m told ‘you have no sense of humor!’ And I say… ‘You’re right.’
For example, a member of my library board recently forwarded me an email. The note appeared to be newspaper article, complete with attached photos. The summary was that police had confiscated multiple weapons from a behind a public library in Detroit, Michigan. It went on to say that local residents were stunned and a community spokesman hadsaid”We’re all shocked; we never knew we had a library.”
Initially I was puzzled as to why I was receiving this. We are not near Michigan, I am not fond of stories about weapons and I found the message sad. I wondered was this board member trying to indicate our situation could be worse? Perhaps our community might not know that we exist? Was he horrified too at this prospect and wanted to share? But his comment was “…you have to laugh. I thought, no…no I don’t. And I could hear the words in my head, ‘you have no sense of humor.’
I’m sorry, but this is not funny. Let’s ignore for the moment that it is a a rather nasty commentary on the city of Detroit, it is also insulting to librarians and libraries. It was Oscar Wilde who noted that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. The idea that a community might not know of its library’s existence I find tragic.
It sometimes feels like half of the librarian’s life is spent promoting, informing, and otherwise being the town crier for the library. What other organization announces its presence repeatedly, offers free services but still often finds itselfoften out of sight, out of mind? Sadly this is not only true for the general public, but I have frequently found myself awkwardly saying to library board members, “um, we do that…. the librarians can help you with that…” How many times have we all experienced a town situation, such as a weather event, in which town officials closed the town offices, but forgot the library?
I immediately thought I wanted to write about this in this forum. As such, I went searching to find the original article Perhaps you already know this… there is no article. The whole part and parcel is a joke. Apparently one designed to slam Detroit, not librarians. While my first reaction was oh, thank goodness, this is not real! My second reaction was still not to laugh. I still don’t find the joke funny, but tragic in its very existence. Worse that the story was so plausible to me that I did not immediately recognize it as a joke, even with the confusing commentary. All this just makes it more disconcerting.
I admit I can be gullible. I am also well aware that much humor is based on a kernel of truth. That I did not recognize this for what it was is a clear statement to me. The question that now plagues me is what to do?
Pointing out the disturbing nature of this ‘joke, I believe will result in the always present, ‘you have no sense of humor.’ Professing its lack of being amusing will quickly become tautological, and personal.Point out that a lot of hard working people, daily fight this very thing, and I will be called a whiner and complainer… with no sense of humor.
Tell someone its offense and they will suggest you are too sensitive… and have no sense of humor.
Laugh it off? Wiping the tear from your eye and comment that it’s funny because it’s so true? And you’ve just legitimized the problem. I’d rather have no sense of humor then have people accept that a community might not even know its library exists and find that funny.