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Doody Decimal System: When Librarians Must Deal with Unwelcome Book Deposits 

Wednesday, Nov 6 2013

Last month, Aton Cole purportedly made his own contribution to the San Francisco Public Library's philosophy of language section, albeit not one of a literary variety. The 33-year-old is charged with causing $3,000 worth of damage after allegedly urinating onto a bookshelf.

Everyone's a critic.

Per a San Francisco Examiner article, librarians joined in the cleanup effort; library spokeswoman Michelle Jeffers affirms they receive training in such activities: "There's a whole protocol" regarding librarians dealing with human effluvia.

Librarians, who must earn a master's degree in library science to be considered for a position in San Francisco, may be the most educated workers in the city whose job description includes impromptu waste clean-up. That's the takeaway from the aforementioned library protocol, unsubtly titled "Cleaning Up Small Amounts of Human Fecal Material, Urine or Vomit."

When "cleaning up small amounts," librarians are instructed to "use the Body Fluid Spill Kit," a five-gallon "labeled plastic container" located in every branch library and — wisely — on every floor of the Main Branch. Jeffers confirms that "small amounts" is a term that has not been quantified.

San Francisco, however, is apparently alone among area library systems in formally codifying the procedures highly educated professionals should undertake when mopping up fecal material, urine, or vomit in any quantity — let alone formally designating a "Body Fluid Spill Kit."

Jamie Turbak, the acting deputy director of the Oakland Public Library, recalls the time someone took the after-hours deposit slot rather literally. But librarians wouldn't be the one to clean the books within. In fact, a deposited-upon book would be deposited in the trash: "It would not be our practice to clean the books."

Berkeley, meanwhile, may boast the highest per capita quantity of open-air human waste in the nation. But its library system doesn't feature a "Body Fluid Spill Kit" and its librarians aren't treated to fecal/urine/vomit white papers. "No, we just have a 'blood-borne pathogen' one," says Jay Dickinson, Berkeley's circulation manager. "And it's really boring."

Berkeley's tales of inappropriate library materials aren't, however. There was the "hall-of-fame" patron who repeatedly dropped roach-infested books into the slot. And there was the curious man who waddled into a library restroom with an armful of rancid raw hamburger patties and proceeded to create a bas-relief sculpture on a stall.

"It was kind of artistic," says Dickinson.

Perhaps Berkeley has a higher class of library miscreants than our fair city. Theirs, it seems, at least clean up a small amount of praise.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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