There’s a recurring character in my dreams about work. He’s an independent researcher/hobbyist who’s obsessed with a particular artist. Both the researcher and the object of his obsession are fictional, as far as I know, but the fact that the artist doesn’t exist doesn’t seem to deter this non-existent researcher from being incredibly passionate about the research.
Often in my dreams the researcher is at a microfilm machine. Every once in a while in my dreams he comes to plead his case that we should acquire the definitive index of the artist’s work and of related criticism: Baker’s Index, or just “The Baker’s.” How can we consider ourselves a real library with out The Baker’s? Of course it’s expensive and unfortunately it’s out of print, but that shouldn’t deter us. His own work is crippled without it, and he’s sure many a student has turned away from important research paths for lack of ready access to The Baker’s.
Last night in my dream, I was working at a microfilm machine, and he stood beside me until I finally asked what he needed. He launched into his familiar plea, and I countered (as usual) by reminding him that this is a curricular collection and that we don’t have any course-work related to his beloved artist. Important as the work may be, objectively, it simply doesn’t fall within our collection development policy. He brought over an encyclopedia that had an entry on his artist and showed me how pathetically inadequate that entry was, and the images of the artist’s work were so small that it was impossible to investigate them closely. I showed him ARTstor, and he railed against the fickleness of search.
“Search for ‘Is,’” he instructed.
“Really? Just the word ‘is?’” I asked, but did as he wanted.
Predictably, the results weren’t to his liking.
“What were you hoping for?” I asked.
“I was hoping it would bring back a famous photograph entitled ‘What is he doing, anyway.’ But your stupid search box is just completely unequal to the task, apparently.”
Since it turns out that he knew a lot about that photograph, I showed him the advanced search options only to look over and find that he was sketching out the various search boxes in red pen into the entry for his artist in the reviled encyclopedia.
At this point I stood up and said what I think I’ve been wanting to say to him in all previous dreams: “You are no longer welcome here. Please leave.” He had tested my patience through countless dreams, refused to listen to reason, and was so dismissive of our services and collection that he would rail at me while drawing in our encyclopedias. I’d had enough.
Such a feeling of righteous indignation, of spurned patience ending in entirely justified consequences that, in my dream at least, I had the authority to dispense on the spot. It was wonderful.
I wonder if I’ll ever dream of him again.