• The fifteenth of April is on the horizon, and librarians all over the country are bracing themselves for the sea of patrons who are about to surge, tsunami-like, into our workplaces, demanding tax forms.

    Over the next few months I’ll get to replay, countless times, one of my favorite little exchanges:

    Library Patron: Where are the tax forms?

    Me:  Right under that GIGANTIC SIGN that says TAX FORMS.

    Libraries exist to serve the public and we librarians enjoy being helpful. And at tax time, we can be. Provided, of course,  that the IRS sends us, in a timely fashion,  all of the forms and instructional booklets that our patrons need.

    And that’s the challenge. More often than not, they don’t. We get the booklets without the forms. Or the forms without the booklets. We might get everything, but not enough of it.

    Sometimes, we get nothing at all.

    There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to what material each library receives, or when. Sometimes, though, everything works out perfectly. Yesterday, a librarian posted on Facebook page that her library had just received a full set of tax forms and instruction books.

    Her fellow librarians quickly commented:

    “You actually got BOOKLETS?? I’m so jealous.”

    “We got our forms yesterday. But no instruction books. Wah.”

    “All we’ve gotten are EZ forms. No booklets.”

    “So far we have five boxes of instructional booklets for the 1040A. And NOTHING ELSE.”

    “We were a little freaked out yesterday when we got ten consecutive emails  from UPS telling us our 1040EZ booklets had shipped. One box at a time, apparently.”

    “We don’t get any print forms at all! We have to refer everyone to the internet.”

    “They only end my library one copy of Form 17. Last year it was stolen immediately. This year we’re taking ID before people can look at it.”

    “No LOVIN from the IRS so far for our little library. They must not want our patrons’ money.”

    Many libraries won’t receive everything the public needs, resulting in countless frustrated library patrons, some of whom will take their tax-time anger and anxiety out on us. They’ll call us rude names. They’ll insist that the forms must be in the library somewhere and demand that we search harder for them. A few will even accuse us of hiding the forms from them on purpose.

    Some librarians, in response, take far too much pleasure in telling rude and disagreeable patrons that we haven’t got the form they came in for.

    “We ran out of tax forms yesterday,” one librarian recently commented on Facebook, “and I have to admit that by April, I actually enjoy telling certain folks that we’re all out. Of course, by tomorrow, we may get them all in again.”

    “Don’t worry,” responded another. “If your library is anything like mine, you’ll run out again within a week and you can enjoy letting people down again.”

    Yes, we can help you go online and print out anything you need. But you’d be surprised at how many people are horrified and affronted when they learn that they’ll have to cough up fifteen cents per page to make this happen.

    A free tax form, they seem to believe, is their God-given right as a library patron and U.S. citizen.

    I have, on more than one occasion, paid for printing a patron’s tax forms out of my own pocket,  just to get rid of them (while intoning this silent incantation over each form as it prints out:  “Audit me! Audit me!”)

    I know that the last thing you want is for your favorite librarian to long to see you audited. So on behalf of librarians everywhere I’d just like to say:  Please calm down. Be reasonable. We can get through this. Don’t scream at us. We’re trying to help you.

    On the morning of April 15th, as we prepare to open the library, we can count on the fact that there will be at least one person waiting at the door,  begging us to let them in early so they can grab one final form.

    And on April 16th?? ? We’ll take down the gigantic TAX FORMS sign, put it back in the storage closet and relax. Until next year.

    Main Image: © Paulus Rusyanto | Dreamstime.com 

    See what else Roz has to say – click on her name under the title to see her list.

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    Article by: Roz Warren

    Roz Warren (www.Rosalindwarren.com) writes for the Funny Times, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, the Jewish Forward, Reader’s Digest and the Huffington Post. And she’s been on both the Today Show and Morning Edition. Roz is the author of OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: A COLLECTION OF LIBRARY HUMOR, which collects her most popular essays about library work.

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    1. dtolley@shaw.ca' Diane says:

      I need to be a librarian. They have all the tax fun!
      Wait. Can those two words appear in the same sentence?

    2. suegwitte@gmail.com' Sue Witte says:

      Great piece, Roz! And as a librarian, so true!

    3. haralee@haralee.com' Haralee says:

      I feel for you this tax season! Here in Oregon it is only vote by mail. There is a huge white painted mailbox right by the front door of the library with a gigantic sign saying ballots go into box. You guessed it, All voting season people are asking the librarians where to place their ballots!

    4. mrpcombs@gmail.com' michelle says:

      Oh man…I can’t even imagine dealing with the public during NOT tax season.

    5. alanamautone@hotmail.com' Alana says:

      Long ago, I wanted to become a librarian. I became something else instead. I feel for those who work in public libraries. Ours had a huge sign when the forms were late. I’m sure the librarians heard it from their clients, many of whom (at the library I frequent) are poor or lower working class.

    6. kelly.siderio@gmail.com' Kelly says:

      Ugh! Sounds annoying!!

    7. anne@annelouisebannon.com' Anne Louise Bannon says:

      It’s appalling how some folks behave. Besides, many folks can efile for free and use some pretty good software to do it with. I love that you have a sense of humor about it, sorry that you need it.

    8. genre1837@aol.com' Mister Wonderful says:

      Wonderful!

    9. dastor@earthlink.net' Dave Astor says:

      IRS: Impressively Riotous Sentences! (Written by you, Roz.)