February and March might be the most challenging months to work in a public library. People come here desperate for us to have precisely what they are looking for in larger numbers than at any other time during the year. And these people don’t always know what it is they are looking for, but they are sure we can find it for them, because we can find anything. It’s rather flattering, for sure, but the truth can be different at this time of year. Why? In a word:
I started my first job at a public library during tax season 2005, and while a lot has changed, I don’t know that it’s gotten any easier. Federal, State, and Local governments send us less and less every year, and as we scramble through our dwindling number of forms we can provide for free, finding what people need can be a real challenge. Now, if you stroll up to the Reference Desk and say, “I need Form 9465,” I can make that happen by printing it out for you at 20 cents a page. (Sorry, we have to charge. For instance, the State of Ohio sent exactly zero forms to us this year, and we’d go broke printing for everyone.)
When I really panic, and when pretty much every employee at every library says they might not be able to help, is when we are asked to help pick a form. I can barely perform basic addition, and I have a very clever accountant who does my taxes. You really don’t want to trust me picking your tax forms. Now, one thing that has changed since 2005 is that the IRS website is easier to search for forms if you know the key terms used in the form, so with a little work, we can usually puzzle it out. But yeah, I’m pretty much the last person you want being responsible for your taxes.
Now, if you want a book recommendation, I’m all over that. (By the way, we just finished reading William Boyd’s Restless for the First Monday book club. It’s excellent if WWII espionage thrillers are your thing.)