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Sunday, September 23, 2012

More Than Words* and Sheldon Cooper

We're about to start SCRABBLE Night at the library again.  It'll be on the last Thursday of the month, and it is, as the name implies, an opportunity for members of the community to come together to play the game.  As a future professional librarian, I know my duty is to serve the whole populace, in all its breathtaking diversity. I enjoy the game (even when I lose) and I want others to enjoy it as well. If someone comes in and is an absolute newbie to the game, I make certain (when possible) that their experience at club is positive; that they learn the rules; that they come to realize that with word knowledge comes word power in the game; that they have as much fun as humanly possible. 

Later on, when they're ready, they're encouraged to try a tournament or two.  If they survive the "baptism of fire", SCRABBLE may just get a friend for life.  That being said, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced today.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I didn't play particularly well in games 3-6 today.  I ended up with a record of 2 wins, 5 losses, and a point spread of -406 (total of point spread in all games).  That is NOT the reason I'm writing this blog entry.  I don't like the way I performed, but that's secondary.

I competed in a tournament held at the University of Pennsylvania today.  Some names are being withheld because I don't want their grief.   The following happened:

1) I was told by the tournament director that I had the "wrong tiles", because people could "Braille" (feel the indentation to see what letter it is) them.
2) I was told by my first opponent that "she didn't like my chess clock (we use chess timers for club and tournament play)"
3) I was told by the same woman that "(she) set aside (your) board" because it wasn't like hers. As far as I could tell, I was the only player who didn't have an expensive custom board (ranging in price from $150-250).
4) I was told by my second opponent, "don't announce your score on my time".
5) After game five, I decided I'd put my stuff away, since I hadn't used it since round one.  I keep it in a Bottom Dollar fabric grocery bag, which is rather "crackly" sounding.  I started to put it away, and was roundly redressed by the tournament director for making noise.  Stunned, I asked if she was going to tell the dozen or so people who were talking to be quiet. Her answer? "No."

I was really ready to walk out and not return, but sensing that doing so might endanger future participation in other tournaments NOT run by this woman**, I sought out the advice of Joe Neff, the director of the Warrington (PA) club.  He advised to stay for the last game (which I did, and won on the last play) but not to return to tournaments run by this woman.

Why is this important?  Why should it matter?

As librarians, our integrity is at stake every time we answer a question, solve a problem, or gently lead someone through the intricacies of the SATIRE list***.  We can't afford to put up insurmountable roadblocks or to be pharasaic about every point in a given policy. The SCRABBLE tournament rule book is over 50 pages in length and reads like it was drafted by Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory). As library professionals we need to present a welcoming atmosphere in all of our contacts with the public, whether it's the reference desk, circulation, or any programming we do. 

Onward and upward.

*--Song from Extreme's 1991 album Pornograffiti.
**--NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Association) does suspend player privileges and occasionally bans players.  The most recent example was a 14-year-old who was caught cheating (stealing blanks) and who had to vacate all his wins at this year's National tournament. My guess is that he'll be banned until he turns 18.
***--There are roughly 100 six-letter combinations which have been shown to have a higher frequency of leading to bingoes (seven-letter words), of which SATIRE is one.  For instance, SATIRE + T = TASTIER or ATTIRES (among others).
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