Well, I finally did it. I unlocked the ability to yell at annoying children without getting in trouble.
Guys, I became a librarian.
My quest to become a shrewish guardian of the book domain started many years ago, and, as I was then still a teenager with crippling social anxiety and nonexistent people skills, had a less than fabulous end. (If you’re in the mood to cringe, you can read about it here.) Now, being slightly more adjusted to the world of normal humans (my mom is laughing incredulously – be quiet, mom), I decided the time was ripe to try again.
I walked into the library one brisk September afternoon with the sole purpose of making a job inquiry. My jaw was set, shoulders squared, determination dialed to the maximum. I made eye-contact with the head librarian and—
By some strange happenstance of nature, I found myself hiding in the YA section.
I don’t even read YA. Yet I couldn’t seem to escape. I spent twenty minutes gathering armfuls of books I didn’t want, just to buy myself as much time as possible before the inevitable Conversation of Doom.
The thought occurred to me that nothing had changed since I was eighteen, and this was such a galling realization that I ditched my armful of procrastination material and marched straight to the front desk.
“Hi,” I said, “are you hiring?”
The head librarian, an elderly woman who’s been thoroughly #TeamSarah ever since the day she realized I worked at her favorite bulk food store, lit up like a cat in sight of its prey. “Our director is in at the moment,” she told me. “Why don’t you go talk to him right now?”
I did not want to talk to him right now.
This was not part of the carefully crafted scenario I’d run through in my head fifteen times.
Nonetheless, she ushered me into the back, shoved me into the guy’s office, and left. (Thanks, friend.) A moment of slow blinking ensued as the director and I regarded each other warily. I asked about job opportunities. He said the only position available was that of a substitute.
Basically, I would fill in for other librarians’ sick days and vacation time. Maximum ten hours a month.
Ten hours a month.
I ran this around in my head and decided it was okay. All I needed to do was prove my overflowing talents (“What talents?” asks my mom — be quiet, mom), and they’d give me a better position, right? Climb the ladder, and all that.
“But don’t expect to get more hours the longer you work here,” the director said, inadvertently crushing my dreams, “because that’s not how the system works. There is no ladder to be climbed. You will live and die as a substitute.”
Nevertheless, I obtained an application. Ten hours a month was useless, but my zeal was stronger than common sense. I filled out the application and submitted it the same day.
As I left the library, I heard someone calling my name. I turned to see the head librarian racing after me.
“Sarah!” she cried. “How did it go?”
I told her he’d given me an application, and I swear, the woman did a victory dance right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
I felt that in some small way, earning a librarian’s favor was a triumph in its own right.
That night, I received an email from the director requesting an interview the following morning. So the following morning, in I went. He sat me down in his office and regarded a clipboard the size of which made me gulp. Thus began a long line of questioning I was neither expecting nor prepared for. I thought I would be dealing with questions about past work experience and present skill set — which, to be fair, took up a large space on the clipboard — but somehow as time wore on, the interview morphed into a dissection of my writing career, my hopes, ambitions, and accomplishments, target audience, genre of choice, and the premise of my current book.
You know what happens when someone asks about your book, right? You could have the best premise in literary history and it would still manage to come out sounding like a Dick and Jane easy-reader.
By some miracle I resisted the urge to blurt, “Spirit worship!” and instead stuttered something vague and decently blurb-worthy. He didn’t look impressed. I cringed, waiting for the next question.
“What’s one of your favorite books?”
I figured Hank the Cowdog wouldn’t be an acceptable answer.
I mentioned a few books, ending with A Tale of Two Cities, which made him very excited. “Why in particular is that one your favorite?”
By this point my brain resembled an overcooked hamburger patty. I couldn’t even remember what the book was about, let alone why I liked it. I rambled inanely about “relevance” (because nothing’s more relevant than beheadings) and “themes” (don’t be a useless drunkard, kids) and the poetic clarity of Sydney Carton’s love-besotted redemptive narrative (what does that even mean?) and ended it all with a resounding internal facepalm.
The director nodded sagely. “Yeah, I could never get into it either.”
The clipboard was forsaken as we digressed into a long conversation about Charles Dickens’ books. I wondered what parallel universe I’d entered into, where I found myself geeking out about literature with a library director/potential future boss.
At the end of an irrelevant and intellectually stimulating rabbit-trail, he stood up and shook my hand.
“Congratulations! You’re hired. Can you start the day after tomorrow?”
…I will admit, I expected the process to take longer.
Look and learn, kids. If you want to get hired, say something poetic about A Tale of Two Cities.
I went home feeling both stunned and elated. Sure, it was only ten hours a month, but they were ten hours of getting PAID to stand in a LIBRARY surrounded by BOOKS. Ten glorious hours. I took a picture to celebrate how abnormally good-humored I felt.
As my default expression lingers somewhere between disgust and a murder-glare, I need you to appreciate how unhinged the prospect of those ten hours rendered me.
At this precise moment, I got an unexpected text from the director. I thought it had something to do with my training schedule and put off reading it until after dinner. (Kids, don’t do as Sarah does. If your newly-acquired boss texts you, read it immediately.)
An hour or so later, I finally summoned the courage to open the text.
Apparently, one of the librarians had just turned in her two weeks notice and a regular position was available.
He asked if I wanted it.
And that’s the story of how I climbed the unclimbable ladder, overcame the crippling defeat of living and dying as a substitute, and became a librarian overnight.
Have a great Thursday, my friends, and stay tuned for Part Two, where I yell at little kids and become an old lady’s Patron Saint of Technology!