Hello friends, and welcome back to the final part in this series of library shenanigans! If you missed Part One, where the job was obtained through unconventional means, find it here, and Part Two, where an evil ink pad became my best friend, here.
Onward to Part Three!
As it turns out, small-town libraries are incredibly cliché. You know those “center-of-town,” “gossip-headquarters,” “everyone-knows-everyone’s-business” stereotypes found in a slice-of-life novel? Yeah, I work there.
“With the amount of elderly in our community, it’s strange we don’t have a senior center,” my mom once commented. I chuckled at her naivety. The library is the senior center. It’s also the daycare, the afterschool teen hangout, and the place where millennial moms in unflattering leopard-print leggings meet to practice yoga. My daily duties include preventing small children from throwing books at each other and helping old ladies understand the mystery of the strange devices known as “iphones.”
One day, I noticed a particularly deaf old woman shrinking in front of a computer like it had just threatened her grandchildren. Being my helpful self (shut up), I offered assistance. Apparently, she’d been trying to play a disk, but the computer adamantly refused to comply. I fiddled with some settings and found myself stumped; the CD information wasn’t even showing up in the disk drive, as if it didn’t exist.
I ejected the CD for closer examination and discovered the problem. It wasn’t a CD at all. It was a computer game — from the ’90s.
Try explaining this to a deaf old lady who barely even knows how to turn the computer on, let alone the difference between museum relics and current technology.
This was the moment I realized I’d been hired as a glorified babysitter.
Because we’re a small library, we’re not particularly busy, and I usually complete my tasks within the first few hours of showing up. With these menial duties out of the way, nothing is left to do but sit in my swivel chair of judgement and wait for patrons to appear. This sometimes leads to hours of free time in which I’m at liberty to do whatever I please.
You know where this is going.
I get paid to read books all day.
I sit in my little rickety chair with a cup of hot chocolate, surrounded by dust and the distant sound of someone’s child sneezing, as the snow falls gently outside the window, and I read books.
Life doesn’t get much better than this.
On a particularly slow morning, as the other librarians and I were sitting around contemplating our boredom, one of them fished around in a drawer and produced a skeleton key. “Here,” she said, handing it to me. “Have fun. Go unlock doors or something.”
You need to understand: My library is over 100 years old. It has multitudinous dark crannies and locked doors perfect for hiding a body. And she’d just given me express permission to go where commoners are forbidden, where angels fear to tread, where even the bravest adventurer trembles upon entry. Clutching the key to my heart, I fled before she could change her mind, and promptly found myself holed up in a back closet, surrounded by moldering, ancient historical papers.
The townspeople somehow designated the library as the catch-all for random documents no one knows what to do with anymore. I found a scrapbook of handwritten firehouse receipts from 1897. Piles of newspapers with dates ranging all across the last 120 years. A stack of highschool yearbooks.
I want to apologize to the kid named John Smith. No one deserves to be saddled with that kind of mediocre title their entire life.
Moving on, I found this gem in the 1913 yearbook:
…he’s not wrong.
Another fun feature that comes with an old library is the extreme variety of books. Some are brand new. Some are from the ’80s and look like one too many toddlers gnawed on the corners. Some look like this–
–while others look like this.
There is no in-between.
But despite the books and the histories and the plethora of dark musty rooms, the most entertaining part of my job is the people. The head librarian has been around for 20+ years, and knows an embarrassing fact about every living soul who walks through the front doors. She once offhandedly mentioned that she only reads the newspaper because of the obituaries, to see if there are any patrons she knows. This, as one can imagine, made me sad, and I inwardly geared myself up to offer words of Compassion and Gentleness.
My pity was short-lived when she gleefully followed up with, “I like to see who died so I can delete them from our system!”
We ship books between libraries through a special library courier system, and our library’s assigned courier is a jolly middle-aged man hired the same week as me. Every day he shows up with a crate of books and a mouthful of gossip. We talk about the weather. We talk about random home repairs. We talk about his recent elbow surgery. There is no end to the spectrum of subjects we talk about.
One day, I was wearing a skirt made from some particularly wild material (the pattern is antique ships) and he got extremely excited. “Did you sew that?” he asked. I said yes. With a flourish, he pulled out his handkerchief. It was made from the same material. As it turns out, our library book courier, a burly handyman in his fifties, is a secret vigilante seamstress (seamster? seam person?) by night.
The next week, he showed up with yet another handkerchief made from antique ship material.
The library book courier and I now have matching hankies.
I was walking past a hallway one day when a loud thump nearly made me spill my coffee. Whirling around, I saw a small child sprawled face-first on the floor. Every nerve going into extreme panic mode, I cautiously approached, circling like a zookeeper around a wounded beast.
“Are you… are you good?” I asked, scanning the nearby vicinity for a parent I could dump her on if tears made an entrance into the conversation.
Her head popped up. “I’m pretending to be an earthworm!” Then she faceplanted in the carpet again.
Ah yes. Pretending to be an earthworm. As one does.
“Is earthworming a normal part of your routine,” I asked, “or is this the first attempt?”
She considered this. “Well, last week I was an anteater.”
I was just thankful there were no tears.
A week later, I saw Earthworm Child again, this time with her mom. They had a stack of books about drawing. I commented on them as I was checking them out, basic small talk about art and childhood. Her mom shrugged. “Yeah, I’m building my curriculum.”
My sixth sense began to tingle. That phrase sounded suspiciously familiar.
“You’re not…” I paused, hoping against hope my next words didn’t come across as insanely creepy. “You wouldn’t happen to be… homeschoolers… by any chance…?”
She smiled. “As a matter of fact, we are!”
And suddenly it all made sense. Because homeschoolers are absolutely the kind of kids who would faceplant in the middle of a library aisle in the attempt to become one with earthworm kind.
I told them I’d been homeschooled as well, and the next thing I knew, Earthworm Child had latched onto me in a strangling hug that last for eight minutes and twenty-seven seconds. (Not that I was counting.) In that moment, an alliance was born. Me and Earthworm Child against the world.
While I wish I could say all the kids who frequent the library are as nice (and weird) as Earthworm Child, alas, this is not the case. A pack of wild little girls periodically decimate the computer area. Some are decently okay. Some are complete and utter brats. You never quite know which ones you’ll end up with.
One day when the other librarian on duty had gone out to lunch, I was manning my post alone when I saw the pack arrive. They descended on the computer room like a swarm of pink-jacketed flies, arguing fiercely among themselves while simultaneously hogging the entire space. They were the only ones in the library, so I let it slide. (Read: I was hiding from them.) But and hour and a half later, a small queue of adults was lined up outside, waiting for a computer to be free.
Meanwhile, the pack of little girls were playing online games.
After I’d received multiple complaints from the pack of disgruntled adults, I knew the time had come to confront the pack of destructive children. Preparing myself for the worst, I made my approach. I told them their time was up. They had to let someone else use the computers.
Surprisingly, most of them handled it like champs. One even hit me with a “yes ma’am,” which made me feel like a middle-aged school cross-walk attendant as I ushered them out. Others, however, were not as thrilled to be interrupted during their hardcore Roblox session. They didn’t say anything, but I could see the hatred in their beady little eyes.
They regrouped in the lobby, where a new problem was discovered: WHAT does one even DO in a library when there are no computers to be had???
(I timidly suggested they read a book.)
(I was shot down.)
This branched into a discussion about lunch, and whose house they would go to next (presumably to play more games), when all of a sudden one piped up with the announcement that her mom texted and she and her sister needed to go home immediately.
Her sister didn’t like the sound of that.
Expressions such as (and I quote) “You’re not the boss of me!” may have been bandied about. Tears made an appearance. Earsplitting screaming. Potential hair-pulling. I stood on the sidelines, watching in amazement as six little girls in My Little Pony jackets engaged in a knock-down drag-out brawl in the center of the library lobby.
The time had come for Mean Librarian mode.
I elbowed my way into the mob of little girls, trying to be heard over their piercing shouts of “YOUR MOM’S NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!” (I still hear it in my nightmares.) I waved my hands, trying to get their attention. One hit me thinking I was her sister. Rubbing my sore arm, I raised my voice. The screaming continued. It was as if none of them noticed the older and significantly taller human who’d inexplicably waded into their ranks. Mean Librarian mode needed an upgrade.
“EVERYONE SHUT UP!”
Astonishingly, they did.
Six red-rimmed gazes stared at me in shock. I took a deep breath, lowered my voice, and tried again.
“You’re in a library,” I said, taking a moment to glare at each of them and reveling in their squirms. “If you’re going to act like babies, do it outside.”
Before any of them quite realized what was happening, I marched them out the doors and onto the sidewalk, leaving them in a little confused huddle. I walked back inside, only to stop short: a group of adults clustered around the front desk, staring at me in shock.
Great, I thought. I’m about to get sued for yelling at someone’s kid.
An old man started clapping. Slowly, one by one, the rest joined him.
As the mob of little girls resumed their screaming (this time in the middle of the sidewalk) and a group of traumatized adults applauded me, I realized what it felt like to be a hero.
All this to say–
Despite the occasional screaming child, the technologically dense grandmothers and the bloodthirsty coworkers, my job is the best. I get paid to read books and make fun of people. What more could a psychotic writer ask for?
I hope you enjoyed this series of library shenanigans! See you next week!