This morning, before heading into work (late shift today) I stopped in at the local library to return some books and check out the New Fiction. I couldn’t help but overhear a woman talking to the head librarian. The woman looked to be about my age but she also looked like she had had a bad paper route as a kid.That’s an expression my girlfriend from South Philly used to use when describing someone who looked a little downtrodden. Her hair was long, parted down the middle, scraggly and heavily streaked with grey. She was wearing an old grey jogging suit that had seen the inside of a washing machine way too many times. Her purple and black sneakers were at least one size too big.
She asked if the library carried any information on post World War II Germany. The librarian motioned toward the online card catalogue and told her she could use it to search that particular topic. She hesitated for a second and then quietly said, “Could you show me how to use it, I’ve never used it before”.
The librarian gave her a quick lesson and as she started back to the desk the woman said, “Now are the books filed by numbers – like do they go 300, 301, 302..?
OMG!!!!!!!! I stopped dead in my tracks. Like so many of you, I am a bibliophile. I know the way around a library better than my own kitchen. Seriously, you could drop me into any library in the US, and I could find any book you needed in less than 10 seconds…..20 seconds if you blindfolded me!
I live and breathe libraries. I have my favorites. When I go on vacation, I check out the local libraries. I have studied, laughed, read, cried, kissed, dreamed, prayed and made major life decisions in a library. One of the best times of my life was when I was working full time in the high school library during the day and working part time in the local library at night. When I retire, I plan to volunteer at the local library until they have to pry my cold, dead fingers away from the shelving cart.
Who was this woman??? How has she lived this long without going into a library? Was she just starting back to school after being a stay-at-home mom her whole life and her husband screwed her over in a divorce and now she has to find a decent paying job to support her kids?? Was she someone’s grand mom trying to help out her lazy grandchild with a school project while the kid laid in bed playing video games? Was she trying to trace her roots back to her family that had been torn apart during the war?
Now you know I just wanted to drop everything and take this woman under my wing. I wanted to show her the Fiction and the Non-Fiction section, the Biographies, the Periodicals, the Juvenile books, the audio books, the Video Rental section, the CD rental section, the quiet research room, and last but not least the computers. I wanted to explain the Dewey Decimal System to her. I wanted to hand her the oldest book in the collection and watch her admire the onion skin feel of the pages.
Alas, I had no time to stalk….I mean help her as I needed to be at work in 15 minutes but I’m still thinking about her and how empty my life would be without my library