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I Took Over As My Town’s Librarian For A Week And Discovered Something Fucked Up In The Basement

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Kristaps Bergfelds
Kristaps Bergfelds

Running a library is not an easy thing to do.

You’d be surprised at the number of people who think that all librarians do is sit around and read the whole day. They have no concept of all the duties that come with being a librarian. In just one day, my mother will teach a class for senior citizens on how to use the computer, help four different families find the graves of their loved ones, register a thousand new books into the system, reorder all the books that have been returned, hold a story-time session for the children… the list goes on and on.

The point of me telling you this is for you to understand that it takes a person with a degree and years of experience to run a library… and I am not that person.

My mom has run our small town’s library for over twenty years. She’s damn good at what she does, and that’s the only reason that town still has a library. Unfortunately, this meant that it was difficult to replace her, even for a short amount of time, when she fell down the basement stairs and broke her leg.

I should have suspected something was up when she called me home. I’m a freelance writer, so it’s not difficult for me to come back to rural Minnesota at a moment’s notice. You’ll understand, however, that I don’t do it very often – I rarely have any shred of desire to return to my hometown.

“I need you to watch over the library for me until I can go back to work.”

When my mom said that, it wasn’t a request so much as an order. It was easy to tell from the set look in her eyes that she had already mentally decided I would be taking over for her – regardless of any request of mine.

As the librarian’s daughter, I knew better than anyone how difficult her job is. I blanched when she asked me and said, “Mom, there’s no way. I don’t know how to register books, I don’t know how to use the system…”

My mom waved her hand dismissively. “That’s not a problem, you won’t have to register any books. You can just check them out, which you’ve done before. Another librarian from Rock County will be coming once a week to register any new books and fix anything you might have screwed up.” I wanted to scowl at that, but I held back, mostly because it was true. “For the most part, I need you to deal with patrons. Help them find books, help them with research, keep the computers up and running.”

“You do realize you’re asking me to do the impossible, right?” I deadpanned.

My mom sighed. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal. But it’s only for a few weeks until my leg is better. I just need you to keep things afloat. You know if there was anyone qualified to do this, I’d ask them. As it is, you’re the closest to a qualified librarian this town has, aside from me. You’ve grown up with the library and you know the basics of how it works. You can do this.”

I gave my mom a skeptical look, but she just returned it with an encouraging smile. I sighed as she began to give me a run-down on my duties as her stand-in. There were so many details I actually had to take notes. By the fourth or fifth page, I was convinced that she was setting me up for failure.

“Just do your best, you’ll be fine,” she said.

Yeah. Right.

beetlejuice

The first day at the library was utter and complete hell, mixed in with some chaos and a healthy dose of self-loathing.

I followed my mom’s instructions to the letter, but even that was a paltry comfort.

*Make sure you have story-time in the morning. It starts promptly at 9:00 a.m.*

Usually I love kids, but not when I’m the one who has to try to keep them in line. And they never stop talking. It took me fifteen minutes to get to the fourth page of the stupid picture book I’d picked out, something about a dumb jellyfish that lost his glasses. Jellyfish don’t even need glasses, you little shits.

*Try to run a virus scan on each computer before noon. If one computer goes down, the rest are sure to follow, trust me.*

Of course, it would be my luck that the computers would all crash on my first day. I called the resident IT-guy, a man from across the county who proved to be distinctly unhelpful.“ I can probably get in to fix them later this week,” he said. Oh, perfect. Computerless for a week. I don’t remember what exactly I said to him, but apparently my threats were frightening enough to get him in within the hour. He carefully avoided me as he fixed the computers.

*Some patrons might need help with genealogy research – just do the best you can.*

Even with the websites my mom provided, it was near impossible to find these people.

“My great great grandmother’s name was Ethel. Can you find her for me?”
“I can try. What’s her last name?”
“Oh, I’m not sure, but I know she lived in a red house.”
“…I see. Any other information?”
“She was a witch. I’m trying to find her spellbook.”
“…Right.”

*Some kids will probably be coming in to find books for school. They have a reading program in school and they have to earn a certain number of points in a semester by reading books in their reading level. Make sure to get them books appropriate for both their age and reading level.*

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