Sunday, August 24, 2014


Some melancholy morning. It's gray and warm out, rising to its strange, steaming August heat. I walk in the staff entrance of the library and it's dark and empty though I know staff is scattered out in the building. The library is cool and quiet. I don't want to be here. I don't think I want to be anywhere today. But life has a way of pulling one forward. I empty bins because I don't have the energy not to. When the library opens I am out at the front desk for two hours. A minute before we open I sit down and look out on the big empty space. It is more quiet than a library. A place, books, sleeping computers, a morning. The lights go on. One of my colleagues opens the gates. A hundred people flood into the library with an urgency that's hard for me to understand today. Ten seconds and we have instant library. Add people and mix. We go from closed to the feeling that the library has been open forever, out of time, endless.

I help a lot of people. A man tells me Elvis died today. He wants to know what year. I tell him 1977. A long time ago he says. A long time ago.

Many of my colleagues are off on vacation so I work with a lot of substitutes. This increases the number of questions I answer, problems I solve. Easy questions, easy problems. I am subdued. Less jokes. Quiet smiles. Is this hard? I don't know if this is hard, but I am good at my job, such as it is. Today I am not sure how much that matters.


  1. I imagine it matters in ways we simply can't calculate or appreciate--the way the library moves more smoothly, the way a patron finds a book more easily, the simple presence of a clerk's intimate knowledge of the place. And so someone's day moves along, and the person comes home with the hint of the fragrance of that clerk's knowledge of the place, probably unconscious, but there, like the river's flow.


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