Monday, May 15, 2017
The people we see most
The people I see the most at the library are the most baffling. I have been compelled to conclude that this is because anyone who comes to the library six or seven times a week, often for the full 11 hours we're open, is mentally ill. I don't mean this pejoratively. That's why I graciously employed the term "Mentally ill" over "Crazy", a word I am perhaps over fond of, especially when talking about people I strongly disagree with. These library patron mental illnesses are all somewhat functional, that is these people manage to eat and dress themselves and maintain independent lives, at least in as much they can continue coming to the library. But whether these patrons nervously roam the library at high speed, transacting some kind of business every fifteen minutes at the front desk for ten straight hours, or they sit on the computers all day long with library headphones cocooned wildly in toilet paper, or they complain about the library's collusion in allowing people to monitor their movements, there is some element of madness driving much of their time here.
I have always assumed that there is a peculiar strain of mental illness that pushes a certain kind of person towards a library. But what if I have it wrong? What if the library itself is a dangerous place that, under too much exposure, will drive people mad? Could it be a result of the danger from a surfeit of knowledge, all collected too densely here, so that, like the bible's apple from the tree, it is enough to drive one from the garden of sanity? I don't know. All I know is that I have spent roughly 65,000 hours here at this library. I am hoping the small hourly stipend I receive confers a kind of immunity, that working negates the effects of an excessive ennoblement. Some days looking around at my stalwart and level headed co-workers I think surely this is so. But on other days I look around at some of the people I work with, who are here nearly everyday, staring with birdlike confusion at our check in equipment, or responding to every question with a disturbing monotone, and I feel an uncomfortable nervousness. My only balm, when I feel like this, is that ever and always I want to leave the library and go to my other life, rather than stay, and stay, and stay.