“An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.

–Stephen Fry

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.

–Albert Einstein

In the nonstop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us with floaties and teach us to swim.

–Linton Weeks

If I was a book, I would like to be a library book, so I would be taken home by all different sorts of kids.

–Cornelia Funke

A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.

–Jo Godwin

Rule number one: Don’t fuck with librarians.

–Neil Gaiman

Librarians are the secret masters of the world. They control information. Don’t ever piss one off.

–Spider Robinson”

Quotes and picture from mlmm Tale Weaver # 172: libraries

I was sure she was a shape-shifter. I’d been coming to the library, a pool of cool calm and quiet in the heat and humidity of humanity; a circle of warmth against the cruel whip of winter snow, since I could close our front door behind me. Sure, I had to wait for someone to push open the library’s heavy wooden doors until I was tall enough to reach the handle. But there were such sweet rewards for my patience.

She said behind an antique counter of time polished wood with brass fittings. To me, she was always Miss Underhill, prim, proper with spectacles sliding to the tip of her nose, brilliant red hair updoed into incredible works of hair art, wearing a sweater set of shimmering rainbow-coloured wool and a single strand of perfect pearls around her slightly elongated neck. The librarian. The key to a world of miracle and magic.

She never aged; from the times when I looked up at the shape between her dimpled chin and neck, to the day I could gaze straight into her mismatched eyes behind the gold-rimmed glasses: one obsidian, the other jade.

She took no breaks, no vacations, no days off. For each time I entered my sanctuary, she was behind the desk, greeting me with a melodious hrumph, and thin lipped, forced smile. She stamped the borrowing cards with vigor, and the same smooth spot-less hands with french-tipped  nails eventually scanning interior bar codes.

Why a shape-shifter then? Because she was my Miss (then Ms.) Underhill, mine alone. To others, she aged, grey slowly streaking her page-boy bob or pulled back lose pony-tail. Her glasses reflected the style of the time, as did her clothes. She greeted them with a warm, welcoming smile and knew each by name.

For some, she was a grim, grumpy, frumpy, lumpy creature with claw-like hands, talons grabbing library card and bending over it – scrutinizing the information. She growled out fines for late materials which never were the same, nor had any relevance to the length of the crime.

Teen-aged testosterone-stoked boys saw a sexy, flirty, curvy woman; lonely old men saw their former wives and sweethearts in the shape of her face, the curve of her mouth.

To each, she was the librarian of their nightmares or their dreams. And, then, with BA in Library Science, ink barely dry on the university President’s replicated signature tucked in my tote bag, she became my supervisor. Now, I sit at the time-polished wooden desk, smiling or growling, accepting or clawing library cards. Ms. Underhill, Ret. gracefully re-shelves books after closing, floating between the stacks A to B; flying from fiction to non-fiction. Tidying the mess of a lived-in library, a second home to all who sought dreams and knowledge.

Written for mmlm Tale Weaver #172: Libraries