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January 19th, 2006

I work in a library.

Not exactly by choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I love libraries, really.

In theory.

But becoming a librarian was something I did because I knew I’d be good at it. It was a third choice, behind theater and writing. Library science was the “practical career” I’m doing between the two crazy jobs.

But you get certain questions, when you work in any job, that make the flesh crawl. In theater it was, “Can you hem my pants?” I worked in costume shops. Can I hem pants? Yes. Will I hem pants? Maybe. What are you planning to pay me?

Do I want to hem pants?
No. Can’t say that I do. No one wants to hem pants. When was the last time you heard a grade schooler announce, “When I grow up, I want to do alterations!” Just doesn’t happen.

The equivalent writing question goes something like, “I have this great story, and all I need is someone to write it down…”

No. Let’s just not go there at all, shall we?

But if you’re a librarian? Sooner or later someone, probably someone sweet, and old (but slightly creepy) is going to come in talking about the thousands of books at home that just need a system. “And how do I go about finding the numbers?”

Well, first you get a Masters degree in library science.

This is generally not the answer that the patron is looking for. They are secretly hoping that you’ll either pull the entire Dewey Decimal System out of you ass, complete with the pre-printed spine labels, or you’ll say:

“Gee. I love doing that. Why don’t I come over to your house and take a look.”

But anyone who has reached a certain age and realized that they can’t find anything because it’s too disorganized, and are admitting to you that they have libraries full of shelves and thousands of books but no sense or order?

What they actually have is something that can best be solved with a gas can and a match.

And somewhere, in the basement or the garage, there’s going to be a collection of National Geographics, which got a little wet one spring but are “…still good and it would be a shame to throw them away…”

When you talk to me, I can smell mildew. Please go away.